‘No more deer’

DNR officials hear complaints from area hunters

Photo by Mike Lamb Department of Natural Resources enforcement officer Matt Loftness engages in conversation with deer hunters over the Minnesota deer management plan during an open house held at the Southwest Sportsmen’s Club in Minneota Monday.

MINNEOTA — A voice came from the back of the room as Department of Natural Resources representatives stood around the front table inside the Southwest Sportsmen’s Club.

“So what’s the long-term plan (for deer harvesting)?” the man asked. “More deer, less deer, the same amount of deer?”

“The deer plan says 200,000,” Amber Knutson, assistant area wildlife manager, answered. That is a slight increase from last year’s deer season.

But another person among the 20 in attendance for Monday’s DNR open house questioned the move for increasing the deer harvest in 2018.

“There are no more deer in Lyon County, I can tell you that right now,” he said. “I have 50 acres. I have food plots every year. Last year it (food plot) wasn’t even close to being cleaned out. There is no deer. I plant soybeans, I plant corn, I feed them hay if I have to. There is no deer.”

Wearing black tape over his badge, DNR enforcement officer Matt Loftness engaged in conversation with those attending the open house. He was mourning the loss of a conservation officer from the Detroit Lakes station who recently died in a farm accident.

He joined Knutson, Area Wildlife Manager Wendy Kruger and Assistant Area Wildlife Manager Troy Dale at the open house. The meetings are being held to collect reactions to the deer plan that was finalized this year by a 19-member citizen advisory committee that used information from previous public meetings, open houses and surveys. According to the DNR, the deer plan outlines goals and processes for setting deer population and harvest levels.

Dale said comments from Monday’s meeting will be sent to the state DNR office.

Many of those attending the Minneota meeting called for shortening the deer season so less deer are killed. Some suggested the season should start after Thanksgiving. There was also a lot of concern about predators and cars killing too many deer.

“When are you going to do something about the coyotes? Do something about the timber wolves?” a concerned hunter asked. “I hunt in northern Minnesota, all we have left in northern Minnesota are timber wolves, cougars and bears. The deer population there is zilch.”

Another hunter in attendance agreed.

“We got the cars killing them. We got the hunters killing them, got the cougars killing them, got the timber wolves, got the coyotes,” he said. “How in the hell do we have any (deer)? Now you want to kill them all.”

Loftness said keeping hunting traditions is popular among hunters that he talks with while patrolling.

“It’s ‘oh my God, we can’t start later because it’s tradition.’ It’s the same thing with party hunting,” he said.

But he said he is also concerned with the mentality of killing any deer no matter the type of permit the hunter is issued.

“Around here, we hear the term ‘if it’s brown, it’s down.’ That is a problem we run into. Unfortunately, like you said, we just don’t have any trophy bucks left and we are starting at eight-point 3-year-old that is a trophy buck now around here,” Loftness told the hunters.

He encouraged the hunters to continue to share their opinions, especially to their state legislators.

Loftness admitted there are a lot of violations that probably go undetected.

“Party hunting has been a problem because we got guys tagging deer for other people,” he said. “The problem we got right now, we are pretty short staffed. We are short some guys in Lincoln County, short a guy in Redwood County. We are covering huge areas. The most we can rely on is the public’s help with the tip line.”

He said the number is manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That number is 800-652-9093.

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