Bemidji deer hunters’ focus is good habitat
Bemidji, Minn. — The daily activities and needs of a deer living in the Ely area are different from those of its cousin roaming across the prairie country of Worthington, and, according to some of the sportsmen who attended the Minnesota DNR’s public engagement meeting in Bemidji on Feb. 1, management strategies designed to benefit the animals residing in those varying geographic locales also need to be adjusted to best take advantage of the area’s habitat.
“Forest management is always a question of balance, and habitat needs to be moved higher (in the long-range deer management plan),” said Doug Appelgren, of Wirt, who was the spokesman for one of the smaller groups that assembled to discuss deer management at the meeting. “Without the right habitat, you don’t have deer.”
Minnesota DNR officials wanted to hear from Appelgren, from the other 28 sportsmen who attended the meeting, and from those who took seats in the 11 other venues throughout the state. The officials designed the meetings with the goal of receiving public input on the long-range deer-management plan and how best to ensure that the right plan is created and implemented.
“We are asking for feedback from the public,” said Adam Murkowski, the DNR’s big-game program leader. “When it comes to the big picture and the long-range view of deer management, the challenges are tremendous.
“This is a public-driven process. We know people want to contribute and collaborate,” Murkowski continued. “To be successful we need to have a shared vision, and this process (the public engagement meetings) will help build that cooperation. If the conversations go well, we can get things moving forward.”
Last year, a group of stakeholders helped DNR officials develop an outline of potential deer-management goals which included a healthy deer herd, monitoring and researching population management, communication, hunter and non-hunter satisfaction, healthy habitat, impacts of deer on other resources, and funding for deer management.
Those topics were discussed by the people at Bemidji’s meeting, but DNR officials are hoping that the sportsmen can fill in some gaps.
“We want to know what is missing in the management plan,” said Katie Clower, the DNR’s policy and planning coordinator who organized the meeting. “We want to know what you agree with, what you don’t agree with, and what you would change. We want to know what the DNR is doing well and what needs to be done to take us to where we want to go in terms of the long-range management plan.”
The folks at the Bemidji meeting did take the opportunity to express their views on the long-range management goals and their implementation. Among the key components of any management plan, according to Bemidji-area sportsmen, are:
• Developing the proper habitat;
• Getting a handle on CWD and other diseases, even if it means banning deer feeding statewide and more thorough regulation of deer farms;
• Channeling more license money into deer management;
• Increased transparency from state DNR officials in terms of announcing the status of the population and how deer regulations, including the antlerless permit allotments, are determined;
• The need for hunters to self-police themselves;
• Ensuring access to public land and creating more when possible;
• Hearing more positive stories about the benefits and traditions of deer hunting;
• Increased presence of wildlife managers in the field;
• Utilizing hunters to help determine the overall picture of the deer herd (many have trail cameras and most have a good idea in terms of the status of the deer in their area);
• Balancing the herd to have enough deer to accommodate those who want to harvest any deer and those who may want to harvest a quality buck.
DNR officials will compile the comments from these statewide meetings and from others who offer submissions through the website (www.mndnr.gov/deerplan), and the stakeholder committee members will make recommendations to the DNR.
“The website is a great way to stay up to date with the planning process,” Clower said. “In March we will write a summary of the things we hear, and the deer plan summary will be posted on the wesbsite as soon as possible.”
Editor’s note: Through the end of this week, five of the DNR’s 12 statewide meetings will be wrapped up. Upcoming are meetings in Brainerd (Feb. 21), Cambridge (Feb. 16), Duluth (Feb. 22), Mankato (March 2), Montevideo (Feb. 27), Mountain Iron (Feb. 23), and Windom (Feb. 28).