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Deer harvest down, but expected

WILLMAR -- To no one's surprise, the harvest numbers from the 2009 deer hunting seasons were down.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources reported statewide harvest statistics were off 12 percent from last year. Hunters took 194,178 deer in 2009, compared with 221,837 in 2008.

It's not a shock because the for a few years now, the DNR has been controlling the number of permits, especially in lottery areas, with an eye toward expanding the herd numbers.

"We regulate deer populations by allocating antlerless deer harvest," according to DNR big game coordinator Lou Cornicelli in a recent press release. "In 2008, one-third of the deer permit areas were lottery. In 2009, half the deer permit areas were either lottery or bucks-only, so hunters could only take one deer and many did not receive an either-sex permit. Consequently, total harvest declined because thousands of antlerless deer were not included."

The harvest numbers in the area coincided with state numbers.

Area 277, which is northern Kandiyohi and Meeker counties, saw a slight increase in 2009 from 1,907 total deer harvested to 2,000. But other areas declined. Area 282 (southwestern Kandiyohi, most of Chippewa County) fell from 194 to 129. Area 218 (central and southern Stearns County) decreased from 1,749 to 1,546.

"The actual harvest was what we thought it would be," said Jeff Miller of the DNR's Wildlife office at Sibley State Park near New London. "I think everybody was pretty happy, as far as hunters go. The hunters know what we are trying to do. So we are on that track."

Miller also noted the area's deer have survived the winter pretty well so far. The problem comes in the southwest corner of the state, where herds are having trouble finding adequate food and are creating trouble.

"Farmers are feeding their cattle and the deer join them," he noted.

"So we are out all over, especially in the southwest corner, doing what we call shortstopping, dumping corn and hay where the deer are coming from."

The DNR also has requested the State Legislature pass a four-month ban on feeding wildlife from Sept. 1-Dec. 31 of each year. The goal is to stop people from feeding deer, an activity that leads to car collisions and encourages illegal deer baiting.

Miller said it's the location of where people leave food for wildlife that is the concern.

"Some people throw the corn along the edge of the road and it makes all wildlife more vulnerable," he said.

And during the fall, wildlife don't need help finding food.