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What type of crisis are Minnesota deer hunters facing?

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It would be interesting to know if the Department of Natural Resources really believe Minnesota deer hunters have anything to bellyache about.

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The DNR has "listening sessions" set up to hear the gripes of disgruntled hunters and yet

they have come out as opposing a late winter effort to feed whitetails in the Arrowhead region of the state. It has the smell of politics.

So why would deer numbers be down? In addition to the usual DNR tinkering, our recent winter weather comes to mind. The state has gone through two brutal winters in a row. Last winter was very long and snowy and this one very cold. If winter conditions are too tough does may not carry fawns. There is also a fair amount of winter mortality, especially in northern Minnesota, where whitetails have more to worry about than just starvation.

There is also the weather that you have to deal with in the fall. it should not come as a huge surprise that weather conditions in November, when the bulk of Minnesota's deer hunters are in the field, can be unpredictable. A weather front can quickly change a hunt from good to bad because the deer will stop moving. That is just the way it is some years.

Some hunters may be spoiled. When I first starting deer hunting the local season was one day long. The hunting pressure was super heavy because hunters knew they did not have the luxury of a long season. The DNR started managing the state's deer herd closely after those years because they knew what the firestorm they would face if they did not have strong deer numbers. They built the herd up to the point where bonus permits were sold and some parts of the state had intensive harvest zones where up to five deer could be taken by a single hunter. The record was set in 2003 when hunters harvested 290,000 deer.

It could be that many deer hunters are just more particular. The nine-day season has given hunters more options. There are plenty of hunters who are looking for nothing but horns - and trophy-sized racks to boot. If they do not get a shot at a decent-sized buck they consider the hunt a failure.

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