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Conservation officer reflects on deer season

Wadena's Cody Wheeler bagged an eight-point buck Nov. 3 during the Minnesota firearms deer hunting season. Submitted photo

Purchase numbers for 2012 Minnesota firearm licenses are still being compiled in St. Paul, but some Department of Natural Resources (DNR) field personnel, like Tricia Plautz, already have an idea of what kind of hunting activity there has been this year.

The District 3 conservation officer lives in the Bertha area, but is regarded as one of Otter Tail County's two officers.

"Some hunters were disappointed with being able to harvest only one deer," Plautz said.

Hunters in east Otter Tail County are allowed to take a deer of either sex, but are permitted only one. Last year they were able to tag two deer.

Plautz said the number of hunters and deer she saw during the nine-day season that ended Nov. 11 were both down. She finds herself in many deer hunting camps during the season, and often discovers entire families who are willing to share their thoughts on the season.

"What a lot of them were telling me is, 'I just want to put meat in my freezer,'" Plautz said.

What Plautz saw during the 2012 season was a lot fewer does and fawns. Most of the harvested deer she saw were bucks.

The DNR's decision to change the firearm season in west-central Minnesota from two different seasons to one has triggered some changes in the way people approach deer hunting.

"What I've seen in the nine-day season is that people are more relaxed," Plautz said.

More specifically, Plautz believes the same numbers of people hunt, but not as many are in the field at the same time.

Windy, cool weather was blamed for a poor first weekend of hunting in 2011. The 2012 season had some rain, but the weather was not considered a big burden.

"It was very conducive for deer hunting," Plautz said. "It wasn't freezing cold, and the hunters were staying in their stands longer."

Marlene Snyder of Shell Sport and Bait in Menahga registered 348 deer, one-quarter of what she used to register before online registering became available to hunters.

"Sixty-five percent of the deer taken are being registered online now," Snyder said.

Terry Aho, a former Menahga resident now living in New Hampshire, brought in a 230-pound buck.

Travis Collins of Deer Creek Oil and Tire did not hear much grumbling about the one-deer limit after the season opened.

"Most people were okay with it," Collins said.