Willing To Sacrifice Deer Hunting Traditions For Trophies?

There’s a debate deer hunters throughout Minnesota will likely need to make someday soon.   The question becomes “Is it time we modify our existing laws and/or administrative rules to facilitate a deer herd with greater numbers of mature bucks?”   The follow-up question then becomes “Are you willing to accept all of the hunting behavioral changes that may be necessary to enable this deer management goal to occur?”

Deer hunters, particularly those using firearms, must do some serious introspection to determine what experiences make for quality hunting time spent afield.   In other words, perhaps it’s time we all contemplate on exactly what aspects of the hunt motivate us to buy a deer hunting license each fall.

Is the yardstick for measuring hunting success ultimately a large score on your deer’s rack, or is deer hunting more of a relaxing, social activity where certain long-standing traditions of the hunt tend to draw you back year after year?   There’s no right or wrong answer—just personal preferences every deer hunter must completely understand.

ChrisdeerThe problem is certain Minnesota deer hunting traditions may be at risk if the DNR chooses deer management principles with an eye towards growing bigger bucks.   No doubt, necessary rule changes like limitations on “party hunting” (also referred to as cross-tagging deer) or shifting season dates (away from peak rut) would usher in a new era for our Minnesota deer hunting culture.

Of course, there are several other significant hunting rule proposals I haven’t specifically mentioned, but basically it all comes down to hunters accepting some sort of behavioral change to make it work.   So, as a deer hunter do you like the status quo, or do you feel our Minnesota deer hunting opportunity is growing ripe for a management system overhaul?

The DNR is basing much of their future regulatory guidance on this 2005 deer hunter survey, but also somewhat on a Zone 3 satisfaction survey mailed out to select deer hunters about a month ago.   The results of this recent survey could mean additional changes are forthcoming to how deer hunting now occurs in S.E. Minnesota (Zone 3, specifically) in 2010.   Perhaps other areas of the state will be surveyed next.   It’s a good bet.

One of the great challenges about Minnesota is geographically it’s such a diverse state.   For instance, hunting rules that may enhance a person’s deer hunting experience in Luverne might actually detract from the hunt in Roseau.   And vice versa.   Let’s give our state game managers their due…they have nearly one-half million of us to pacify and in the process a few toes are bound to get stepped on from time to time.

In the meantime, start having that conversation with your buddies about what elements of the deer hunt are important to you.   Are you the sort of hunter who’s satisfied merely by being out in the deer woods each fall enjoying nature, or is satisfaction only achieved once venison occupies the void in your home freezer?   Those are the sort of questions and answers each deer hunter in Minnesota must personally determine.

Then, when your thoughts are fully collected, why not drop the Minnesota DNR a message (info@dnr.state.mn.us) explaining why you’re a deer hunter in Minnesota.   Be sure to specifically explain what experiences about the deer hunt keep you coming back year after year.   Believe me, they deserve to hear those constructive comments from both you and from me.

I say before we embrace too much change too quickly, let’s ensure the decision makers fully appreciate just how the typical Minnesota deer hunter feels regarding this matter.   Then while you’re at it…don’t forget to also let your elected officials in St. Paul know exactly how you feel.   If any radical rule changes to the way we all enjoy deer hunting in Minnesota are on the horizon, it deserves a thoughtful debate before it occurs.

© 2009 Jim Braaten.   All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.