It appears that the firearms deer season this fall will be another one of conservative management. But, is it really conservative or back to more average seasons?
The glory years of deer hunting were the years of 2002 through 2007 when the firearms harvest was over 200,000 each of those years, reaching a record of 257,860 in 2003 and the success rate ranged from 32 to 42 percent. The success rate was really not all that great compared to previous years and seasons since then.
So why were those years so great? Deer numbers in many permit areas were building beyond goals at that time and hunting strategies were implemented to harvest more deer and bring population levels back down to goal levels. Because of this, newer deer hunters came to expect to see and harvest many deer but this could not last and they now can’t face reality when it comes to more manageable deer numbers.
It should be noted it appears that most states around us have also had reduced harvests in recent years.
So what is in store for the permit areas (PAs) that cover most of Aitkin County (155, 156, 171, and 173)? All of these PAs will be Lottery as they were last year.
First, PAs 155 and 156 went through the new goal setting process this past year. PA 155 will seek to increase the population by 25 percent and 156 by 50 percent. It is not clear from the information on the DNR web site if the population goal is pre-hunt or another time of the year.
PA 155 will go from 500 permits last year to 1,000 this year. One might ask, why the increase in permits if the goal is to increase the population by 25 percent? I can only surmise there is a lot of private land in this PA, so depredation is a concern. Also, not everyone that gets an antlerless permit will actually tag a doe or a fawn.
Last year, according to registration, only 378 antlerless deer were registered (76 percent). Other permit holders either tagged a buck or no deer at all. (No guarantee comes with an antlerless permit!)
PA 156, seeking a 50 percent increase, will have the same number of permits, 300. This PA has been Managed for many of the recent years and probably over harvested deer, particularly in that portion that is Aitkin County, while trying to address depredation concerns in Carlton County with more private land.
We will cover PAs 171 and 173 next column, along with additional information and thoughts.