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  Thursday February 26th, 2015    

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Deer herd management (03/25/2013)
From: Larry Dickman

Large deer herd management has many facets. They range from increasing harvest numbers on females, to the public’s complacent acceptance that a “viable” method is that of vehicle/deer collisions.

Landowners who restrict hunter access and provide a “refuge” for deer have every right to do so. But to do so because deer are anthropomorphically “cute” is irresponsible. Landowners need to be aware of the consequences of their Disneyesque dream state. Wake up and attempt to locate a few wildflowers such as the showy lady’s slipper (MN state flower), trillium, Dutchman’s breeches, or shooting star. At some point the question of “Why can’t I find any?” will become apparent. Go ask bluff rat Bambi, the indiscriminate browser, for the answer. Ubiquitous numbers of the “invasive Bambi” consume more than just crops and over-browse orchards and tree farms. What will be revealed on a wildflower quest is the discovery of a forest of buckthorn, a truly invasive species. Buckthorn was imported from Europe in the mid-1800s as a shrub “ideal” for hedges and fence rows, as wind breaks. Speaking of breaking wind, buckthorn is now abundant in natural areas, out-competing native plants for nutrients, light and water. Too bad Bambi finds it unpalatable.

To manage deer populations for smaller numbers, yet bigger “trophies” is another challenge. Antler point restrictions (APR) are designed to allow deer to mature, with some obtaining “trophy class” that a portion of licensed hunters will only consider as a worthy “take.” APR management does away with the “if it’s brown it’s down” approach, but may slightly contribute to “shoot and release,” although a deer carcass or gut pile that remains in the field is soon recycled. Buzzards (actually turkey vultures, not so “cute”) and likewise eagles (National symbol, “magnificently cute”) need to eat—same as Bambi.

Could it be that APRs are revenue driven? How soon until an additional purchase of a “Trophy Tag” will be required to legally harvest that 12-point rack? An analogy of sorts can be made by observing the clientele behavior at an outlet of a national restaurant chain called Hooters. It will become obvious that the corporate business plan is not solely based on table fare.

Can a license to search for antler sheds be far behind?

According to MN Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the 5-year average deer population density is slightly down, although a biostatistical analysis of deer population density over the last 40 years would show a population density explosion. Recall that in 1971 the DNR closed deer seasons due to low deer population. Since then agrarian land use practices and rural population demographics have changed. The DNR deer management policies have been attempting to adapt with those changes, and mostly meeting with success with regard to a government agency.

Hunters, landowners, and people who just enjoy the outdoors should realize that their actions, as well as implemented policies, have a landscape-wide effect. With that in mind, go to the DNR website and express your opinion on deer population and APR, by filling out the survey entitled “2013 Southeast Deer Season Input”. 


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