By Brad Dokken/FORUM News Service
GRAND FORKS – Hunters in many permit areas of far northwest Minnesota, where the Department of Natural Resources was offering as many as five deer tags just a few years ago, will have to watch the calendar this year if they want a shot at a permit that allows them to take either a buck or a doe.
The DNR this year has designated several northwest Minnesota permit areas as “lottery” that last year either were “hunter’s choice” – allowing hunters to buy a license over the counter to shoot either a buck or a doe – or a more liberal designation.
That means hunters have to apply by Sept. 5 for the limited number of either-sex tags that are available.
Northwest Minnesota permit areas designated as lottery this year that weren’t last year include 101, 105, 111, 176, 267 and 268. Hunters who don’t apply for antlerless permits in the lottery areas still can buy licenses over the counter, but they will be limited to taking bucks if they hunt in those permit areas, a requirement that applies to both the rifle and muzzleloader seasons.
Despite the addition of lottery areas in northwest Minnesota, the number of areas designated as lottery statewide is unchanged from last year, and the number of either-sex permits available statewide actually has increased about 10 percent, according to the DNR.
Of special note this year is the designation of Permit Area 101 as lottery. That’s the area near Skime, Minn., where the DNR has aggressively targeted deer populations to eradicate an outbreak of bovine tuberculosis that was discovered in 2005.
The DNR declared the area disease-free for bovine TB this winter after three consecutive years of testing produced no positive results.
After killing off deer by the thousands, the DNR now has shifted gears and is working to bring them back.
“We were trying to decimate deer numbers in that population to halt the spread of TB,” said John Williams, regional wildlife supervisor for the DNR in Bemidji. “On the positive side, we have one of the first places in the nation where we can document that the disease has more or less stopped.
“Now, we’re in the stage of seeing the herd rebuild.”
If the rebound in deer numbers after severe winters in 1995-96 and 1996-97 is any indication, that goal is within reach, Williams said.
“We know with conservative seasons it’s easier to build back,” he said. “I think we’re looking in pretty good shape to have that herd built back up pretty well in two or three years.”
The lottery designation also reflects fewer deer in the other permit areas, where hunters now will have to remember to apply for either-sex tags.
“It pays to take the time to go through that hunting book,” Williams said, referring to the Minnesota Hunting and Trapping Regulations Handbook.
According to Williams, the DNR uses a variety of tools to determine the designation of a particular permit area as lottery, hunter’s choice, managed or intensive. Deer registrations from the previous hunting season, reports from hunters and area DNR wildlife managers and periodic aerial surveys all play a role.
“What we’re seeing in 2013 is maybe a little more conservative approach to some of the areas in the far northwest,” Williams said. “Add to that the areas around the TB area where we’re trying to rebuild the herd.”
A handful of permit areas in the state still are designated as intensive, which allows hunters to purchase as many as five tags. The intensive designation is limited to an area near Duluth, a handful of permit areas in the Twin Cities metro area and one unit in southeast Minnesota.
None are in northwest Minnesota.
Lottery winners will be notified in October.