Last year, many deer hunters in our area became extremely frustrated by a new law that limited the kind of bucks they could shoot in Zone 3, or southeastern Minnesota. These antler point restrictions (APR) were brought forward by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) after a pair of area hunting groups urged them to do so.
Their reasoning: By convincing state government to limit the opportunities for hunters to shoot smaller bucks, the number of large bucks would increase in southeastern Minnesota.
The DNR conducted a random survey of Zone 3 hunters, and a majority of them opposed the APR. In its infinite wisdom, the DNR went ahead with the restrictions anyway.
This was great news for the trophy hunter who wanted to increase his odds of bagging a 16 point buck near his home, but bad news for those hunters who were trying to encourage the continuation of their family hunting experience, as these new laws significantly hindered their limited opportunity for a successful hunt.
Following the 2010 hunting season, the complaints poured in from frustrated hunters. Some found dead bucks not meeting the APR dead in cornfields. They’d succumbed to bullet wounds, apparently inflicted by hunters who mistook these bucks for ones that would be legal under the new, confusing law. Others said they were forced to pass on bucks because they couldn't distinguish if they met the criteria, and it turned out to be their only chance to harvest a deer. Even more said they will not buy a deer license this year if this prohibition is not eliminated.
Even more disturbing, the DNR’s hunter and deer harvest data for the 2010 season found that these restrictions led to decreased hunter participation in zone 3 and a very large reduction in deer harvest numbers.
In December, chronic wasting disease was discovered in Zone 3. The DNR found that deer numbers were measured at four times the recommended deer densities. While we don’t know that the new rules contributed directly to the problem, we know that the resulting increased deer numbers did not help. This would not have been a problem had hunters been able to harvest any buck.
Last month, I received a petition filled out by over one thousand Zone 3 deer hunters, asking that these prohibitions be eliminated. I am supporting their cause.
The hunting rule book needs to get smaller, not bigger. We need to encourage our teenagers to become active in the sport, not finding new reasons for them to ignore it. These special regulations, whether deer hunting or special lake fishing limit regulations on selected lakes, complicate the experience and make criminals out of good people.
Further, the DNR has already spent millions on chronic wasting disease this past year. Now it wants to raise license fees to implement more rules that hunters couldn’t possibly live without.
It’s time to end these counter-productive prohibitions that have been foisted upon the hunters of southeastern Minnesota by the DNR. Hunters shouldn’t be forced to count the number of points on a buck’s antlers before deciding whether or not to pull the trigger. They should have the freedom to hunt.