Understanding hunting laws is crucial to ethical huntWORTHINGTON — I don’t really think of myself as a mechanically inclined person.
By: Scott Rall, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — I don’t really think of myself as a mechanically inclined person. I can do many things but normally rely on a professional when challenges get too involved. I did decide that I wanted the service manual for my Harley-Davidson motorcycle, and when it arrived it looked like the Sioux Falls yellow page directory — 300 pages of really small print. And it was then that I decided that I was not a motorcycle mechanic either.
This is the same reaction that many folks get when they pick up the regulations for deer hunting in Minnesota. It’s needless to say the regulation book is not 300 pages long, but there are many different rules and regulations, depending on which part of the state you live in and what method you use to hunt. You can use a bow, firearm or a muzzleloader.
Each has its own set of standards and requirements. Even those hunters who really exert every effort to be legal can sometimes get on the wrong side of a deer-hunting regulation.
I would say that most hunters are ethical and that those who stomp on game laws are the minority. One specific law that I think more than a few hunters do not understand is the conditions that surround the youth deer license.
First, you have to understand the party hunting laws in the state of Minnesota. Party hunting is the ability for a hunter who has harvested a deer and used his/her tag to keep hunting in order to fill the other tags in his/her group. This can result in one person shooting many deer and filling others’ tags until all the tags of that particular group have been used up.
This party hunting tradition dates back many decades and allows family and friends to spend more time in the field together. Party hunting succeeds in this effort but adds tremendous additional pressure to the deer herd, as it allows for substantially higher harvest rates so that states prohibit the practice. You can go on and on as to whether party hunting is a good thing or not, but with the new youth hunting licenses, this party hunting tradition is causing some problems.
A few years back, the state decided that, in an effort to boost hunter recruitment, they would allow all youths who bought a deer license to receive an automatic doe permit. This permit allows the young hunter to harvest either a doe or a buck. Many areas in the state require the hunter to apply for the chance to harvest a doe. This additional opportunity was designed to help young hunters be more successful in getting a deer and, as a result, they would be more inclined to continue the hunting tradition. I think that the intentions of the law are well-founded.
The problem with the new hunting opportunities for youth hunters is that party hunting, in a way that allows an adult to fill the youth’s doe tag, is not allowed. Adults shooting a doe for a youth are hunting illegally. Many hunting parties now buy licenses for multiple youths to ensure that their entire party has many doe tags. This is evident when you see the license data that shows a higher percentage of youth are license-purchasers in areas that require a doe permit than in areas where every applicant can get one.
This benefit to young hunters was never designed to provide the entire group with many additional doe tags. The result of adults’ party hunting and their filling of the youth’s doe tag is resulting in a severe over-harvest of does in many areas. The data goes on to show that youths are almost 100-percent more successful in tagging a doe in a limited-doe permit area than they are in other areas with unlimited doe licenses. Are young hunters just that much more skilled in a lottery area than they are in a managed or intensive permit area? I think not. Adults need to stop shooting does for their youth hunters and let the kid harvest themselves, if they can. This was the original intent.
There were meetings last year covering the farmland zones, and the end result was the desire to increase deer populations by 25 percent. This goal cannot be achieved with the number of adults harvesting youth license does. These issues and others are going to be discussed in several deer stakeholder meetings that will take place in the next few weeks. This first one being at the Horsebarn and Hunt Club in Lakefield on March 2 at 6:30 p.m., and the second is at the Southwest Bow Bender’s in Worthington on March 3, also at 6:30 p.m. If you want to be part of a constructive dialog on deer management issues, you are invited to attend.
Committees are going to be formed to gather hunter opinions as to possible changes to the current deer management practices. I look forward to this group working to educate and inform both the hunting ranks and the higher levels of the DNR as well. If everyone works together, a better deer herd and higher hunter satisfaction will be the result. The fact that there are so many individuals who care so passionately about our state’s resources and are willing to put forth intense time and effort is a testament to the fact that hunters and fishermen are the ultimate conservationists and stewards of our natural resources.