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Lack of trophy bucks in Minnesota due in part to wildlife management

WORTHINGTON -- Tomorrow is the firearms season opener for whitetail deer in southwest Minnesota. There will be thousands of hunters clad in blaze orange trying to bag a deer of a lifetime.

Minnesota is not known to have many trophy bucks when compared to states like Iowa or Wisconsin. Different states manage Scott their herds Rall with different

• goals in mind. Outdoors Some states Columnist work very hard to promote trophy animals. In others like Minnesota -- with the farmland region in particular -- the goal is primarily managing the size of the overall deer population.

I bought an all-season license, which allows me to harvest up to three deer -- of which only one may be a buck. I don't intend to harvest three deer, but this license allows me to hunt both of the regular firearms seasons and the muzzle loader season with only one license.

I had the opportunity to visit with an area wildlife biologist about deer management in the farmland zone of the state, and what I found was eye opening. When you try to answer the question as to why we have so many numbers of deer, but so few true trophy animals in the part of the state, you have to consider harvest statistics. From there it becomes very clear, very fast.

Take an area that starts out with 1,000 bucks and factor in the 70 percent annual harvest on those 1,000 animals, and you will see that at the end of the first year only 300 of the original 1,000 remain. If you consider that next season will result in a 70 percent harvest of the remaining 300 bucks you now have 90 deer still around in the overall population. Take this scenario a few more years down that road and after five years, (the age that a deer is considered a mature specimen and capable of sporting a very nice rack) and you will see that there are only 8.1 deer of the original 1,000 left.

It is this level of harvest on the bucks that results in very few deer growing to an age old enough to become trophy status. Don't get me wrong, there are a few deer every year that are harvested in southwestern Minnesota that would be considered very respectable. But those are normally very few and far between. I have a saying that goes like this: "There is almost no place that deer can stand in Nobles County and not be seen from a road with binoculars." Deer in our area have no sanctuary which allows them to grow to an older age. The fact that most hunters in Minnesota place greater value in shooting almost any legal buck over less harvest of higher quality deer also plays a big factor. I am not saying that there is anything wrong with that thinking. It just helps explain the deer management practices in our area.

The need to control the high numbers of deer in the farmland zone also contributes to the current management practices. There are a few things that hunters can do, but it would take a majority of those numbers to have much impact.

Hunters that have a doe permit would choose to harvest a doe. All muzzle loaders get a doe permit and if the majority of those who could harvest a doe did so, it would take great pressure off of the young, immature bucks in the area. We as hunters could also try to convince the wildlife managers to change the season dates so they don't coincide with the rut.

The rut is the time of year that breeding takes place. Bucks tend to lose their mind at this time of year, which makes them much more susceptible to harvest. I don't see any of these changes taking place anytime soon, so for now it will be the status quo.

Have a very safe and successful deer hunting season. Let's all do what it takes to insure that this will be another year with very few or better yet no serious hunting accidents. Remember to have the Turn In Poachers number in your cell phone. That number is 1-800-652-9093.

I will give you an update if any really big bucks get harvested around here this year. I hope that you will find one of those 8.1 deer that is five years old. If you don't, I hope that I do. See you in the field somewhere.