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Minnesota panels recommend moderate increases in deer herd

Panels meeting in Tower and Floodwood this past week suggested mostly moderate increases in deer population goals for most deer permit areas in those regions, said Jeff Lightfoot, regional wildlife manager with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in Grand Rapids.

The meetings, two of three held so far in the state, are being hosted by the DNR in response to some hunters' concerns about the deer population.

The DNR invited 19 representatives of hunters, hunting groups, farmers, the forest industry, taxidermists and guides to offer their recommendations. About 14 to 15 people attended each meeting, Lightfoot said.

At the Tower meeting on Wednesday night, deer permit areas 118, 119 177 and 176, from Eveleth north to the Canadian border, were discussed. Areas 118 and 119 have been hit by moderately severe winters four out of the past five years, Lightfoot said, and the deer population has dropped there.

"The general consensus was for moderate increases in the deer population," he said. "In 118 and 119, increases of 10 percent in the pre-fawn population."

Recommendations were generally similar for permit areas in the Floodwood/Hibbing area. Permit areas being evaluated there include 199, 181, 171, 173, 178 and 179. From just west of Duluth north to the Iron Range. The panel recommended small to moderate population increases, Lightfoot said.

"There was a wider range of opinions there," Lightfoot said. "There were more private landowner issues."

Joe Cannella, who represented the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association at the Floodwood meeting, said he had surveyed more than 100 hunters before the meeting, asking them how much they'd like to see the population goals raised. The average was about 25 percent he said, much higher than the 10 or 15 percent that came of out the meeting.

"I don't believe the deer hunting community will be all that happy with the results," Cannella said. "The average didn't come out anywhere near what hunters were looking for."

Many of those invited to make recommendations had been part of the DNR's last population goal-

setting meetings in 2006-07.

"At both meetings, you had this cross-section of people," he said, "yet it's very cordial, very respectful. They listen to other people's opinions."

After listening to the feedback and recommendations, Lightfoot was encouraged.

"I thought, 'We're not that far off from what most people want for deer densities,'" he said.

The groups' recommendations for specific permit areas will be posted on the DNR website, probably sometime this week, Lightfoot said. There, the public will be able to register its views in the online poll. DNR officials will take that into consideration soon after and make recommendations based on that input for this fall's deer season.