Deer Hunter Survey Results

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The results of a much anticipated statewide deer hunter survey have been received by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Last June the DNR contracted with Responsive Management of Harrisonburg, Va., to conduct a scientifically valid survey of resident Minnesota deer hunters to assess their opinions and attitudes about issues pertaining to deer management.

"This is the most extensive hunter survey that I have ever been involved with," said Mark Damian Duda, executive director of Responsive Management. "It gives an extremely in-depth view of Minnesota deer hunters," he said.

Responsive Management is a nationally recognized leader in natural resource opinion surveys. The firm has done work for most state natural resource agencies in the country.

The Minnesota survey has an accuracy of plus or minus approximately 3 percent. The $27,500 cost was paid for with Game and Fish Fund money from the recent hunting license fee increase. More than 250 pages long, the survey results are being reviewed by the DNR's Deer Management Committee.

"It will be a big job to digest all of this information," said Steve Merchant, DNR Forest Wildlife Program leader and chair of the Deer Management Committee. "I'm sure we will be using this document to aid in decision-making processes well into the future."

It has been more than 25 years since the DNR conducted a similar survey, according to Tim Bremicker, director of the DNR Wildlife Division. No previous survey was as comprehensive.

"I am excited about this survey," Bremicker said. "We hear frequently from many avid and organized deer hunters, but this survey gives us a good cross section of what all Minnesota deer hunters think."

Bremicker said the survey results will be used to help make management decisions. He emphasized that the hunter survey results cannot be used alone. "The biological aspects of deer populations and the views of farmers, landowners, forest managers, wildlife watchers, and others affected by Minnesota's deer management are also important considerations," he said.

The DNR plans to supplement the hunter survey findings with additional surveys to assess landowner views of current deer populations and management issues.

This survey's in-depth view of Minnesota's deer hunters includes their views on most current deer management issues, including regulation complexity, quality deer management, population status, hunter opportunity and season structure. Also, it provides important insights into their hunting experiences and practices, including all-terrain vehicle and tree stand use, party size, what type of land they hunt, why they hunt, and opinions on hunter densities, crowding and access. The survey design allows the information to be analyzed statewide, but also by hunting zone and license type.

While there was widespread agreement among deer hunters statewide on many of the questions posed on the survey, there were also sharply divided opinions on some issues. A sampling of responses for which there was majority agreement among deer hunters statewide includes:

91 percent of hunters were either very or somewhat satisfied with their hunting experience 79 percent of deer hunters hunt in parties, and 91 percent are very or somewhat satisfied with party hunting regulations

68 percent of hunters disagreed that there were too many other hunters in the area they hunt

73 percent of firearms hunters support the current timing of the season, while 74 percent think the length of the season is about right

72 percent of hunters primarily hunt deer on private land

89 percent of hunters agree that the deer hunting regulations printed in the annual Minnesota Hunting and Trapping Regulations are clear and understandable

78 percent of hunters usually do not use all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) for deer hunting, and 75 percent of hunters strongly or moderately support current ATV regulations on wildlife management areas

82 percent either strongly or moderately agreed that there were enough deer where they hunted

71 percent of hunters would harvest more deer where needed if the deer could be processed and donated to food shelves without any direct cost to them

68 percent either strongly or moderately support increasing the basic season limit from one to two deer (one with a gun and one with a bow)

62 percent of hunters rated the DNR's deer management program as excellent or good

61 percent were satisfied with the quality of the bucks

59 percent thought that the amount of public lands in Minnesota available for deer hunting was either excellent or good.

A sampling of responses for questions where statewide deer hunter opinion was fairly evenly divided includes:

51 percent were either very or somewhat satisfied with the number of adult bucks in the area where they hunted, while 46 percent were dissatisfied

43 percent either strongly or moderately support the use of permanent tree stands on public lands, while 50 percent oppose

49 percent either strongly or moderately support antler point restrictions as a way of protecting younger bucks, while 47 percent oppose these restrictions

40 percent of hunters rated access to private land for hunting as excellent or good, while 49 percent rated it fair or poor

51 percent of hunters are very or somewhat likely to support paying a fee for a state program that leases private land for public hunting access, while 46 percent are not likely to support such a program

50 percent of hunters supported some type of early youth hunt, while 44 percent did not support any youth-only preseason deer hunt

46 percent said they would support a small license fee increase to support a venison processing and donation program

53 percent of hunters were not at all familiar with the management philosophy called Quality Deer Management, while 47 percent were either very or somewhat familiar with Quality Deer Management.

While this is a sampling of the statewide findings, Merchant said many responses varied by license type or option (e.g., archery versus firearms), and zone, for those license types restricted to one zone (e.g., firearms 3A versus 3B). He said the DNR Wildlife Division is eager to share the deer hunter survey and results in their entirety with all interested parties.

"There is so much information here, it is difficult to summarize," Merchant said. "Because of that, we really want to give everyone an opportunity to take a look at the entire report."