MDNR Seeks Public Comments on 2004 Hunting and Trapping Regulations

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The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will conduct a series of meetings around Minnesota in early March to take public comments and recommendations about hunting and trapping season regulations, according to Ed Boggess, assistant chief of the DNR Section of Wildlife.

Public comments will be taken on small game, big game, waterfowl and wild turkey hunting seasons, and on trapping seasons. In addition, the following DNR proposals for discussion or possible season changes will be addressed:

TENTATIVE SEASON OPENING DATES

Most proposed opening dates for 2004 were previously announced. They will be reviewed at the meetings. The general waterfowl hunting season opener has not yet been determined, but will likely be either Saturday, Sept. 25 or Saturday, Oct. 2.

DEER

Antlerless permitting simplification. Eliminate the requirement that hunters declare a permit area and be restricted to hunting antlerless deer in that area, except for lottery permit areas. The proposal is to maintain the new deer permit area system that was put in place last year

("Intensive" "Managed" and "Lottery" deer permit areas), but to simplify the process. The changes are to address some of the areas that caused the most confusion last year and to provide added flexibility for hunters.

Lottery permit areas. Hunters wishing to obtain a permit to take an antlerless deer in a lottery permit area will still have to apply in advance. In lottery areas, hunters will be required to apply for a permit to take an antlerless deer and successful applicants will be restricted to using that permit only in that lottery area.

Managed and Intensive permit areas. In managed and intensive deer permit areas, anyone with a license valid for that zone and time, except multi-zone buck licensees, will be able to take deer of either sex. Hunters for these areas will be asked at the time of license purchase which permit area they hunt most, but their taking of antlerless deer will not be restricted to the area they declare.

Bonus antlerless deer permits. The current separate “management” and “intensive harvest” permits to take additional antlerless deer in managed and intensive permit areas will be eliminated and replaced by a single type of “bonus” deer permit. Bonus permits will still be one-half the cost of a regular license. Hunters will be able to purchase and use one bonus permit in a managed permit area and up to four bonus permits in an intensive permit area. Bonus permits will be valid with any regular archery, firearms, or muzzleloader license.

Allow multi-zone buck licensees to purchase bonus permits. Currently, multi-zone buck hunters can purchase intensive harvest permits, but not management permits. With the change to only one type of bonus permit for additional antlerless deer, multi-zone buck hunters would be authorized to purchase bonus permits like any other licensee.

Rifle-shotgun zone boundary, northwest Minnesota. Currently, the rifle-shotgun zone boundary in extreme western Minnesota follows Interstate 94 to Barnesville, and then extends roughly northward to the Manitoba border. The line was originally established to provide more protection for deer in open areas of the state, not for safety reasons. Public comments will be taken on three options: 1) extend the rifle zone in the Red River Valley of northwest Minnesota from I-94 northward; 2) extend the rifle zone in the Red River Valley from U.S. Hwy. 2 northward; or 3) no change in the rifle-shotgun zone boundary in northwest Minnesota.

EXTEND THE PHEASANT SEASON

The proposal is to extend the pheasant season through Dec. 31. Based on available scientific studies on pheasant populations, a moderate season extension is expected to have no impact on pheasant populations.

CLOSE THE WHITEWATER STATE GAME REFUGE TO SMALL GAME HUNTING IN NOVEMBER AND DECEMBER

The Whitewater state game refuge is a four square mile refuge within the Whitewater Wildlife Management Area in Winona County. The DNR is taking comments on closing the refuge to small game hunting during November and December to reduce disturbance of deer in the refuge. Prior to 1988, the Whitewater WMA state game refuge was closed to all hunting and trapping. In 1988, the Whitewater state game refuge was opened for trapping and for small game hunting. Since 1991, firearms deer hunting during special seasons by permit has been authorized. In 2003, a special October youth firearms deer hunt was held in the refuge.

ESTABLISH CLOSED SEASONS ON RACCOON AND RED FOX

In the 1990s, the seasons on red fox and raccoons were legislatively extended year-around and the DNR studied the effects of the season extension. The results showed that relatively few fox and raccoons were taken during the time of year that the pelts were of no value (spring and summer). The proposal is to reinstate a closed season during the time of year that the animals are of no value and when young are being reared. Landowners and others with permits would still be able to take raccoons and red fox causing damage during the closed season.

ALLOW LAND SNARING IN FARMLAND ZONE, DECEMBER THROUGH MARCH

Currently, snaring on land is allowed only in the forest furbearer zone. In the farmland zone of the state, snares must be at least half-submerged in water. The proposal is to allow snare use only on private lands (excluding rights-of-way) in the farmland furbearer zone, from Dec. 1 through the end of March.

CAP PELTING FEES AT $25

Current law and rules allow the DNR to pay a pelting fee of 50 percent of the value of the pelt to a person who recovers, treats, preserves or transports pelts of accidentally taken animals or animals lawfully killed that were causing injury or damage. With increased values of some pelts, the 50 percent amount sometimes greatly exceeds reasonable costs of recovering and treating pelts. The proposal would cap the payments at 50 percent, not to exceed $25.

POTENTIAL LEGISLATIVE CHANGE – SPINNING WING DECOYS

A study of spinning-wing decoys recently completed in Minnesota indicated that, for mallards, kill rates were 4.7 times higher when the decoys were turned on than when off, and flocks responded to the decoys 2.9 times more when the decoys were on than when they were off. Current law states, “from the opening day of the duck season through the Saturday nearest Oct. 8, a person may not use a motorized decoy on public waters with visible, moving parts that are above the water surface.” The current restriction does not apply to taking geese. Because of the effects of early season hunting on Minnesota resident breeding ducks, the department will take public comments on potential legislation that would apply the current date restrictions prohibiting use of these decoys more broadly for all hunting, not just on public waters. This will simplify the existing statutory restriction to make it less confusing and more enforceable, as well as maximizing protection to Minnesota’s young ducks during the first week or two of the season.

Also, the department will take comments on whether certain areas such as wildlife management areas or other designated areas should be off-limits to motorized decoys during the remainder of the season. This would allow hunters who wish to have a more traditional waterfowl hunting experience places where they could go and not have to compete with the more efficient motorized decoys.

POTENTIAL LEGISLATIVE CHANGE – LEAVING DECOYS IN PUBLIC WATERS

Current law prohibits leaving decoys in public waters between sunset and one hour before lawful shooting hours unless:(1) the decoys are in waters adjacent to private land under the control of the hunter; and (2) there is not natural vegetation growing in water sufficient to partially conceal a hunter.

Hunters sometimes leave decoys unattended during the middle of the day and by doing so they can pre-empt other hunters from using those areas that day. To reduce this potential for conflict, the department is taking comment on a potential legislative proposal that would prohibit leaving decoys unattended at any time during the day.

MEETING DATES AND LOCATIONS All public input meetings will be held from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. The meeting in St. Paul will be "open house" style where participants can come at any time during the two hours to discuss issues and offer comments.

Dates and locations of the 2004 hunting and trapping season input meetings are:

March 8 Windom Windom Area DNR Office 175 County Road 26 (from stoplight at Hwy. 71 and Hwy. 62, go east on County Rd. 17 one-half mile to County Rd. 26, then south approximately one-quarter mile)

March 9 Wadena Northwest Technical College 405 Colfax Ave., SW

March 9 Cloquet High school cafeteria

March 9 Faribault River Bend Nature Center 1000 Rustad Rd. (3 miles east of I-35 on Hwy. 60 to Shumway Ave., then follow River Bend Nature Center signs south and east)

March 9 St. Paul DNR/PCA cafeteria 500 Lafayette Rd.

March 11 St. Cloud Stockinger Rm., St. Cloud Civic Center 10 Fourth Ave. S.

For those unable to attend a meeting, written comments may be submitted to: wildlife@dnr.state.mn.us or mailed to: Season Comments, DNR Section of Wildlife, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN 55155-4007.