More Input Wanted on Zone 3 Deer Season Changes

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Proposed changes to the Zone 3 deer hunting seasons got a lukewarm reception during four public meetings held in January throughout southeastern Minnesota, according to the Department of Natural Resources. The meetings drew nearly 800 people who submitted comments on the original proposals. An additional 400 written comments and e-mails were received.

"While there wasn't a lot of support for our original plan, there was strong interest in looking at changes for the Zone 3 deer season," said Lou Cornicelli, DNR Big Game Program coordinator. "The public comments were very thoughtfully and respectfully presented," he said. "As a result, we've gone back to the drawing board and made some changes that we are seeking additional feedback on."

Cornicelli said the revised proposal is based on the comments received. The DNR will take written comments on the modified proposal through the end of March. Key elements of the new proposal and how they differ from the original are:

- Shorten the 3A hunt from nine days to seven days (Saturday through Friday). (The original proposal called for shortening this season to five days.) The season would still open on the regular statewide firearms deer season opener (Nov. 8, 2003).

- Allow youth hunters to harvest a deer of either sex during the 3A season. (The original proposal did not address special youth hunting provisions in this season.)

- Offer a limited number of either-sex permits during the 3A season. (This represents no change from the original proposal.)

- Lengthen the 3B season from seven days to nine days, but leave the season timing the same so that the season will be open over Thanksgiving, as has been traditional. The two additional days will run this season through the weekend after Thanksgiving and overlap the first two days of the muzzleloader season. (The original proposal would have also been nine days, but moved this season earlier to begin the Saturday immediately following the close of the 3A season.)

- Continue to prohibit multi-zone buck and all-season deer license holders from hunting in the 3B (late) season. The original proposal would have allowed this because all Zone 3 seasons would have been concurrent with seasons in some other zones of the state.

Cornicelli said the first priority in designing the changes is to allow better management of deer populations. He also said those changes needed to be tempered by the social aspects of deer management and deer hunting traditions.

"We heard from the public that shortening the 3A season to five days was too great a change, that hunting over Thanksgiving was important to 3B hunters, and that there was a lot of opposition to allowing all-season and multi-zone hunters to hunt in the Zone 3B season," Cornicelli said.

"We also heard an interest in increasing buck survival," Cornicelli said. "Shortening the 3A season to seven days will eliminate the second weekend of that season when about 15 percent of the buck harvest from that season occurs."

"Although this proposal does not include all of the changes that we had suggested in the past, it is similar to a plan that we had submitted to the DNR for review," said Chris Kolbert, president of Bluffland Whitetails Association, an organization of southeastern Minnesota deer hunters that has advocated changes in Zone 3 deer seasons for several years. "We feel that the new proposal is a step in the right direction and our board of directors has chosen to support it."

Hunters may provide comments by e-mail to info@dnr.state.mn.us. Written comments may be sent to: Minnesota DNR Wildlife Division, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN 55155-4007. Comments will be accepted until March 31.