Zone 3 Deer Seasons Set

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Changes to Minnesota’s Zone 3 firearm deer hunting season for the fall of 2003 were announced this week by the Department of Natural Resources. Zone 3 encompasses most of southeastern Minnesota and the southern and western Twin Cities metro area. The primary changes for Zone 3 include:

• lengthen the Zone 3B (late) season from seven days to nine days, but preserve the traditional season timing (Nov. 22-30, 2003)

• shorten the Zone 3A (early) season from nine to seven days (Nov. 8-14, 2003)

• offer a limited number of either sex permits during the Zone 3A season (the 3A season was formerly bucks only)

• allow youth hunters to harvest a deer of either sex during the Zone 3A season.

There will be no change to the current prohibition on use of multi-zone and all-season deer licenses during the Zone 3B season.

The DNR first announced an initial proposal to restructure the Zone 3 deer season last November. After receiving more than 400 written comments and hearing from more than 800 people at a series of four public meetings in January, the department revised the original proposal and sought additional public input during the month of March.

“Throughout this process there was a lot of support for some kind of change in Zone 3 and the many thoughtful public comments and suggestions we received factored heavily in the final decision,” said Ed Boggess, DNR Wildlife Division assistant director. “We knew there would not be consensus on all of the specifics, but the revised proposal was much more positively received than our initial plan.”

Lou Cornicelli, DNR Big Game Program coordinator, said that the changes will maintain the total number of firearms hunting days in Zone 3, but will shift days from the early season to the late season to improve harvest management of antlerless deer and to reduce pressure on adult bucks.

“Our data indicates that only about 15 percent of the buck harvest occurs on the second weekend of the Zone 3A season, but we are still sensitive to the fact that hunters choosing that zone will have fewer days afield,” Cornicelli said.

However, Zone 3A hunters will, for the first time, have the opportunity to take some antlerless deer during that season and all youth under 16 hunting in Zone 3A will have the opportunity to harvest deer of either sex, he said.

The change in the season structure will also mean that the Zone 3B season will continue through the weekend after Thanksgiving, overlapping with the first weekend of the muzzleloader season.

“We heard some comments from muzzleloader hunters concerned about this,” Cornicelli said, “but we also heard from others who thought this change could actually increase their success by helping to move deer, considering the scarcity of hunters normally in the woods at that time of year.”

Cornicelli said the DNR intends to evaluate the new season structure over the next several years and to make adjustments as necessary. “In conjunction with our CWD surveillance efforts in southeast Minnesota, we should have access to a high percentage of the harvested deer,” he said. “That will provide data to help evaluate the effects of the season on the deer population and to refine changes later if needed.”

“These changes were not easy and represent the results of a lot of work and thought by a lot of people,” Cornicelli said, “We continue to be excited about working cooperatively with conservation groups, hunters, and landowners for the benefit of Minnesota’s deer population and deer hunting traditions.”