OUTDOORS NOTEBOOK: NW Minnesota deer kill lowest since 1998; Cougars rare but confirmed Minnesota visitors, etc.

Northwest deer kill lowest since 1998 Hunters in northwest Minnesota shot fewer deer this fall than during any season since 1998, numbers from the Department of Natural Resources show. Hunters in the DNR's Northwest Region registered 53,881 deer ...

Northwest region deer permit areas

Northwest deer kill lowest since 1998

Hunters in northwest Minnesota shot fewer deer this fall than during any season since 1998, numbers from the Department of Natural Resources show.

Hunters in the DNR's Northwest Region registered 53,881 deer during the firearms deer season, a decline of 8 percent from 58,751 in 2010 and the lowest since 1998, when hunters registered 46,447 deer.

The Northwest Region, which is headquartered in Bemidji, covers an area from the far northwest corner of the state to the Northwest Angle in the north, south to Glenwood in western Minnesota and east to the Brainerd area in the central part of the state. The region is subdivided into northwest, northeast, west-central, southwest, southeast, east-central and central areas.

The biggest decline this year was in the far northwest part of the region, where hunters registered 1,426 deer, down 35.5 percent from last year. In the northeast part of the region, hunters registered 4,595 deer, down 21.2 percent from last year; 22,297 central, down 3 percent; 3,482 west-central, down 26.8 percent; 11,241 southeast, down 15.7 percent; and 1,343 southwest, down 7.1 percent.


The only part of the region to see an increase was the east-central area, where hunters registered 9,497 deer, a jump of 15.8 percent from last year.

Buoyed by a series of mild winters, deer populations in Minnesota began building in the late 1990s and continued to grow through 2003, when hunting success began a general downward trend.

The DNR aggressively managed deer through much of the 2000s by offering as many as five bonus tags in some permit areas in an effort to reduce populations.

Here's a look at the region-wide northwest deer harvest since 1998:

1998: 46,447.

1999: 56,462.

2000: 67,310.

2001: 76,272.


2002: 78,925.

2003: 103,338.

2004: 92,972.

2005: 85,524.

2006: 87,746.

2007: 77,999.

2008: 66,753,

2009: 56,851.


2010: 58,751.

2011: 53,881.

Statewide, the DNR estimates this year's Minnesota harvest will be similar to last year, when hunters registered 207,000 deer.

-- Brad Dokken

Report touts hunting as a safe activity

A new report from the National Shooting Sports Foundation puts hunting safety into perspective. According to the NSSF, the trade association for the firearms industry, hunting ranks third in safety compared to 28 other recreational pursuits, with an injury rate of 0.05 percent. That's about one injury for every 2,000 participants.

By comparison, only camping and billiards are safer.

According to the NSSF, compared to hunting, a person is:


- 11 times more likely to be injured playing volleyball.

- 19 times more likely to be injured snowboarding.

- 25 times more likely to be injured cheerleading or bicycle riding.

- 34 times more likely to be injured playing soccer or skateboarding.

- 105 more times likely to be injured playing tackle football.

To see the full report, go to

-- Herald staff report

N.D. late-season hunting ends soon


BISMARCK -- Late-season hunters still have time to get out in the field and enjoy North Dakota's deer, waterfowl, upland game, turkey, small game and furbearer opportunities.

The season for Canada geese closes Dec. 22, except for the Missouri River Zone, which closes Dec. 30. Light goose hunting also closes statewide Dec. 30.

Other seasons:

- High plains duck hunting opened Saturday and continues through Jan. 1.

- Archery deer, fall turkey, sharp-tailed and ruffed grouse, partridge, pheasant and tree squirrel hunting seasons continue through Jan. 8.

- Bobcat, mink and weasel hunting and trapping are open through March 11. The mountain lion season in Zone 2 is open through March 31.

- Muskrat hunting and trapping close May 6, with trapping restrictions beginning March 12.

- Fox, coyote, raccoon, badger and beaver hunting and trapping are open year-round.


-- N.D. Game and Fish Department

Cougars are rare but confirmed Minnesota visitors

ST. PAUL -- Confirmed cougar sightings are becoming more frequent in Minnesota, but evidence suggests the large cats most likely are rare visitors to the state, according to the DNR.

The recent shooting of a young male cougar in southwestern Minnesota, along with verified observations of the big cats in the state, are raising awareness of cougars in the public and media.

"Within the past several years, we have been able to verify observations of individual cougars within our state," said Dan Stark, DNR large carnivore specialist. "Although rare, we have verifiable evidence such as trail camera photos, tracks and scat, and on occasion, dead cougars."

Since 2007, the DNR has confirmed 14 cougar sightings. Eleven have been from trail cameras or video. One was road killed, one was found dead and one was shot. Dozens of other, unconfirmed sightings have also been reported.

Confirmed breeding populations are recognized by state game departments in 14 western states. The closest populations are in the western Dakotas, and the only population east of the Mississippi River is in Florida.

Stark said there have been no wild female mountain lions documented in Minnesota, and that annual carnivore tracking surveys have recorded no evidence to suggest the possibility of a resident population of cougars in the state.

The DNR has recently updated its cougar information on its website. Info:

-- Minnesota DNR

Did you know?

- The Red River Valley chapter of Pheasants Forever contributed $60,536 to youth-related hunting, safety, outdoor learning, fishing and shooting programs in 2011. The donations include two $1,000 scholarships to UND and the University of Minnesota-Crookston, $5,024 for the chapter's youth days, $3,500 to disability hunts and $10,000 to Pheasants Forever's Legislative Action Fund. Schools across eastern North Dakota and northwest Minnesota benefitted from the donations.

- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last month was yet again petitioned by the Center for Biological Diversity and two other anti-fishing groups requesting the agency regulate the manufacture and sale of lead fishing tackle of certain sizes and uses under the Toxic Substances Control Act. EPA in November 2010 dismissed a similar petition seeking to ban lead hunting and shooting ammunition, which are exempted from regulation under TSCA.

- An Aquatic Invasive Species Legislative Summit is set for 8 a.m. to noon Jan. 14 in the Conference Center at Minnesota State and Community Technical College in Detroit Lakes. The theme of the summit is "Bold Action Now," and keynote speaker is Darby Nelson, author of "For Love of Lakes," who will talk about how Minnesota's professed love of lakes is repeatedly contradicted by actions. The Becker County Coalition of Lake Associations, the Pelican River Watershed District and the Lake Detroiters Association is hosting the summit, which is free and open to the public.

- A custom-made casket featuring hardwood inlay artwork of an elk and mountain scene is among the items the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation will be auctioning at the 27th annual Elk Camp convention set for Feb. 2-4 in Las Vegas. The handmade caskets typically retail for $1,500 to $4,500.

Brad Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and has been the Grand Forks Herald's outdoors editor since 1998.

Besides his role as an outdoors writer, Dokken has an extensive background in northwest Minnesota and Canadian border issues and provides occasional coverage on those topics.

Reach him at, by phone at (701) 780-1148 or on Twitter at @gfhoutdoor.
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