Minnesota DNR Asks Deer Hunters For Their Observations in the Field

by Amy Myers
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Photo By Dennis Anderson/Star Tribune via Getty Images

In order to gain a better understanding of the condition of the state’s deer population, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is asking hunters to share their observations from the field.

The goal of this effort is to not only explore a new avenue of information but also to involve these camo-clad men and women in the management of the state’s wildlife.

“This allows hunters to become actively involved in deer management in Minnesota,” said Eric Michel, deer project leader for Minnesota’s farmland region.

“Using citizen science, working with our deer hunters, allows us a much further reach than we would have otherwise. Obviously, we can’t be in the field across the state all the time, so tapping into this resource with our hunters allows us to obtain so much more data from a much larger spread across the state,” he said, per MRP News. “It’s something that we’re trying to figure out how to really capitalize on.”

While the deer hunter’s perspective may be a valuable resource, officials are having trouble getting them to partcipate in the new effort. Right now, only 49 of the 400,000 registered and licensed hunters in the state have filled out the voluntary surveys.

Initially, the surveys were only for bow hunters, who tend to spend more time in the field than those with firearms. Now, though, the forms are open to Minnesota hunters of all kinds.

Minnesota DNR Hopes to Make Surveys Easier to Entice More Deer Hunters to Participate

The surveys certainly are in-depth, which is understandable considering the DNR hopes to collect as much information on game animals as they can. Among the questions on the survey, it asks deer hunters to log the hours they spent in the woods, the deer they see, what sexes and their approximate age.

“And it will also ask you for some other observations,” Michel added. “Information about wild turkeys, black bears, coyotes, bobcats, gray wolves, fishers, grey fox and badgers. And we’re collecting that information to help us get a better understanding of the distribution of those species across the state.”

Just three years ago, a total of 2,180 Minnesota hunters returned the survey, which was an all-time high. Since then, numbers have further fallen to mere double-digits.

Iowa Has Much More Success With Its Own Hunter Survey

Meanwhile, Iowa has implemented a similar program and had a bit more success. The state’s wildlife department chose 9,000 bow deer hunters to complete the survey.

“Of those 9,000 hunters, we typically get between 2,000 and 2,500 surveys back, which is about a 25 percent response rate on average,” said Tyler Harms, the Iowa DNR wildlife biometrician.

This is also the 17th year that Iowa has used their hunter survey. So, perhaps, for Minnesota, it’s only a matter of time before the masses catch on.

“A lot of hunters when I’ve chatted with them about this survey, their response is, “well, I collect this information anyway, so I might just as well give it to you,’” he said.

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