Antlered does, blood tracking dogs, and MN Deer Harvest expectations.

Phil Klein of Champlin with his 8 point doe

Phil Klein of Champlin with his 8 point doe – photo courtesy of Phil Klein

I had a chance to talk to the DNR about a few recent events in Minnesota.  An 8 point doe was shot by Phil Klein of Champlin.  Read the Star Tribune story about it here. 

*If you have pictures of a doe with antlers, send it to us!

Not having heard too much about does that have antlers, I was surprised after reading the story about Klein’s buck er, doe. I’ve heard about mallard hens that start to look like drakes and figured it was something similar.  I figured I’d go straight to the experts and asked Big Game Program Leader Leslie McInenly how common antlered does are in Minnesota.

” It is fairly uncommon to have an antlered doe,” McInenly said.  “We hear about one being harvested roughly every other year.  That would come out to about 1 in 150,000 or so.  It could be more common than that – we just don’t get the reports.  I have seen reported ratios much lower than that.  However, we have actually heard about antlered 2 does this year (one in velvet and one not).”

With one being found this late in the year still in velvet, I asked her why.

“Antler development is a hormonal issue.  The most common situation is that the velvet doesn’t come off; the doe doesn’t have enough testosterone to harden and drop the antlers.  The other report we received was (I think) a nine-pointer without velvet. ”

Despite two successful hunters with these unique deer, overall it seemed like Minnesota deer hunters struggled a bit this season.  Whether our numbers are lower than we thought or if the weather played a role, those wearing blaze orange this fall seemed frustrated.

“Based on the preliminary numbers, deer harvest is down about 6% for the year so far,” McInenly continued.  “Based on our population estimate (up about 2% from 2012) we were anticipating harvest about the same as last year or maybe a little above.  Since the final numbers aren’t in I haven’t made any real comparisons with, for example, our population estimates or last year’s WSI so it is a bit of speculation based on current observations and numbers.  Certainly, we’ve been dogged with some crummy weekend weather (even since the opener of archery it seems).  Anecdotally, we had some pretty windy weekends.  The second weekend also challenged folks with rainy conditions.  I do think the weather had some impact on hunting conditions and our resulting success.  Whenever you are working with a model (i.e. the population model), you know those numbers aren’t necessarily spot-on…the estimates are statistically-based numbers derived from the best information we have.  There is certainly a chance that the numbers could be off a bit.  Last year we were getting into season setting while the winter was dragging on into late spring.  There is certainly a chance that the winter had a bigger impact in the NE than we anticipated based on numbers coming in from the NE, but we also had some tough hunting conditions up there as well as fairly conservative management in light of anticipated 2012-13 winter impacts.  But, buck harvest was down across the state and not just in NE.  It will be interesting to evaluate the season this year once final numbers are in.”

With such a varied landscape across our state, I asked if some regions fared better than others.

” So far, preliminary numbers indicate the “Farmland” (200-series) is faring better than the SE or 100-series in north.  100-series is down roughly 15%, 200-series up 1%, 300-series down 5%. ”

A recent blog entry I wrote discussed my issues with finding blood trails, as I suffer from a red/green color deficiency.   A reader suggested maybe it was time to allow blood tracking dogs in the state of Minnesota.  McInenly wasn’t sure we’d see that anytime soon.

“As far as I know, the issue regarding use of dogs for tracking has not come up legislatively and DNR has not taken an official position.  The issue has not been raised recently.  I don’t think it is something that would be supported by the majority of our hunters (concerns regarding dogs running wild, trespass, etc.). ”

One topic that hasn’t been brought up lately is how the wolf season is going.  The quota was lowered this year, despite the protests of wolf hunters.  It seems the quota may not get reached anyway, as the harvest in the early season was only 88 wolves.

*Leslie McInenly is the Big Game Program Leader at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. 

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