From Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
-- The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is making major changes to simplify deer seasons and licensing for this fall, according to Lou Cornicelli, DNR big game program coordinator.
The changes include allowing a person to individually purchase licenses for regular firearms, muzzleloader and archery in any combination; consolidating deer zones so that licensed firearms hunters can hunt anywhere in the state; simplifying legal big game rifle calibers to allow any center-fire that is at least .220 caliber; and eliminating the need to validate the license when tagging an animal.
The changes are the result of recommendations of a citizens' work group convened by the DNR to recommend simplification of the deer seasons. During late 2007, DNR organized a group of stakeholders to provide recommendations to the DNR on how to streamline hunting while not compromising the ability to manage deer. The team ultimately settled on four primary recommendations, which were brought to the public and the Minnesota Legislature for consideration. The group's recommendations were the subject of 12 public meetings held around the state last spring. Legislative and rule changes made since that time will allow for implementation of the recommendations this fall.
"Minnesota previously had more license types and options for deer than any other Midwestern state, so the need for simplification was apparent," Cornicelli said.
Hunters can now buy an archery, firearm and muzzleloader license individually, or in any combination. Previously, a person who wanted to hunt deer in both the regular firearms and muzzleloader seasons had to buy the more expensive all-season license, valid for regular firearms, muzzleloader and archery.
"We found that the vast majority of all-season license purchasers were paying three times the single season license fee ($78), but were only hunting in two seasons," Cornicelli said.
This year, the system will be "a la carte," meaning that hunters can purchase licenses for only the seasons they want to hunt. Hunters are advised by the DNR to know the bag limits in the area they hunt. Even though hunters can buy three licenses, the general bag limit for deer is one in lottery areas, two in managed areas, and five in intensive areas (with some exceptions, such as early antlerless seasons).
The traditional firearm zone licenses (1A, 2A, 3A, 3B, 4A, 4B) have been consolidated into two licenses types: A statewide Season Option "A" and a Zone 3B (southeast Minnesota) season option "B." With the new system, hunters are no longer limited to a particular zone boundary, but must adhere to the different open season dates in permit areas within the zone. Zone 4 has also been eliminated and merged with the Zone 2 nine-day season. A number of deer permit areas formerly in Zone 4 will be renumbered.
Season "A" licenses are valid statewide in all "A" season areas (Zones 1A, 2A, 3A), which opens Nov. 8. For example, by purchasing a statewide "A" season license, a hunter could hunt an area in 3A (seven-day season) opening weekend, move to an area in 2A (nine-day season) the second weekend and finish up the season in 1A (16-day season) on the third weekend.
In contrast, season "B" licenses are valid only during the Zone 3B season (Nov. 22-30) in southeastern Minnesota. A regular firearm deer hunter may purchase either an "A" or "B" season license, but not both. However, anyone (including 3B hunters) can now buy a muzzleloader license. Both license types will be valid in the Twin Cities metro area, bovine TB area, and all early antlerless permit areas.
LOTTERY APPLICATIONS, MUZZLELOADER HUNTERS
In some areas of Minnesota, the deer population is below goal so antlerless permits have been reduced to very low levels. With the past popularity of multiple zone licenses, the percentage of antlerless harvest taken in the muzzleloader season has gone up dramatically.
With the new licensing system, lottery area hunters who purchase both a regular firearms and muzzleloader license will need to apply for a limited number of antlerless permits that will be valid for taking an antlerless deer in either the regular firearms or muzzleloader season.
The number of muzzleloader-only hunters is low, so those who do not purchase a regular firearms license can take deer of either sex in lottery areas without an antlerless permit.
People who buy licenses for both the firearm and muzzleloader seasons will need to apply in the lottery if they want to take an antlerless deer in a lottery area. If successful, the permit will be valid for either the firearm or muzzleloader season, provided the hunter has a license for that season.
People who only muzzleloader hunt (no regular firearms license) may take deer of either sex without applying in the lottery. Final details will be released when the hunting regulations book comes out in early August.
For 2008, the definition of legal calibers has been simplified to .220 centerfire or larger. Previously, the regulation had a larger minimum, minimum case length, and numerous exceptions. The new regulation is consistent with most of the Midwestern states that allow centerfire rifles.
"We understand there is a concern that hunters could use a type that is not suitable for taking deer," Cornicelli said. "But we are confident that hunters can make an informed choice in regard to caliber and bullet selection, and that they'll use a bullet that is appropriate for the big game they are pursuing. There is no substitute for knowing the capabilities of a firearm and practicing," Cornicelli said.
The regulation requiring hunters to validate their deer license has been eliminated. However, the tag must still be validated and site tagging regulations have not changed, so hunters should familiarize themselves with those regulations when the regulations handbook arrives in stores.