Nature center to hold fall deer hunt

Published 7:34 am Thursday, August 26, 2010

A pair of dear come out in the open to feed at the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center Tuesday. --Eric Johnson/

The Jay C. Hormel Nature Center is set to hold its second deer hunt Nov. 17-24 in an effort to control the deer population.

“The herd needs to be managed,” Director Larry Dolphin said. “There’s a limit of how many deer this area can support.”

Dolphin noted that deer have few natural predators in southern Minnesota, so managing the population is important. Weather, like the long winter last year, may have served to manage the herd size, too, Dolphin said.

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The nature center first held a hunt in 2003, and 39 bow hunters took in 13 total does, according to Dolphin.

“It was just a feeling that we had a lot of deer and we had to look at reducing their numbers somehow,” Dolphin said.

Indicators show the population is high again. In March of 2008, Dolphin said he drove a circle around the nature center and counted 130 deer.

Deer population can affect other factors at the nature center. Last year’s tornado, which damaged many trees at the center, is also a key reason to allow hunting at the center. The nature center has planted many trees since the tornado, and deer often eat down the growing trees — even though nature center staff take measures to protect the trees.

“The number one reason why we’re doing the hunt is to lower the deer herd,” Dolphin said. “We’ll see how well that works as far as it’s impact on newly planted trees.”

The nature center will be accepting hunting applications through Sept. 9. Up to 44 hunters can apply for the hunt, and up to 11 hunters will be at the nature center at a time. If more than 44 apply, a lottery system will be used to reduce the number of hunters. All hunting will be strictly bow hunting. Each permit will allow for one antler-less deer.

“It gives some local bow hunters … another way of using the nature center,” Dolphin said.

Hunters will be restricted to specific areas when they hunt, and each hunter must pass a proficiency test before they are allowed to hunt. Hunters will have to pay for a $10 permit from the nature center along with an additional permit from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Dolphin estimated it would cost about $25 total in permit fees. Proficiency tests will be held Sept. 1, 2 and 11.

The nature center will be closed to hikers from Nov. 17-24, but the visitors center and the Ruby Rupner Auditorium will both be open.

Hunters interested in participating can contact David Wagner or Dolphin at the nature center at 437-7519 or at