City deer hunting on par with 2018 numbers to date

Published 6:00 am Saturday, November 9, 2019

By Kevin D. Nelson

Executive Director, Austin Parks and Recreation

The city of Austin archery deer hunt began on Oct. 23.

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Approved bow hunters have been out in their elevated stands as their schedules allow on early mornings around sunset and even midday. As of Nov. 5, when this column was written, a total of 22 deer have been taken, a total equivalent of that from last year on the same correlating date.

Kevin Nelson

All of the deer taken to date have been does. Significant as well is that six of the 22 have been harvested outside of the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center. For those residents with a problem of too many deer in your neighborhood yards, gardens, and streets, it is hoped that this number of deer harvested outside the nature center will increase, as the southwest in particular seems to have more than its fair share of the critters.

Why take only female deer, you might ask? Quite obviously, female deer (does) are the bearers of offspring, so reducing the number of does will logically reduce the number of new deer. The approved hunters are welcome to harvest male deer (bucks) as well, but with one stipulation: a buck can only be taken after first harvesting a doe within the same hunting season. This practice is aptly called earn-a-buck.

At times, and in planning conjunction with the DNR, communities choose to implement an antlerless-deer-only practice, while others choose to utilize a double-earn-a-buck practice, meaning hunters need to harvest two does prior to harvesting a buck (all within the same deer hunting season). So, Austin is right in the middle in terms of these regulations.

Has the hunt helped in reducing the number of deer within Austin? The 2017 and 2018 seasons combined resulted in just over 100 deer being harvested in Austin, so yes, the city archery deer hunts have helped to reduce the number of deer in the city. Although some residents still have close encounters between deer and their vehicles, and others still have deer regularly foraging in their yards and gardens, alas, it is likely far less than what it would have been without the hunts.

Can reducing the number of deer within the borders of the nature center impact the number of deer within Austin? Yes and no. Studies vary, finding that deer tend to range in areas less than one square mile to areas much larger. So essentially, deer which begin at the nature center could, in theory, take up new residence in the wooded and garden areas further within the city.

Good luck, slug hunters. Their season began Thursday. So, if non-hunters are going to be outside and near wooded areas (other than the nature center, where slug hunting is not allowed), it might be advisable to don an orange hat.

Also, please remember: As much fun as it is for many of us to see the deer in the city, it is against the law to feed them in our county as well as much of Minnesota. They’ll generally be able to locate the forage they need to survive on their own.