“I’ve Seen More Wolves Than Deer,” Hunters Report To Minnesota DNR Officers
Some parts of Northern Minnesota saw little success during the Minnesota firearm season. There are multiple reasons for this. First, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources predicted it would be a tough year for Northern Minnesota because of the harsh winters we've had the last few years. That's why hunting was restricted in many areas to "bucks only," or held the lottery for doe permits.
Now that the firearm season has wrapped up, weekly conservation officer reports show that some hunters have been frustrated. Hunting activity was down as well. The colder-than-average weather and strong winds kept many hunters from attempting on the final weekend. Others, like myself, have just been seeing so few deer in recent years that we have just given up until numbers come back. I wrote an article about why I'm giving up on hunting in Minnesota this year and it went viral.
I ended up going for opening weekend but didn't hunt. I instead helped my folks with some projects while some other friends hunted. For the second year in a row, my friend Adam saw wolves on our property near Cook, Minnesota.
Apparently, he's not alone. The latest weekly conservation officer report shows that officer Duke Broughten in Aurora reported that "many hunters reported seeing more wolves than deer."
In the previous report, Orr Conservation Officer Troy Fondie reported numerous complaints about a lack of deer and high wolf numbers.
Wolves in Minnesota are a hot topic, and there are passionate people on both sides of the debate. Native American Tribes view the animal as sacred. Others don't want to see wolves killed. The wolves now are once again a federally protected threatened species. The only time a wolf can be killed is in defense of human life.
There were a few short years when wolves were allowed to be hunted and trapped in Minnesota from 2012-2014. It was highly regulated to ensure they would not have a negative impact on the population. It came to an end after they were once again federally protected.
A recent opinion piece from a retired DNR Forestry worker, Michael Hanson, highlights problems with the deer season and wolves. According to Michael, deer populations don't have time to recover from harsh winters because of the wolves attacking the fawns in the spring and preying on the weakened deer. You can read more about his thoughts in the Cook Timber Jay [paywall]. He says that the impact of wolves is making it difficult for the deer herd to recover.
Another piece talks about how harvest totals are significantly down this year. Last week the Timber Jay reported that there were only 2,430 deer harvested in the Cook area. That number is down from 4,604 just a few years ago in 2019.
I reached out to Michael for further comment, and he and others are worried about the wolves impacting hunting for generations. Deer hunters traveling to the region are a huge economic boost to small towns in Northern Minnesota. Resorts, restaurants, grocery stores, taverns, and liquor stores all benefit from the fall hunting season.
He says there are two packs of wolves that are on his land near Susan Lake. Here are a group of 7 gray wolves caught on his game camera.
I spoke with my friend Steve Kajala, an avid outdoorsman, and businessman in Cook. He said he's noticed far fewer people visiting establishments in town this year. He hardly saw any deer this year and hunted almost daily. He's concerned about the future of the deer population from what he's seen and heard from other hunters in the area.
"I'm honestly concerned about this becoming an extinction event for deer in the area. The only place deer can find respite from wolves is in residential areas nearer to homes."
Most hunters in Northern Minnesota feel that the wolf population needs to be controlled in order to protect the deer population and future generations of hunting. Hunting is a tradition that is passed on from generation to generation. With fewer deer being harvested, future generations may not continue in one of Minnesota's oldest traditions.