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Associated Press, Published November 15 2009

Deer harvest down 5 percent in Minnesota

BEMIDJI, Minn. – About 5 percent fewer deer are being harvested in Minnesota this season, a trend that some sporting-good retailers say is hurting them financially.

A big reason for the decrease is stricter hunting limits. For the past few years hunters could kill up to five deer, but bag limits this season were tightened in many areas to just one deer.

Dennis Simon, a spokesman for the state Department of Natural Resources, said limits were made too liberal around 2005 when people in many parts of the state complained there were too many deer.

Since then, deer populations in some areas have dropped 10 to 50 percent.

Some hunters say the limits are too strict because there are more than enough deer for the taking. Mark Johnson, a spokesman for the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, said the DNR did a good job of reducing the herd size, and now it just needs to maintain a good population balance.

“From a management standpoint, the DNR’s been doing a good job. Now it’s the public saying, well, maybe we don’t want that few deer. Maybe we want more deer again,” Johnson said. “So it’s that yo-yo back and forth that we’re seeing in play right now.”

Some sporting-good retailers said business was already hurting because of the economy, and the new rules could be making things worse.

Fewer hunters are coming into Delaney Sport Center, owner Kevin Lempola said, and those who are shopping are spending less. Over-the-counter hunting license sales at his store are down by nearly 25 percent, marking what he said is a tough financial blow.

“Over the weekend, if you’re down 70 people coming through your door on one given day, that amounts to a fair amount of business,” he said.