Published October 18, 2009, 12:00 AM

Minnesota moose hunt going well despite windy, wet weather

Larry Suomi of Duluth got his moose Tuesday in the woods outside Lutsen, reflecting what the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources says had been a pretty good season over the first 10 days.

By: John Myers, Duluth News Tribune

Larry Suomi of Duluth got his moose Tuesday in the woods outside Lutsen, reflecting what the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources says had been a pretty good season over the first 10 days.

Suomi shot the bull with a 42-inch antler spread just before 9 a.m. with his .348 Winchester magnum. The moose, the smaller of two he had seen in the area, came to the call after about 20 minutes.

“He came in pretty good,’’ Suomi said. But then the work started. He had four men and three women in the crew to haul the meat and horns out of the woods.

Minnesota’s moose season opened Oct. 3 and runs through today. Over the first 10 days of the season, hunters registered 79 bulls at nine registration stations across Cook, Lake and St. Louis Counties — exactly the same as the first 10 days last year.

This year’s hunt offered 225 once-in-a-lifetime bull moose tags across 30 zones, down from 238 tags in 2008. Moose hunting is limited to bulls only, reflecting moose managers’ caution while the DNR develops a management plan for the Northeastern Minnesota moose population, which has low reproduction and survival rates.

Hunters faced wet and very windy conditions over the opening weekend of the moose season. Through the first 10 days of the hunting season, rainfall was recorded on seven days, and four days had wind gusts in excess of 20 mph, DNR officials noted. That makes it harder for moose to hear hunters’ calls and for hunters to hear and see moose.

“That hasn’t seemed to matter that much. People are seeing them and hearing them ... and I’ve heard of several nice bulls, some in the mid-to-upper 50s,’’ said Bob Kirsch, DNR Two Harbors area wildlife manager, referring to the width of the bulls’ horns.

Suomi and Kirsch said the rut was definitely on with bulls coming readily to the hunter’s imitation of cow moose grunts. Wildlife experts say cooler weather spurs mating activity, while warm weather suppresses it.

This year 5,783 applicants (2,705 different groups of 2 to 4 hunters) applied for the 225 available state permits. The northeastern moose population is estimated at 7,600 animals, and the allowable harvest is set at 5 percent, which is divided between state and tribal hunters. In 2008, state-licensed hunters killed 111 bulls for a 47 percent hunter success rate.

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