Published March 04, 2012, 12:00 AM

Duluth deer hunt: How many is too many?

The Arrowhead Bowhunters Alliance has recommended to the city of Duluth that fewer hunters be allowed to take part in the city bow hunt next year.

By: Sam Cook, Duluth News Tribune

The Arrowhead Bowhunters Alliance has recommended to the city of Duluth that fewer hunters be allowed to take part in the city bow hunt next year.

A total of 377 hunters, 38 more than in 2010, took part in the hunt last year. Despite having more hunters participate, the harvest dropped from 602 in 2010 to 587 last year. The larger participation numbers diminishes the experience for many hunters, said Phillip Lockett, president of the Arrowhead Bowhunters Alliance, which conducts the city hunt under contract with the city.

“We had a lot of hunter conflict this year (2011),” Lockett said.

Most hunters are assigned to designated hunting areas across the city, but if too many are assigned to an area, they often find themselves competing for territory.

Lockett said he would like to see 300 to 350 hunters in the hunt this fall. That is roughly the same number of hunters as from 2007 to 2010. Lockett made his comments Thursday at the Duluth Deer Hunt Review panel, which includes city officials, ABA leaders, city police officers, state wildlife officials and state conservation officers.

Each year, about 85 percent of hunters elect to return to the city hunt to take part again, said Brian Borkholder, who compiles hunt data for the ABA.

City Council approval would not be needed to reduce the number of hunters in future hunts, said Kevin Scharnberg, who represents the city in managing the hunt.

Others at the meeting raised a question that city councilors raised last year, namely whether some hunters are falsely claiming to have killed an antlerless deer so they can pursue a buck. Hunters in the city hunt must shoot at least one antlerless deer before taking a buck.

Lockett and Borkholder both believe the instances of hunters misrepresenting their harvest are low. Mike Tusken, deputy chief of police for the Duluth Police Department, suggested that police officers make spot checks of hunters early in the season to verify they have killed the deer they claim to have killed.

“I think there’s an opportunity to do some spot checks that might change behavior (of hunters),” Tusken said.

The ABA also reported a wounding rate of 11.5 percent for the 2011 hunt, based on a post-season survey of hunters. In that survey, hunters responding said they killed 498 deer and wounded without recovering 65 others. That rate compares to a wounding rate of about 13 percent among state bow hunters in a study done several years ago at Camp Ripley near Little Falls, Minn. But ABA officials conceded that the city’s wounding rate was based on the reports of hunters who took part in the survey and did not represent all hunters.

“I fielded a lot more calls on wounded deer this year than before,” Lockett said.

As reported earlier, city hunters averaged about 1.56 deer each, down from the seven-year average of 1.82 deer. Since the hunt’s inception in 2005, hunters have taken 3,777 deer in the city, according to the ABA.