Published February 17, 2013, 08:04 AM

Duluth city bowhunt seems to be thinning deer herd

With a strong finish in December, Duluth city bow hunters took 574 deer in last year’s city hunt, according to a final report from the Arrowhead Bowhunters Alliance, which conducts the hunt for the city.

By: Sam Cook, Duluth News Tribune

With a strong finish in December, Duluth city bow hunters took 574 deer in last year’s city hunt, according to a final report from the Arrowhead Bowhunters Alliance, which conducts the hunt for the city.

That total was down slightly from 587 in 2011 and was the lowest reported harvest since 2011.

The hunt is going well from the city’s standpoint, said Kevin Scharnberg, the city’s coordinator for the hunt.

“We’ll probably see fewer deer every year,” said Scharnberg, who also participates in the hunt. “When I was out hunting, I saw more small bucks and less does. That tells me we’re starting to do what we’re trying to do.”

In the eight years that the city hunt has been held, hunters have taken 4,351 deer, 84 percent of them antlerless deer.

“It’s still amazing to me the harvest rate and the number of deer they shoot in the city,” said Chris Balzer, Department of Natural Resources area wildlife manager in Cloquet. “Especially compared to the average success rate of bow hunters in the rest of the state.”

Hunters in the city hunt have shot an average of about 1.8 deer per year over the past eight years, according to the ABA, while bow hunters statewide average one deer every seven to eight years.

The city hunt was initiated in 2005 to help thin a deer herd in Duluth that was causing car crashes, eating from residents’ gardens and browsing on ornamental shrubbery. To be sure, lots of deer remain in the city and some of those problems persist. But hunt organizers believe they’re making a difference in the city’s deer population.

“I think you can see it in the trails on the ground, in the browse,” said Phillip Lockett, president of the ABA. “And you don’t see as many dead deer on the roads anymore.”

He said city hunters remained persistent through the end of December, when the season closed.

“Where a lot of hunters had hit traditional spots for rifle hunting with their families and might not have had luck, they came back and tried to fill their tags in the city,” Lockett said.

A total of 359 hunters took part in the city hunt in 2012. Of the deer they took, 84 percent were antlerless and 16 percent were adult bucks. That proportion matches the breakdown for all eight years of the hunt. City hunters are required to take at least one antlerless deer before taking a buck.

This year’s total harvest of 574 was down from the record 602 in 2010. Hunters say does that have grown up with the hunt are becoming warier.

“The mature does are smart. They walk around and look up (at hunters in tree stands) a lot more than they used to,” Lockett said. “Everyone puts their stands in the same places, on the same runways. Those animals know those spots.”

The success rate for city hunters has declined slightly over the years. On average for the past eight years, hunters have taken nearly 1.8 deer per hunter in the city. But in 2012, they averaged about 1.6 deer per hunter.

“(The hunt) is probably making some difference,” the DNR’s Balzer said. “They did shoot 574 this year. That’s 574 that people won’t have to dodge with their cars and won’t be eating someone’s flowers in their gardens.”

Forty-five percent of hunters took two or more deer in the hunt, according to the ABA.

The DNR’s Balzer said his office has received no complaints about the hunt. No major changes will be sought in the way the hunt is organized, said the ABA’s Lockett.

Tags: