While many archery hunters have been taking to the field in search of deer since the season opener Sept. 19, a select number have been heading to deer stands in the Mankato and New Ulm city limits during their annual in-city deer hunts aimed at controlling the size of the herd.
Warmer-than-normal weather and plenty of windy days led to a relatively slow start to the hunting.
At 28 years, New Ulm’s in-city deer hunt is one of the longest-running ones in the state. Mankato has done the hunts since 2003. Both city hunts end Dec. 31, the same day the state archery season ends.
Jeff Hohensee, senior investigator at the New Ulm Police Department, oversees the hunt for the city, in cooperation with the Department of Natural Resources. He’s gone around the state providing help to cities looking into their own deer hunts.
While Mankato started its hunt a month ago, New Ulm began its a week ago, on Saturday. Hohensee said just five deer were taken the first weekend due to hot, windy weather that brought less favorable hunting conditions.
Ashley Steevens, Mankato parks and open spaces superintendent, said 32 hunters are signed up this year. So far they’ve harvested six does she said earlier in the week. Last year hunters took 34 deer in the Mankato city limits. In Mankato, the number of deer harvested have ranged from the mid-30s to mid-40s in recent years.
More than 50 archery hunters take an average of 65-75 deer in the New Ulm city limits each year. “But there’s still plenty of deer around here,” Hohensee said.
“It’s an effective way for us as a city to regulate the deer population in a safe way.”
In both cities, hunters are required to sign in and sign out each day they hunt. “So if they don’t sign out, we can go look for them,” Hohensee said.
Both cities require hunters to take proficiency tests before the season, and they are each assigned a specific tree to put their elevated deer stands.
In New Ulm, hunters can take up to three deer each, but they have to first shoot two antlerless deer before they qualify for a tag to take a buck.
In Mankato hunters have to shoot one antlerless deer before taking a buck. They can shoot a total of five deer, including only one buck.
In New Ulm, hunters are focused on Flandrau State Park, the New Ulm Country Club and city land mostly on the north end of the city. Some hunters are placed on a few parcels of private land if the landowner asks and a city inspection of the land shows it’s safe for hunting.
In Mankato, hunters are spread out throughout the city on public and private land.
Hunters fill out daily surveys of how many deer they’ve seen, whether they’re bucks or antlerless and if they are mature deer or fawns.
“They’re a dedicated group,” Hohensee said of the hunters.
He said the abundance of woods and ravines in New Ulm are attractive habitat for deer. Too many deer increases potential accidents with vehicles and lead to damage to gardens, shrubs and trees. Beyond eating plants, bucks use their antlers to rub the bark off of trees in the fall as they mark their territory during the rut.
Steevens said Mankato doesn’t see a lot of deer damage in parks as the city tries to plant deer-resistant plants. “We do hear a lot of concerns from private property owners about deer browse.”
Hohensee said the city’s robust deer population gets even bigger around this time of year.
“When the crops come out, more deer move to the city because the food is here,” Hohensee said. “I know hostas are on their palate because mine are gone every spring before they come up.”