Implications for northeast Minnesota region as crossbows are permitted in archery deer season

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A law change passed in the Minnesota 2024 legislative session will allow hunters who purchase an archery deer license to use a crossbow starting this fall hunting season.

The use of crossbows had previously been limited to archery hunters 60 years of age and older or who were ability restricted with a specialized permit. The change to the law will now allow hunters of all ages and abilities to use a crossbow during the archery season, which runs from Sept. 16 to Dec.31 in Minnesota.

The law change draws support and concerns from hunters and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) officials.

Todd Froberg, the big game specialist with the Minnesota DNR, said the DNR did not make this decision. “We didn’t have a whole lot of forewarning before this,” he said. The decision was made during the legislative session without consultation from the DNR or a public input process.

“So we’ve been preparing how we’re going to handle this or how we’re going to assess the impacts of populations, or what regulations may be, or how we’re going to track the harvest,” Froberg explained. There remains a handful of unknowns at this time as the DNR prepares for fall hunting licenses to go on sale on Aug. 1 for the upcoming season.

While the use of crossbows may attract a younger and broader demographic, the regional impacts on deer populations are concerning. In the northeast Arrowhead region, deer populations have been steadily declining. The expanded use of crossbows during the archery season could have a negative impact on deer populations, as a regular archery license outside of a bucks-only permit area allows a hunter to harvest a buck or a doe.

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Numerous deer permit areas (DPA) in the northeast region, including DPA 126 in Cook County, have a one-deer limit: antlerless permit lottery. In 2021, the DNR allowed 100 antlerless lottery permits, but in 2022, the DNR reduced the number to 25 due to declining deer populations. The antlerless permit lottery applies to firearm and muzzleloader season.

“It’s one of those worry logs we have of how this will affect populations,” Froberg said.

He explained that other states allowing crossbows during the archery season had seen trends of harvesting shifting to earlier in the season. However, Froberg said the overall harvest is not “drastically increasing or changing much at all.”

In areas of the state, such as the southeast, where deer populations are abundant, Froberg said the allowed use of crossbows might be a beneficial tool to reduce populations. In addition, the use of crossbows could be a useful tool for urban hunts in areas such as Duluth.

The DNR plans to separate crossbow hunters from traditional archery hunters in harvest reports to track participation and harvests moving forward.

Looking toward the future of deer management with the expanded use of crossbows, Froberg said, “Depending on the outcome of this, there would likely be some type of rule change into the future if there are detrimental effects from this.”

WTIP’s Kalli Hawkins spoke with Todd Froberg, the big game specialist with the Minnesota DNR, about the pros and cons of the change to the law, what it means regionally for deer populations, and more. The audio from the interview is below.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>