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What would happen if we didn’t hunt deer? WCCO News posed this question to its readers and answered it in anticipation of Minnesota’s firearms deer hunting season that begins next weekend.
…[I]f more than half-million Minnesota deer hunters decided to give it up, the impact would be as noticeable as a 12-point buck.
“There would be very significant consequences,” said Steve Merchant, who manages the Minnesota deer population program for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
He says hunting is the main way we manage deer, and no hunting would mean a dramatic spike in numbers.
Merchant says they would eat themselves out of their own habitat.
“There would be lots of crop damage, lots of damage to forestry generation,” he said.
Merchant says disease and starvation would take over.
Humans would be affected, as well. Deer carry ticks known to transmit an infection called Lyme disease. And car-deer collisions can cause significant damage, injury, or be fatal.
Right now, there are an average of 2,500 deer-vehicle accidents reported each year in Minnesota. But Merchant says you can bet that number would increase for drivers.
It is expected around 200,000 whitetail deer will be harvested by the time the season closes December 31, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
And thousands of hunters–myself included–are expected to turn out for the firearms season, the most popular option among Minnesota deer hunters.
I started hunting with my father after completing a firearms hunter safety course when I was 12-years-old. The first makeup I wore was camo face paint, and I quickly learned that blaze orange is not the new pink but it will save my life.
I also learned hunting–at least for our family–is as much about tradition as it is about its economic and environmental contributions.
(Plus, we love venison. It is low in fat and high in protein and free of chemical-related treatments often used on grocery store meats. We know exactly where it came from and the methods used to get it into the freezer.)
Lock and load
What does happen when we hunt deer? For starters, the economic impact of hunting is huge. Merchant told WCCO News, “Deer hunters spend hundreds of millions of dollars annually.”
According to a 2016 news release from Minnesota’s DNR, hunting related-expenditures in the state totaled $725 million. Hunters spent $400 million on equipment and $90 million on other hunting supplies (magazines, membership dues, licenses, permits, land leasing, and ownership). These expenditures not only benefit the hunting industry but also provide revenue to our state’s economy.
There are also conservation benefits. The Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, more commonly referred to as the Pittman-Robertson Act, was approved by Congress in 1937 and imposed an excise tax on the sale of firearms and ammunition to help fund wildlife conservation. Revenues generated from these taxes are apportioned to state wildlife agencies for “the selection, restoration, and improvement of wildlife habitat, and for wildlife management research.”
With this perspective, I will don my camo and blaze orange hunting gear next weekend and attempt to bag a buck. I wish all Minnesota hunters a safe hunting season, and even if you come up empty-handed, remember you are helping boost Minnesota’s economy and conserve and manage the state’s diverse wildlife.