Mankato deer hunt remains stuck at about 30 deer

Feb. 2—The 29 deer taken by bow-hunters in the recently completed in-city deer hunt in Mankato was typical of recent seasons, continuing a trend of fewer deer removed from the surplus population than city leaders, city gardeners and city hunters might prefer.

"It's pretty in line with what we've had the past number of years," said Justin Lundborg, a natural resource specialist who oversees the hunt.

Archers took 30 deer in the 2021 hunt, 32 in 2020 and 34 in 2019.

The record number was 44 in 2018, but that was an outlier for the 20-year-old hunt. In the first decade, when the focus was almost exclusively on the Rasmussen Woods Nature Area, the average barely topped 20 deer a year. In the most recent decade, it's been about 32.

The hunt, which begins in mid-September and runs through New Year's Eve, was approved by the Mankato City Council in 2003 in reaction to growing concerns about deer-vehicle collisions, lime disease and neighborhood landscaping being treated as an all-you-can-eat salad bar.

There are doubts about whether the hunt has a meaningful impact on controlling the deer population, however, despite "earn a buck" rules that require hunters to take a doe before they can take an antlered buck. This year, 24 antlerless deer were taken.

Some wildlife studies have suggested that 25% of adult does would need to be harvested annually to keep a deer herd's population stable. Mankato's deer population, while not known, is likely to be much higher than 100.

Lundborg said there's no shortage of hunters willing to help.

"We usually have around 50 applications per year," he said.

The reason only 23 were accepted into this year's program was a lack of appropriate hunting sites. Hunting is allowed only on sites authorized by the city, and rules aim to restrict the locations to places that would minimize any danger to the general public and any conflicts with private property owners.

With Mankato's persistent growth, more housing is being constructed, which steadily reduces the number of available locations for deer stands.

"As the city expands, the number of appropriate hunting sites is definitely a limiting factor," Lundborg said.

While the 23 hunters could have taken 17 more deer if each had collected both a doe and a buck, Lundborg said he considers the 2022 hunt a successful one. And he suspects the hunters would have exceeded 30 total deer if not for the extremely frigid stretch of weather leading up to Christmas.

"It was definitely down because of the weather," he said of the December numbers.