Sunday, July 08, 2012

MINNESOTA NEWS: Hunting Areas Becoming "Overbuilt" on Public Lands

The presence of tree stands for deer hunting on public lands is not a new phenomenon.  However, the size and extent of these tree stands is growing out of control.

First, let's look at a trend in tree stands:
It’s not just a couple of boards slapped into a tree, but tree houses with stairways, decks, shingled roofs, commercial windows, insulation, propane heaters, carpeting, lounge chairs, tables and “even some with generators so they have electricity,” Krepps said.

One deer “stand” discovered on county land was a cabin 18 feet wide and 20 feet long. And, increasingly, some hunters are buying elaborate manufactured stands and leaving them in the woods all year.

When a stand is abandoned, much of it is left to rot in the forest. But plastic, metal, shingles and other materials aren’t biodegradable “and really leave a mess in the woods,” said Jason Meyer, who manages forests in the southern half of St. Louis County.
It crosses the line on what is appropriate for public lands.  These stands often have locks on the door. 

Next, let's look at the evolution of shooting lanes.  This used to entail cutting some branches or the occasional sapling to provide an unobstructed (and thus safer) area for shooting.  And now?
Some of those shooting lanes are more than 30 feet wide and up to 700 feet long. In one area of county land near state land, it’s estimated that a group of hunters had cleared more than six acres of forest combined for their 47 shooting lanes. “They are taking public land out of timber production and it’s adding up across the county,” Kailanen said. “The real impact of this may not be realized until 40 or 50 or 60 years from now, when those trees would have been harvested.”

Without all of that tree cover, what is to be done? Why not plant food plots to entice the deer to be closer to the tree stand?
In some areas, hunters have taken to clearing the forestland and planting clover and other farm crops to attract deer. While the ethics of food plots is hotly debated in the hunting community — some say it’s akin to baiting deer, which is illegal in Minnesota — county foresters say the plots are taking even more forestland out of production. Moreover, the seeds planted may not be just one crop, but may bring in invasive, non-native species that could damage the native forest and spread.
This all adds up to a pseudo-privatization of wildlife.  It involves constructing buildings and landscaping on lands people do not privately own to manipulate deer that are not "theirs" for the sole purpose of increasing their chances of having a successful hunt.  This is contentious enough within the community of deer hunters.  It amounts to another self-inflicted black eye in society at large.

Source: Duluth Tribune

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