With archery deer season underway and scouting for the upcoming firearms deer season starting in earnest, now is an ideal time for hunters to start using the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources online log for deer and other wildlife sightings.
“We’re asking deer hunters to share their observations of wildlife to help broaden our knowledge about deer and other wildlife species,” said Eric Michel, DNR ungulate research scientist. “This is the questionnaire’s third year using a community science approach, and we’re hoping to build on the helpful results from the last two years.”
The DNR uses the results to compare what hunters report to the population estimates that are an important tool for managing wildlife.
Using a mobile device or desktop computer, hunters can enter information on the DNR website (mndnr.gov/Mammals/Deer/Management/Deer-Hunter-Field-Log.html) about wildlife they see while hunting including deer, turkey, bear, fisher and other species. Hunters also will be able to report specific information about any deer they harvest, including antler size.
Hunters are encouraged to fill out a report after each hunt even if they don’t see any deer that day. Filling out a report even if no deer are observed is important as it allows for an accurate estimate of the number of deer observed per hour of field observations, which provides a useful comparison to deer density modeling results.
The questionnaire will remain open through the end of the year.
The DNR first developed a version of this survey following a 2016 report from the Minnesota Office of the Legislative Auditor requesting more checks of the model used to estimate deer populations for each deer permit area. The observation surveys are a way to compare hunter-provided data with DNR population estimates.
“We’re confident in the model we use to estimate trends in deer populations,” Michel said. “By participating in this questionnaire, hunters provide another way to check our estimates of deer populations, in addition to observations from DNR wildlife managers.”
The DNR works with the public to establish deer population goals (mndnr.gov/Mammals/Deer/Management/Population.html) for areas throughout the state. Each year, wildlife managers use deer population estimates generated by the statistical models to figure out what level of deer harvest will move a local deer population closer to goal. The DNR then sets hunting regulations using past hunter participation and success rates, with the aim of harvest moving the population toward goal.
The DNR will report results from hunters’ observations in an annual research summary online. Results from 2021 and previous hunter observation survey results are available on the DNR website (mndnr.gov/Mammals/Deer/Management/Statistics.html#Observe).