Reporting Jason DeRusha
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — This weekend, hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans will head out to the woods for the opening of gun deer season.
For most of Minnesota’s 475,000 deer hunters, it is as much about tradition as it is about the buck.
Minnesota has about 1 million white-tailed deer and, over the next five days, hunters will kill about 150,000 of them. Last year, they took out a total of 207,000.
Hunting is something that many are very passionate about, either for or against. But what would happen if we didn’t hunt?
“If we would stop hunting, the deer pop will not grow infinitely and take over the world. But their populations will grow and it will cause significant impact to people,” said Steve Merchant, who manages the deer population program at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
There would also be quite a few more car-deer collisions. Last year, there were 3,144 such crashes, with 300 injuries and 6 human fatalities.
Another potential problem with leaving the deer population along is that there would likely be overgrazing. As more deer fight over the same food, farmland, gardens and forests would all see serious damage.
“It’s a biological system. It would take care of itself,” said Merchant, but “you’d have lots of deer that would die of starvation and disease.”
That could make us sick, as well. Deer are major carriers of the tick that causes Lyme disease.
Finally, there’s the economic impact. No hunting could cost more than $458 million a year to Minnesota businesses, like Jim’s Sporting Goods in Maplewood.
Minnesota doesn’t have the biggest deer hunt in the country. The title goes to Wisconsin. They harvest an average of 450,000 deer every hunting season.