MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A group of Minnesota hunters say the deer population is in worse shape than the state is letting on.

Minnesota Bowhunters president Brooks Johnson talked about the changing landscape of the deer population as he walked through the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge in Big Lake.

“We’re not asking for a deer behind every tree,” Johnson said.

But Johnson says changes need to happen at the state level in order to restore the deer population in certain areas of the state back to goal levels.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources says the deer population around the Twin Cities metro area has stayed mostly stable in the last decade — but that is not the case in the northeastern part of the state.

Leslie McInenly with the DNR says the state had goals to decrease the deer population by 25 percent in parts of the state. They were on track until the last couple of years, when that number got closer to 50 percent.

“The bad winters have had an impact on the deer population,” McInenly said.

Johnson thinks those numbers could be even higher based on hunters he has surveyed.

He wants the state to audit the DNR’s deer management practices.

The DNR says it is working to make changes to restore the deer population where appropriate.

“We’re having public meetings, we’re having advisory teams give us their input, and based on that we’ll adjust our harvest management strategies,” McInenly said.

The DNR says it is working on ideas, like lowering the bag limit or making it harder to kill does.

“With this milder winter, it could help with the populations in some areas, too,” McInenly said.

Johnson says he is hopeful that is the case, not just for the sport of hunting, but for businesses and towns up north he says rely on the three-week deer hunting season.

“That’s Christmas to a lot of those towns, the small bars, the gas stations,” Johnson said.

He says some deer hunting groups are looking into hiring outside help to look at the state’s deer population if the state does not perform an audit.

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