Rochester council approves deer hunt in city parks
Parks are still being selected for inclusion in effort to manage the deer population in the city.
ROCHESTER — A proposed archery deer hunt in city parks received unanimous Rochester City Council approval Monday.
Rochester Parks and Recreation Director Paul Widman said the goal is to manage a deer population that has been growing in recent years.
“I think this is in the top five phone calls and emails I’ve received in the eight years since I’ve been here,” he told the council Monday.
Council members said they have received similar calls about concerns related to deer, which include addressing public safety, property damage and potential public health issues.
“I’ve gotten a lot of complaints about deer,” council member Mark Bransford said, adding that he recently came close to hitting a deer while driving. “We need to do something. We need to start somewhere.”
The planned hunt is slated to run from September to December in an estimated 10 parks, which will be approved by the Rochester Park Board.
Widman has been working for months with members of the Rochester Archery Club to establish guidelines for the hunt, which will require participants to be at least 18 years old, complete a Minnesota bowhunters education program and pass a Department of Natural Resources proficiency test.
“You have to be pretty accurate,” archery club President Terry Spaeth said of the requirements. “You can’t just go flinging arrows around.”
Widman said parks staff will work with the club to oversee the hunt and ensure rules are being followed. He noted the plans mirror similar hunts in the Twin Cities and other communities throughout the state.
“This is quite common,” he said.
The Rochester Parks Board has been discussing options for deer control as part of its wildlife management program in recent years, but Widman said problems extend beyond park borders.
An estimated 44 hunters are expected to be approved through a planned process with applications accepted between Aug. 1 and Aug. 15, with a drawing on Aug. 16 and hunters notified by Aug. 18.
Hunters will be assigned by specific parks through a drawing.
Archery club member Jeff Lien said organizers are working with parks staff to find ideal locations based on park size, distance from homes and how many reports of deer have been received.
“Gamehaven and Willow Creek (parks) were pretty obvious ones,” he said, adding that others could be selected based on reduced activity in colder months and some parks could see shorter hunting periods.
The Parks Department plans use signs and caution tape to restrict public access to designated hunting areas during the approved period.
While DNR rules allow up to five deer to be shot by an individual hunter, Spaeth said the proposed hunt is unlikely to achieve the maximum allowable results.
“I think the reality is we’d be lucky if 40 deer are harvested in city limits,” he said.
What happened: The Rochester City Council approved a plan to hold an archery deer hunt in city parks in an attempt to control the deer population.
Why does this matter: City staff and elected officials have reported receiving numerous complaints about increased damage related to deer.
What's next: The Rochester Archery Club is working with park staff to identify which parks will be included in the hunt. The Rochester Parks Board will approve the parks that are part of the program.