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Bemidji State Game Refuge closed to rifle deer hunting this year

Deer hunting in the Bemidji State Game Refuge, a 74-square-mile refuge that surrounds the city of Bemidji, will be closed to the 2009 regular firearms deer season. The refuge is open only to archery and muzzleloader deer seasons and the Lake Bemidji State Park special firearms deer hunts.

The firearms deer season is closed because area's deer population is at or near the goal established by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) through its public goal-setting process, said Blane Klemek, assistant wildlife manager in the Bemidji area.

A public hearing was conducted in June 2003 to allow citizen input on a proposal to open for firearms deer hunting a 6.5-square-mile area in the southeast portion of Bemidji Township within the refuge.

In addition to archery deer hunting, DNR authorized hunting in this 6.5-square-mile area during the regular firearms and muzzleloader deer seasons in 2003.

Based on citizen input in 2003 and general requests, a public input process was initiated by the DNR in June 2004, seeking comments on the potential expansion of regular firearms deer hunting in the refuge. The DNR authorized regular firearms deer hunting within most of the refuge for the 2004-2006 deer seasons and agreed to evaluate the 2004, 2005 and 2006 hunting seasons. A public meeting was conducted to review the results.

As a result of the review and evaluation, the DNR decided to continue with regular firearms deer hunting in the refuge until the population goal was reached in Permit Area 184, which includes the refuge. Once reached, seasons would be scaled back to archery and muzzleloader deer seasons only, with that framework continuing as long as the deer population in the refuge was maintained at or near goal.

In future years, if archery and muzzleloader hunting cannot maintain the deer population in the refuge at or near the population goal level for Permit Area 184, regular firearms deer hunting will resume.

The DNR reminds deer hunters who harvest deer in the refuge during the archery, muzzleloader and special deer hunting seasons to register their deer at an official big game registration station. The Bemidji State Game Refuge is designated as deer Permit Area 985.