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Hunting wrap: Seasons underway; moose hunt starts soon

Bear hunt

Minnesota's bear harvest stood at 1,732 bears as of last week, a little more than two weeks into the season, said Dave Garshelis, leader of Minnesota's bear project for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

About 82 percent of the bear harvest typically occurs in the season's first two weeks. Garshelis said he expected a final harvest of about 1,900 bears. The season opened Sept. 1 and continues through Oct. 16.

Before the season, Garshelis had said a harvest of 2,500 bears would allow the state's bear population of 18,000 to grow a bit. A harvest of 3,000 would not allow the population to grow, he said.

A harvest of just under 2,000 would be acceptable, Garshelis said. Wildlife managers could adjust future permit levels, he said.

A total of 7,050 quota-zone bear permits were issued to bear hunters this fall through a lottery and a subsequent sale of unclaimed permits. Hunters in the state's no-quota zone can purchase licenses over the counter.

Last fall, about 9,200 bear hunters went afield and killed 2,966 bears for a success rate of 29 percent.

Hunters in the quota zone must apply for a permit through a lottery.

Lake trout season extended

If you're a Lake Superior lake trout angler, remember that the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has extended the lake trout season in Minnesota waters of Lake Superior through the first weekend in October.

The season will run through Saturday. In the past, the season closed on Sept. 30.

Moose hunt to open Saturday

Minnesota moose season opens tomorrow and continues through Oct. 16. It's a bulls-only hunt, and hunters were selected in a drawing. A total of 105 permits were issued, down from 213 permits last year. Permits are awarded to groups of up to four hunters.

The number of permits was reduced because of a declining population of moose in the state. The Minnesota moose population is estimated at 4,900, down from 8,000 just over a decade ago. The ratio of bulls to cows fell to 64 per 100 cows in last winter's aerial survey of the herd. The Department of Natural Resources, following the recommendation of Minnesota's Moose Advisory Committee, has proposed to eliminate the moose hunt if the bull-to-cow ratio drops below 67-to-100 for three successive years.

The agency reduced the number of permits for this fall's hunt in hopes the number of bulls in the population will increase.

The DNR said this year's harvest will be well below its guideline of 5 percent of all bulls.

Last year, 213 licensed moose hunting parties killed 109 bull moose, for a success rate of 51 percent. The DNR expects this fall's hunters to kill about 50 moose.

Refunds for fire

Participants in this fall's bulls-only moose hunt can choose to have their licenses refunded and reinstated for a future hunt if the Pagami Creek fire in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness has impacted or limited access to the zone in which they are authorized to hunt.

Moose hunting zones affected by this decision are zones 20, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 61, 62, 63, 64, 77, and 80.

"It's not just a question of direct fire impacts but of restricted access over a significant period of time prior to the hunt," Steve Merchant, wildlife program manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said. "The fire has been burning for more than a month. This may have prevented hunters from properly planning and scouting their areas in preparation for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

Additional zones could be added if the Pagami Creek fire or related closings by the U.S. Forest Service prevent access to additional moose zones. Current information about moose hunting zones affected by the fire is available on the DNR website

If hunters in fire-impacted zones can access the zone in which they are authorized to hunt, they can choose to hunt regardless of the fire. If access to a zone is not possible or earlier fire-related closures prevented access, hunt-ers in fire-impacted zones can choose to participate in a future hunt.