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Schomacker hosts deer hunting town hall meeting; frustrations voiced

Rep. Joe Schomacker (R-Luverne) hosted a Town Hall last Tuesday, Dec. 22, for concerned deer hunters in southwest Minnesota to express their frustrations regarding the Minnesota Department of Natural Resource's (DNR) management of the deer herd. Over 50 deer hunters attended the Town Hall at Beaver Creek Archery Club in Slayton to hear from Rep. Schomacker, who was joined by Rep. Tom Hackbarth (R-Cedar), and Senator Bill Weber (R-Luverne). Hackbarth is an avid hunter and the chair of the House Mining and Outdoor Recreation Policy Committee.
The event was coordinated by Gary Clark and other local deer hunters frustrated with the DNR's management of the deer population in southwest Minnesota. Clark fears that unless changes are made in the DNR's deer management strategy, hunters will soon be forced to seek opportunities to hunt out of state.
Frustrations that were voiced included doe-only zoning for this year's hunting season, ecosystem and forestry management decisions, permitting for youth hunting, and the lack of updated hunter satisfaction data from hunters in the area. The most recent data collected and discussed by DNR officials was from 2012.
Legislators also discussed the newly mandated Hunter Satisfaction Survey, which is the result of legislation in the 2015 Game and Fish Bill. The bill sponsored by Rep. Hackbarth requires the DNR to not only conduct an annual statewide hunter satisfaction survey but also to post the results online.
The legislation is different from past years in that it mandates the survey be conducted annually, no later than Jan. 1 for the preceding fiscal year, and that the results be published online and released to chairs and ranking minority members of the House of Representatives and Senate committees with jurisdiction over environment and natural resources policies.
A number of Wildlife staff from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources were also in attendance at Tuesday's Town Hall, including Regional Wildlife Manager David Trauba, Area Wildlife Manager Bill Schuna, Gino DeAngelo of MNDNR Wildlife Research, and Capt. Cory Palmer, of MNDNR Enforcement.
This meeting was the first in a series of Town Hall meetings that Rep. Hackbarth will attend around the state during late 2015 and early 2016 to hear from area legislators and their constituents about various outdoor recreation policy concerns leading into the 2016 session.

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