Minnesota hunters took 4,945 bears during the 2001
season, nearly equal to the record harvest of 4,956 taken in 1994,
according to Steve Merchant of the Minnesota Department of Natural
Over the past two years the DNR has tried an earlier
opener and an increased limit in an attempt to increase harvest without
increasing the quota of licensed bear hunters.
Typically, the bear season opens on September 1, but in
2000 and 2001 the season opened on August 23 and August 22,
respectively. The earlier opener was intended to give hunters more
opportunity to harvest bears before grouse hunters took to the woods and
before the bears started denning, Merchant said.
Although two-thirds of the harvest this year occurred in
August, Merchant said the effectiveness of the earlier opener was
inconclusive. "We couldn't tell if the early opener really
contributed to the increased harvest because normally two-thirds of the
bears are taken during the first week of the season, even with a
September 1 opener," Merchant said.
In another experiment to increase harvest, the bear
season limit was increased from one to two in 2001. "We
didn't really expect many hunters to take two bears,"
Merchant said, "But we thought they'd be less apt to pass up a shot
at a small bear during the early part of the season."
During the 2001 season, 463 hunters, or 10 percent of
those who were successful, actually took two bears. Nearly 16,500
hunters had bear licenses of which 27 percent were successful.
This matches the average bear hunting success rate for the past 10
years, Garshelis said.
"Further analysis of the data and public input will
determine whether we stick with the earlier opener or the two-bear
limit," Merchant said. "Because of the potential for
bears to cause serious damage and nuisance problems, we're attempting to
stabilize the bear population, which has been growing at about 6 percent
per year for the past two decades, and is now at about 30,000."
The 2002 bear season opening date will be announced by
March 1. Additional details and application instructions for bear
hunting quota area licenses will be available by April 1. The
application deadline is Friday, May 3.