By Jean Lundquist
Special to The Free Press
---- — The first Mankato deer hunt was held in 2003. It continues in 2013.
The first hunt centered on the Rasmussen Woods area off Stoltzman Road. Today, Ed Pankratz says hunters go wherever they are needed in the city.
Pankratz has been a bow hunter his whole life, and when city officials decided to have the deer hunt, he volunteered to coordinate it. He was the director of the Mankato Central Garage in 2003. He retired five years ago, but he still coordinates the hunts.
“It would be hard for someone who is not a bow hunter to do it,” he says.
Pankratz has tweaked the program more than once during its first 10 years.
“The big thing was getting hunters to realize this is a management hunt, not a trophy hunt," he said, adding that hunters now have to shoot a doe before they can shoot a buck. “Shooting does is the only way you’re going to manage the population."
That requirement changed early in the process, Pankratz says, when the 30 hunters shot three trophy bucks.
In addition to Rasmussen Park, hunters are now deployed to areas along Glenwood Avenue and Thompson Ravine Road as well. Most of the hunt is conducted on city-owned property, but other hunters are located on private property.
“If someone has a deer problem, they just have to call the city, or call me,” Pankratz said. He goes out and scouts the area to determine if the problem warrants a hunter being stationed there. “I know of places where there are a lot of deer, but the residents don’t have a problem with them, so they are OK there.”
Hunters must provide their own deer stand, and it’s required to be elevated.
“We look for the best spots, and the best hunters,” Pankratz said.
Interested hunters must qualify in a proficiency testing process at Kiwanis Park in August. Of those who qualify, names are drawn for a chance to hunt. About 80 people register for the test, and about 10 to 15 people annually don’t qualify.
Although the Minnesota bow hunting season starts in September, Mankato does not open for hunting until sometime in October, according to Pankratz.
“We had people tell us they wanted to walk to look at the fall colors, and didn’t want to be among hunters, so we accommodated them.”
Hunters also have to follow a rigid set of rules. If a deer is shot, and the hunter needs to track it across private property, he or she must first get permission from the homeowner. One hunter failed to get permission, and was let go for violating the trespass standard.
Hunters must also agree to actually hunt.
“If someone only goes out one or two times, we don’t want them back,” he said, noting that one hunter went out 45 times last year.
Hunters must call into a phone number after each hunt. They need to record if they shot a deer, whether it was a buck, doe or fawn, and even if they didn’t bag a deer, they need to report the number of deer they saw.
In 2003, hunters reported seeing 622 deer during the city’s season. Last year, they reported seeing 347 deer.
“That tells me there are a lot less deer out there,” he said.
Though the method for gathering incident information was imprecise, the hunt has not necessarily reduced the number of deer-related police calls in town. But Pankratz said anecdotally that fewer deer are seen as road kill along Stoltzman Road now than in years past.
Kelly and Mark Peterson live on Ridgewood Street in Mankato, up the hill from Rasmussen Park. Their yard is filled with hostas, once described as “Haagen-Dazs for deer” during the initial community meetings in 2003.
“Mark used to spray this awful smelling stuff on them to keep the deer away,” Kelly said. “He hasn’t had to do that for a couple of years, now.”
Though they used to see deer in their yard quite often, she said it’s been a long time since she has seen that. She said she sees deer in Rasmussen Park from her windows, “but they stay there, now.”
To register for this year's hunt or find more information, contact Pankratz at 507-317-5251 or firstname.lastname@example.org.