With the exception of muzzleloader hunting, Minnesota's firearms deer seasons are over, but preparations are beginning for possible changes to the 2010 season.



The Department of Natural Resources has been experimenting with earn-a-buck and antler point restrictions for several years, preparing data for a time when those regulations might become more widespread.



This year, the Southeast 3A season saw those regulations at work, at the request of lawmakers who required the revisions last spring. Hunters in the Southeast 3A could take bucks with at least one four-point antler Nov. 14-15, and earn-a-buck regulations were in effect Nov. 7-13. The Legislature also added two days to the 3A season.



About 1,500 hunters shifted to the 3A season, DNR officials said, likely because of the extra days of hunting.



"A lot of hunters shifted to the 3A season, but it didn't substantially change the deer kill," said Lou Cornicelli, DNR big-game program coordinator.



Cornicelli and other deer managers will be taking the kill results from those seasons and the rest of Minnesota and examining what areas regulations should cover next. Earn-a-buck and antler point restrictions will be a focal point of discussions.



He said that where deer populations remain high, such as in the Twin Cities metro area, the DNR would consider earn-a-buck rules. Earn-a-buck requires hunters to shoot a doe before taking a buck.



The DNR's proposals will be unveiled at public meetings in February.



Antler point restrictions will be "on the table," Cornicelli said.



The moves come as some deer organizations are pressing for restrictions that would protect young bucks and allow them to grow older. The 2010 season might see restrictions that would allow that to happen.



Other moves, such as delaying the deer season to avoid the rut, will be discussed, but moving the season appears to have little support from the public, Cornicelli said.



The DNR soon will be releasing the results of a survey it did of southeast deer hunters to gauge what regulations they prefer. And starting in February, hunters should look for new proposals that will be discussed in public meetings.



South Dakota doesn't raise pheasant limit: A proposal to raise South Dakota's three-bird pheasant limit to five roosters daily failed last week, leaving the limit as is for the rest of the season.



Wildlife officials proposed the change because a late harvest of crops has made hunting difficult. The Game, Fish and Parks Commission nixed the idea at their monthly meeting. Pheasant hunting has improved as the corn harvest has picked up in the past week.



Wisconsin hunters upset: Wisconsin's deer season ended with the fewest deer killed in 27 years. Now hunters and lawmakers are taking it out on the Wisconsin DNR.



Last week, state Sen. Russ Decker, D-Weston, came out with guns blazing, calling for the DNR to fire anyone who had anything to do with managing the deer herd. In a news releases, he said, "A new team needs to be brought in that can do the job."



There was widespread discontent in northern Wisconsin. Some Internet chat rooms blazed with talk of boycotting next year's season. Retailers said the number of deer they registered was significantly lower than last year. Meanwhile, the DNR is considering lengthening the season from nine to 16 days, which also is unpopular with some hunters.



Did you know? The St. Paul Ice Fishing and Winter Sports Show ends today at the RiverCentre. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.



--Muskie anglers were spotted on Lake Mille Lacs last week, getting in their final casts for the season during one of the mildest Novembers on record.



--Conservation officer Brad Johnson of Maplewood is investigating a case in which deer parts were dumped illegally at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds.



--There were long faces among goose hunters ending the season in the West-Central Goose Zone, where the northern flight of honkers never fully materialized.



--Minnesota pheasant hunters have been out in force during the weekends as the corn harvest is finally under way. Some hunters are finding more birds than in October and November.

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