Minnesota Deer Hunters Association announced this week that it won’t participate in the 2023 Governor’s Deer Opener because of Gov. Tim Walz’s support for a “ban on wolf hunting and anti-gun legislation.”
The MDHA said its executive board unanimously voted to not participate in this year’s opener, which it has helped organize with the DNR and Explore Minnesota since 2002.
“Until our Governor represents the interests of wild deer and deer hunters around the state, we cannot, in good conscience, support the 2023 event. We encourage you to still celebrate this exciting time of year, we know we will be. We will continue to review our position on our support of the Governor’s Deer Opener in future years,” the group said in a statement.
A provision in the omnibus environment and natural resources bill prohibits open seasons for wolf hunting. Under current law, Minnesota’s DNR commissioner has the authority to declare an open season if the wolf is removed from the endangered species list.
This happened in 2012, which resulted in Minnesota’s first regulated wolf hunting and trapping season from 2012-2014, according to the DNR.
“In December 2014, following the third consecutive wolf harvest season, a court ruling returned wolves in Minnesota to the list of federally threatened species,” the DNR explains.
The Trump administration then attempted to remove the gray wolf from the endangered species list, but a federal judge reversed this decision in February 2022. The MDHA believes the gray wolf should be delisted and management returned to the state.
A spokesperson told MPR News that the DNR does not support “legislation that includes mandates or restricts the methods by which the Minnesota DNR manages wolves,” citing its “robust, science-based” wolf management plan. The governor said in 2019 that he supports a ban on wolf hunting.
Minnesota is home to roughly 2,700 wolves, almost half of the wolf population in the contiguous United States.
Additionally, Democrats have passed two controversial gun control bills, one that would allow family members and law enforcement to petition a court to remove firearms from people who pose a risk to themselves or others. Commonly called “red-flag” legislation, the individuals do not have to have been charged with a crime or make a court appearance before their firearms are removed.
The second bill requires background checks on all firearm transfers.
“In a unanimous decision, our Executive Board voted not to support this year’s Governor’s Opener due to continued attempts to ban wolf hunting and anti-gun legislation within the state, which are in direct opposition to our mission,” the MDHA said.
Minnesota GOP Chair David Hann said state Democrats have “turned their back on Minnesota’s hunters, anglers, boaters, campers and outdoor enthusiasts.”
“From an aggressively partisan war on law-abiding gun owners to raising taxes by more than $10 billion even with a $17 billion surplus, Democrat one-party rule has completely lost touch with the values of everyday Minnesotans,” he said. “Make no mistake — Republicans will hold the Democrats accountable for their hyper-partisan overreach at the polls in 2024 and beyond.”