The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is asking for public input in assessing area deer population goals, and the organization is doing it through a different format that it hopes will generate better participation.

Based on feedback from hunters and others, the DNR is using a new workshop format to facilitate small group discussions to both scope issues and create recommendations. The workshops replace the citizen advisory committees and public meetings that were used during the last round of deer goal setting.

“I think the last goal-setting meetings for much of my work area was back in 2007, so the population goals are due to be reviewed again,” Glenwood area DNR wildlife manager Kevin Kotts said. “The goal of this process is to get more people involved and find out what they think deer numbers are or should be.”

The DNR sets deer population goals – how much of an increase or decrease is desired in a deer population in a particular deer permit area – as part of managing the state’s wild deer herd. Deer population goals will be updated on a staggered basis in 14 regional goal-setting blocks that are made of multiple deer permit areas.

The population goals established in this process will provide direction for management over 10 years, with a midpoint review every five years. The goal-setting process will take four years to complete statewide, with several geographic blocks addressed each year.

This year focuses on blocks in the northwestern and western parts of the state. That includes the Central Hills Prairie block around Alexandria. Deer permit areas within this block includes 213, along with 214, 215, 218, 239, 240, 273, 276 and 277.

“I think they’re more or less what you’d consider the transition zone where there’s still quite a lot of farming, but there’s also a lot of cover,” Kotts said. “These are some of the better deer permit areas in the state that we’ll be talking about.”

Anyone interested in participating in the deer goal-setting process can take part in two workshops scheduled in Alexandria on Jan. 22 and Feb. 25. The workshops will take place at Alexandria Technical & Community College from 6-9 p.m.

Each workshop will be led by big game program staff. Regional and area wildlife managers will also be present.

During the first workshop, participants will work in small groups to identify key issues of interest and priorities to guide management of the deer population, using DNR information, including background information about the particular area; hunter and landowner survey results; and public input results.

In the second workshop, participants will discuss solutions to the issues in small groups and create recommendations for the deer populations in those blocks. Anyone may attend these workshops, regardless of affiliation or knowledge of the process.

“We hear mostly from hunters, but we’ll hear from people who hit deer. Sometimes farmers will have issues with deer eating crops,” Kotts said. “There’s a lot of people who have a stake in what deer numbers are. It’s really for everybody. It’s the best opportunity to say, ‘I think there’s too many deer and this is why’ versus just sitting on the sideline and not saying anything. I think you have a little better product when you get more people involved and expressing their opinion as to what the population goal should be.”

Attendees are highly encouraged to RSVP through a form they can fill out on the DNR’s deer population goal-setting webpage.

Those who cannot commit the time to the workshops can still participate in the goal-setting process. There will also be online comment opportunities supplementing the workshops, including an online questionnaire that will be available on the DNR website in January and opportunities for the public to comment on draft population goals that result from the goal-setting process.

Anyone can also provide input by talking directly with area wildlife managers or attending deer open houses.