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Sunday, September 21st, 2014
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Rushford considers managed hunting within city limits


By Kirsten Zoellner

Fri, Aug 1st, 2014
Posted in Rushford Government

The issue of deer population control in Rushford has once again been brought to the forefront of council discussions. The council had reviewed options in 2012 and 2013 due to the damage inflicted on vegetation and hazards to traffic. In 2013, the council voted to enact an ordinance making the feeding of deer within city limits a misdemeanor offense. At that time, it was noted that if feeding prohibition didn’t have the desired effects, further actions to allow limited bow hunting would be considered.

At the Monday, July 28 meeting, a lengthy discussion between the council, Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Conservation Officer Mitch Boyum, and City of Rushford Police Chief Adam Eide reviewed possible options and potential problems. Focusing mainly on the process of who gets to hunt, how it’s managed, where hunting areas would be, and what would be allow, three options were presented to the council.

The first option is to allow bow hunting within the city during the normal season. With this option, several current ordinances would have to be adjusted. The city would have the authority to specify which locations and during what days within that normal season. The ability to have a limited number of hunters, perhaps through lottery draw was also discussed.

With this option, hunters would have to take an additional proficiency test, likely in Rochester at an archery facility, before being allowed to hunt within the city. It was noted the extra requirement is a selling point to the public and can also weed out hunters that aren’t serious.

Boyum stated his main concern with this option is the limited number of hunters he believes would take part and the limited effect it would have on the population. State-defined hunting areas are currently divided by Highway 43, with the west area, which includes Magelssen’s Bluff, allowed only one deer per season. The eastern area, which includes Rushford’s east bluff and state forest land, allows up to five deer. The taking of bucks within the city would not be allowed. “I don’t see a bunch of hunters signing up to burn a tag on a doe,” noted Boyum.

The second option would allow for a special season. Looking at the current special hunt in Red Wing for reference, the council considered the option of a limited time hunt with guidelines in addition to state hunting statutes. This option is complex and Boyum believes that the size of what Rushford can offer as hunting area is too small to bring in hunters for a special season.

The last option is to allow a shooting permit for certain individuals, such as those for hire. This option is the most intensive for the city and would require aerial surveys and a management study.

Any hunting within the city opens the door to potential problems, as noted by Boyum and Eide. Retrieval of a shot deer on private property is considered “recreational trespass,” according to Boyum, and is legal unless the parcel is posted, on all corners and both sides any driveway, or if the land owner demands they leave the property. Shooting bucks isn’t allowed and would be subject to financial penalty, but there is no way to enforce the ordinance without the use of the city attorney and several on the council noted the desire not to have the city’s police force be tasked with extra work patrolling a hunt. There is also potential problems with damage to city property from deer stands, which would have to be limited in type, as well as property rights violations with trespassing across borders of city and private lands, and merging recreational trail and park areas with hunting areas.

“I don’t disagree that deer are doing damage, but the issues that we’re facing [with a potential hunt] are a lot more severe,” noted Councilor Vern Bunke.

“If we’re going to do it, I want it extremely controlled,” added Mayor Chris Hallum.

The city will continue to work with the DNR and researching the options, then draft up a plan for a potential hunt. The draft will be reviewed by the council.

In other news, the city is moving forward with projects at the Rushford Municipal Airport. A bid from J&L Steel & Electrical Services in the amount of $235,057 was approved to upgrade runway lighting with new LED lighting, an LED wind cone, and installation of PAPI lighting, an end-of-runway marker system which aids pilots in airport approach. The bid was 12 percent above engineer’s estimates.

The council also approved $42,310 bid by American Pavement Solutions, of Green Bay, Wis. for the crack sealing of the runway. The bid was nearly 22 percent above the engineer’s estimate.

Both projects are contingent of the availability of federal funding. It is expected that cost sharing will be defined 90 percent federal, five percent state, and five percent city funding for the two projects. The engineering firm of Mead & Hunt, involved it preparing the project, has noted the difference in estimate to bid cost due to the lateness in the season and the unforeseen lack of bidders for the project.

A project relating to replacement of the airport fuel system is on hold due to the limited amount of funding available. It will be reevaluated in the spring of 2015. The fuel system is currently functional, but subject to clogging and occasional stopping due to sediment through filters. The city is confident that the quality of fuel is good, but the hassle may be a problem for pilots. Airport Director Mike Thern has noted that a reputation of fueling issues may cause pilots to discontinue stops at the Rushford airport.

The next regularly scheduled council meeting is Monday, August 11, at 6:30 p.m., at city hall. The public is encouraged to attend.

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