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Success rate up in Minnesota moose hunt

Minnesota moose hunters killed 54 moose in the state's annual hunt, which ended Sunday. A total of 94 parties took part in the two-week hunt in Northeastern Minnesota, yielding a success rate of 58 percent, the highest in several years, said Tom Rusch, Department of Natural Resources area wildlife manager at Tower.

The state's moose population has been declining steadily, and Rusch was encouraged that hunters had success in the bulls-only hunt. In recent years, the success rate has varied from 42 percent to 52 percent, he said.

"We're very optimistic," Rusch said. "It's good to see those numbers climb versus decrease. It's one year, but we're happy to see that."

The DNR reduced the number of permits available to hunters by about half this year in light of the declining moose population. A total of 105 parties received permits to hunt, but parties in the area affected by the Pagami Creek fire were given the option of declining this year's hunt and hunting in a future year. Eleven parties chose that option, Rusch said.

Several other parties whose hunting zones were affected by the fire chose to hunt anyway, and many had to scout new areas of their zones in the days just preceding the hunt. Despite that, many were successful, Rusch said.

Minnesota's moose hunt is a once-in-a-lifetime hunt for those selected.

Here is how the harvest broke down by wildlife management area: Two Harbors, 33; Tower, 16; Orr, 3; Cloquet, 2.

Rusch said he has heard no reports of moose being burned to death in the Pagami Creek fire, and he says it would be unusual for a moose to perish in the fire. In the DNR's prescribed burns, which are closely monitored from the air, moose almost always escape ahead of the fire, Rusch said.

"Some may have been downwind and died (from smoke inhalation)," Rusch said, "but nobody said, 'I found a dead moose.' I'm asking firefighters and biologists. I've yet to hear about a dead moose."

He said if the fire had burned a moose, the animal would not have been completely consumed and would be visible to firefighters.