In the State of Minnesota there’s a new nuisance animal roaming the woods – hunters. An alarming problem has been raised at a recent St. Louis County Board workshop – the state’s hunters have been clearing shooting lanes that look more like highways on public lands.

As a bowhunter, I understand the necessity of clearing shooting lanes. I do it every year for almost every stand location I have – and I have dozens of stand locations — however, I’m mostly on private lands and I always make sure to cut only what is absolutely necessary to give me two or three small clearings out to 25 yards. The result is several branches in the ½” to 3″ diameter range being cleared to allow my arrow to fly without any obstructions in it’s way. It only takes the slight deflection of an arrow off a tiny branch to turn a deadly kill shot into a wounded animal that’s not recovered.

In Minnesota, however, hunters aren’t just clearing small branches, they’re clearing hundreds of feet worth of shooting lanes and the destruction to the forest is adding up. It was estimated that one group of hunters cleared more than six acres of timber for their 47 shooting lanes.

While clearing out sections of a forest isn’t necessarily a bad thing (it promotes new growth and provides cover for smaller animals like songbirds) it’s not up to those using public land to decide what gets cut. Public lands rely on funds from select timber harvests to maintain access points, parking areas, trails and manage the land in general.

The regulation books are a bit bare when it comes to the use of deer stands on public land and what type of lane clearing is acceptable. It might be wise for Minnesota to put some regulations in place prior to the upcoming season. Commissioners Steve Raukar of Hibbing and Keith Nelson of Fayal Township said they would like to see more education against clearing large shooting lanes on county land and have suggested involving local groups like the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association to help spread the word.

If shooting lanes weren’t enough of an issue, hunters are also planting food plots on public grounds. Although it might sound harmless, the reality is several varieties of seeds from unknown sources can introduce non-native invasive plant species that destroy the native forest and prevent future forest regeneration. Undesirable species also suck vital nutrients out of the ground and provide no benefit to wildlife.

The reality of the situation is that a small group of “hunters” are making the rest of us look bad through poor behavior on public lands. Although there should be laws regarding trimming shooting lanes and planting food plots on public lands, hunters should know better.

Have you ever come across massive shooting lanes or food plots on public land?