Controlled Archery Hunt FAQ

The Abbey land and trails will remain open throughout the hunt.

How long is the controlled hunt?

The 2024 Saint John’s archery hunt runs from October 9 through December 31.

Can I continue to use the land and trails during the hunt?

Yes. All the trails that have been open in the past for people visiting the Abbey Arboretum will continue to be open. You can even walk off-trail if you want. We want you to continue to enjoy the land while we work on restoring a balance of the deer population to vegetation growth.

Is it safe to be out in the Abbey Arboretum during the hunt?

Safety outdoors is a relative term. Many parks and municipalities (including the St. Cloud area) have successfully combined archery hunting with ongoing park activities without problems. We have had similar results here. We switched to an archery hunt in 2013 after hosting shotgun hunts in the past because we believe that archery will result in an overall safer hunt. Naturally, the decision to use the land during the hunt is one that you have to make for yourself and your family.

How many hunters are there?

Approximately 100 hunters are selected to hunt, although it is unlikely that they will ever all be in the woods at the same time.

How are hunters selected?

We accept hunting applications during the summer. The selected hunters are chosen in a lottery process. Priority points are given to hunters who have completed MN DNR Bow Hunter Safety, hunters who applied the previous year and were NOT selected, hunters who successfully harvested antlerless deer in the previous year’s hunt, and hunters who are currently enrolled full-time students at the College of Saint Benedict or Saint John’s University. We work with the MN DNR to verify that selected hunters do not have any significant past hunting violations. All hunters also complete 1.5 hours of additional safety training by Saint John’s Life Safety.

How can I hunt at Saint John’s?

To receive notifications about the Abbey Arboretum deer hunt, sign up for our email list. Any updates about the deer hunt and application process will be emailed to this list. You can sign up to receive only deer hunt updates or a choose variety of other options.

How many deer can hunters take?

All hunters must have a valid MN DNR archery license and must be able to take an antlerless deer in a zone covering Saint John’s (218 south of I-94, 215 north of I-94). The MN DNR sets annual hunting and licensing regulations and usually announce the regulations around August 1 each year. Individual hunters should consult the MN DNR to learn how many antlerless deer an individual can tag in zones 215 and 218 each year.

In the Abbey Arboretum, the initial goal for controlling the deer population is to harvest 50 antlerless deer. If 50 deer are harvested before December 31 the Abbey will do an assessment to determine whether to continue the hunt beyond that point.

Will I see the hunters?

Most archery hunters feel they have the best chance of success around sunrise and at dusk. Many do not hunt in the middle of the day due to the fact that deer don’t move around as much. The hunters have tree stands and ground blinds that are at least 30 feet off the trails. Archery hunters are also well camouflaged, so you could walk by without knowing they are there.

Will the hunters see me?

Archery hunters have a range of about 30 yards or less, so they have a much easier ability to verify their targets than with other hunting methods. They will see you coming long before you see them. Wearing bright colored clothing, such as an orange hat or jacket, will help make you even more visible from a longer distance, but it is not required.

Will the hunters confuse my dog for a deer?

The easy answer to that question is NO because dogs are not allowed at Saint John’s – in the woods or on the campus. They never have been, leash or no leash. While we love them too, we ask that you please leave your dogs at home. You can review the Saint John’s Abbey land use policies (including the Pet Policy) if you’d like more information.

Why is there at hunt at Saint John’s?

Saint John’s Abbey Arboretum is designated a state game refuge. We cannot have any kind of hunting or trapping without the permission of the Commissioner of Natural Resources or an exemption in the law. We are allowed to have a deer hunt because the local deer population is so high and has been so high for so long that it is causing significant ecological damage. Species deer eat – like oak and pine seedlings – are not regenerating (at all), and species not eaten by deer – raspberries and ironwood – are proliferating. The natural vegetation of the ecosystem, and the animals that rely on that ecosystem, is out of balance.

Why is the hunt going on now?

The Minnesota archery season runs from mid-September through December 31 (the exact start date is determined by the MN DNR each year). We have chosen to start our hunt in mid-October to reduce the potential for conflicts with the many other events and recreational uses of the land. Most of our regular fall events and visitors reduce or end their visits as the fall colors fade and the cold season approaches. We don’t want to delay the hunt any longer than October as we want to provide the best chance of hunter success to achieve our goals.

Are you still having a shotgun hunt during the MN shotgun season?

No. We host archery hunting only. The number one reason is safety. With land and a university campus that have so many uses, it is logistically easier to maintain that standard of safety with archery.

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