Antlerless deer abundance will aid state's bowhunters
Madison When the state's archery deer season opens Saturday, Sept. 18, bowhunters should find an estimated 1.7 million deer in Wisconsin's forests. DNR wildlife managers have provided forecasts for each of the state's five DNR regions.
Mike Zeckmeister, regional wildlife biologist, said a moderate winter, with just a few reports of a severe winter, and a normal spring green-up, means the herd is in "extraordinarily good condition" again this year.
"We modified our recommendations in units that experienced a more severe winter, but our 2004 season structure for northern Wisconsin is probably the most aggressive season in recent history," he said.
The season calls for nine units in earn-a-buck (EAB) and 21 units in Zone T. There are 16 other units where the DNR released aggressive antlerless quotas. There were several units where a second year of Zone T resulted in an excellent antlerless harvest last year.
"As a result, we are not recommending EAB or even another T Zone in those units," Zeckmeister said. "The bottom line is that we did not get a high enough antlerless harvest last year in many units. So, we're going to have to use earn-a-buck to encourage hunters to harvest more antlerless deer in certain units. We don't necessarily want to, but we have to.
Tom Bahti, regional wildlife supervisor in Green Bay, said deer hunters will see dramatic differences in herd status and hunting opportunities as they travel north to south across the Northeast Region this fall.
In units in northern Oconto and Marinette counties (41, 44, 45, 49A&B, and 50), which have lots of public land and heavy pressure, populations remain at or near goals. Combined with a winter that ranged from mild to the high end of moderate, these units will see a conventional "buck plus quota" framework this fall. Some units, such as 45 and 49A, will have smaller antlerless quotas, and even hunter's choice permits will not be a sure thing. In other units, like 44 and 50, aggressive antlerless harvests will be necessary to keep the units out of Zone T seasons; plenty of bonus permits will be available.
In the southern two-thirds of the region, it's a different story. The remaining 18 units are in Zone T, with 15 of these units having EAB restrictions this fall.
"Numerous years of Zone T seasons have been unsuccessful in reducing deer populations in these units, and now, for the first time since 1996, earn-a-buck will be utilized to bring down deer numbers," Bahti said. "Opportunities in this part of the region have probably never been better. Hunters should have an outstanding season, with dramatically higher antlerless harvests and a substantial carryover of bucks into 2005."
Carl Batha, regional wildlife supervisor, said most of his units are again in CWD zones. Unit 73D is the only unit in the region that will have the traditional nine-day deer season.
Hunters should pay close attention to the season structure and boundaries in the CWD zones, which were expanded this year.
DNR regional wildlife biologist Robert Michelson said deer numbers are high throughout the region. Only five units will not be Zone T or EAB. The region will have 19 Zone T units (eight in 2003), four EAB unit,s and five regular quota units.
"Adequate CWD testing has now been completed in all counties to provide a high level of assurance that the disease is not in the wild herd. For 2004, CWD testing will only occur in Portage County to confirm that CWD is confined to a captive herd in that county," he said.
"There will be ample opportunity to harvest deer in the region, and we're hoping that greater numbers of hunters take advantage of liberal seasons.
"EAB is not a popular framework, but it's the most effective way to get the antlerless harvests necessary to bring populations to acceptable levels."
Jim McNelly, regional wildlife supervisor, said deer numbers vary greatly in the region due to the variety of habitat conditions and hunting pressure.
All of Unit 77B and the southern end of Unit 77C will fall within CWD zones. The southwestern corner of Walworth County falls within a CWD Disease Eradication Zone, and much of the remainder of units 77B and 77C fall into a CWD Herd Reduction Zone. These designations indicate that hunters can harvest multiple deer using an unlimited EAB format.
"Hunters should carefully review the new regulations for this area and note that deer taken from these zones must be registered within 24 hours of harvest and registered at stations within the zone," McNelly said.
The harvest likely will be slightly higher than the past years due to a relatively mild winter, a modest increase in bonus permits, and the chance to shoot multiple deer.