Bear, archery deer seasons start well
State bear and bow deer hunters appear to be off to a good start, based on preliminary returns from registration stations.
On the bear side of things, bait hunters reported good success, but the bruins seemed to come off the baits somewhat about eight days into the season and just as the hound hunters were getting started. However, that didn't keep bear hunters from shooting some whopper bruins, including a 640-pounder in Vilas County (see story, Page 1) and a number of bear heavier than 500 pounds.
Deer bow hunters appear to be using their free Zone T tags in many areas and those who aren't shooting does are downing some dandy bucks. One station reported registering a Marathon County 15-point buck with a 17-inch spread and two 9-inch drop tines.
Preliminary bow deer returns
As of press time, DNR wildlife managers were just starting to sift through results of the archery opener, so it's too early to tell just how well bow hunters are doing. However, Tom Bahti of Green Bay, a DNR wildlife manager, did have complete results for three counties.
"Door County is down just slightly from last year, about 8 percent, but Brown County is 52 percent and Shawano County up 35 percent," Bahti said.
He said results from Oconto and Marinette counties are incomplete, but the opening weekend kill appears to be up significantly from last year.
Bahti also said it's too early to tell just how many bowhunters are making use of their free Zone T tags.
"I haven't broken down the kill by sex yet, but just in flipping through the stubs, I have seen several instances of where a person shot and registered two to three deer," he said.
One station in Oconto County had 34 deer registered opening weekend, up from 19 last year. Of that number, 18 were antlered bucks and 16 were antlerless deer. Bowhunters using bait in Oconto County are reporting seeing bears at their bait.
In the Park Falls area, Tim Doughty of Bridge Bait and Tackle said bowhunters are seeing nice bucks. Ron Radlinger of Butternut shot a 19-inch, 177-pound buck. Donnie Heisler of Park Falls shot an 8-point, 15-inch, 215-pounder.
"Registration has been going good, with the bucks heavily outnumbering does, but a lot of guys are saying they intend to use their Zone T tags," Doughty said. "They say they are going to do their part (in herd management) to shoot does and fawns."
Over in Siren, hunters registered quite a few deer on opening weekend at Big Mike's Outdoor Sports, almost all of which were Zone T does.
Nick Brantner, of Outdoors Unlimited in Wausau, also reported decent deer registration on the opener, but not as high as last year. Hunters registered 34 bucks and eight does.
"Some extremely nice bucks were brought it in. Craig Olson shot a dual drop-tine 15-pointer," Brantner said. "Another local guy brought in a 19-inch, 8-point, 215-pounder from Price County. There was a 13-pointer from eastern Marathon County with split G3s."
Preliminary bear kill
Bahti said the bear kill in northeastern Wisconsin was at about 70 percent of the 1999 registration through 12 days of the season. Again, it's a bit early to tell just where the harvest will end up. That's a good start for Bahti's region, but DNR wildlife manager Mike Gappa of Eau Claire said bear left baits in northwestern Wisconsin. That could make hunting tough unless a group has some good rig dogs.
An initial tally showed that 1,186 bear were registered since the Sept. 6 opener.
Two bears registered at a station in Winter weighed more than 500 pounds dressed. The station at Tripoli also registered a 500-pound bear. A bear registered at Eagle River came in at 475 pounds dressed.
In Price County, Doughty said Randy Paulson of Gratiot shot a 595-pound boar.
"He was hunting behind hounds and the bear wouldn't tree. They had to go in on that one and he shot it on the ground," Doughty said.