Concerns are few as bow season kicks off
Madison Wisconsin archers who might have taken a season off last year because of the CWD scare appear to be more interested in hunting and eating venison this year as the 2003 bow season is set to open Saturday, Sept. 13.
The number of licenses sold one week before this year's opener are up a little from the same time period last year. Sausage makers also are hearing of increased interest in bowhunting from their customers this year. Al Gurtner, of Ray's Market in Unity, and Judy Cottrell, of Bavaria Sausage in Madison, said they're seeing an increased interest in bowhunting this year.
"I'm not hearing a thing this year, as far as bowhunters being concerned about CWD," Gurtner said. "Since last year, I think there has been enough publicity and people realized what was really going on despite the story about the three hunters in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that scared a lot of people."
"We will always make sausage and we've been getting quite a few phone calls asking us about that," Cottrell added. "I think the level of interest has increased from last year, when a lot of people were running scared. They're now a little more educated about CWD and are more excited about getting back out and hunting."
The increased number of and questions fielded by sausage makers may better reflect the increase in bowhunting this year than DNR license sales, since many archers don't start hunting until October and buy their licenses then.
However, numbers are up a bit from one year ago. As of Sept. 3, the DNR had sold 79,977 conservation patron licenses. That's down a tad from the 81,019 patron licenses sold through the same period in 2002, but resident archery license sales are up during the same period. The DNR sold 26,149 resident licenses through that period in 2002, and that number has increased to 30,764 this year.
Nonresident patron license sales are about the same 37 in 2002 and 38 this year while nonresident archery license sales have increased from 1,203 in 2002 to 1,385 this year.
Hunter's choice applications were down this year from 2002. A total of 107,377 hunters applied for choice tags in 2002, but that dropped to 103,989 this year. Ruth Ann Raftery of the DNR licensing section said that change could hinge on the number of free Zone T tags and CWD tags available this year.
Season opens Saturday
The DNR 2003 deer herd estimate is at 1.4 million animals. That will give deer hunters plenty of opportunity, according to Brad Koele, DNR assistant deer ecologist.
The early season runs through Nov. 20. The late archery deer season runs Dec. 1 through Jan. 3, 2004. Archers will be the first deer hunters who must be aware of changes for this season, especially if they hunt in Zone T or CWD units. First, all deer hunting regulations are now included in a separate brochure that's available at any license vendor, DNR office, or on the DNR web site. Also, as of Sept. 5, deer baiting and feeding is legal, with a 10-gallon limit on baiting. There is no limit on feeding. That could change at least in some counties if the Natural Resources Board (NRB) and Legislature agree on a proposed emergency rule that the NRB was to have addressed on Monday, Sept. 8 (please see State Roundup on Page 3 of this issue).
"We're encouraging hunters not to bait deer in an effort to help control the spread of CWD in the state," said Tom Hauge, director of the DNR wildlife management program. "The science, field research, and the opinions of dozens of animal health experts all support banning baiting and feeding as a means to limit spread of CWD. Baiting and feeding can help CWD spread and get established by congregating animals. The stakes are high and the deck is stacked in favor of disease. In the wild, once a disease starts to spread, it's tough to put the brakes on. We should apply all the measures we can to have a chance of beating CWD."
Hauge said it's also possible, as of press time, for the Legislature to change its position on a baiting/feeding ban. He said hunters should follow news reports to stay abreast of the issue.
In the meantime, Hauge said the DNR is still trying to get the estimated herd of 1.4 million animals down to the statewide pre-hunt goal of 1.1 million. There will be 47 Zone T units this season. Archery and gun hunters may use their licenses to shoot either an antlered or antlerless deer in these units; they receive one additional antlerless-only permit that can be used in any Zone T unit, and bonus antlerless permits are available for purchase in these units ($12 resident, $20 nonresident).
Archery harvest in all Zone T units is restricted to antlerless deer during the Zone T hunt that will run Oct. 30-Nov. 2 this year. Archery harvest in Zone T units south of Hwy. 8 also is restricted to antlerless deer from Dec. 11-14. Zone T units north of Hwy. 8 will not participate in the December firearm hunt.
In CWD zones, deer units will again have special regs. These units will have extended archery and gun seasons and an earn-a-buck season structure. Hunters planning on hunting one of the CWD zones should review the hunting regs pamphlet for specific details on hunting dates, rules and zone boundaries.
Sausage makers ready
Gurtner and Cottrell said they're ready to begin making venison sausage. Both shop owners said they no longer skin and cut deer carcasses, but hunters are welcome to bring in boned meat for sausage. Gurtner is still making sausage from last year's harvest.
"Quite a few hunters did freeze their venison to wait for testing, and a lot of that venison came in during the summer," Gurtner said. "We're a small shop, and we do separate batches for each customer, so I'm still working on some of that venison."
Gurtner also is a member of a Unity sportsmen's club and he said the club put on skinning and butchering seminars last fall. Those seminars helped hunters learn to process their own venison before bringing the boned meat to sausage makers.
"Last year there were a lot of questions, a lot of people saying they weren't going to hunt, but we put on processing seminars at the club and 180 people came. We showed them where the glands were, how to disjoint the carcass without sawing through bones, and then all of those people hunted," he said.
"It's not difficult. A lot of people have never cut up a deer before, but they're learning. It's not hard, it just takes a little bit of time."
That effort appears to have paid off in Unity.
"Now this year, everyone I've talked to at our sportmen's club, and we have 500 or better members, are saying it's business as usual. They're going to shoot deer and eat them. They're no longer put off by the CWD threat."
Cottrell is hearing the same thing in Dane County, even in the heart of the CWD zones.
"As far as what deer hunters have been telling me over the summer, they're going to be processing their own venison and bringing it in for sausage," she said. "I think when it first came out last year, the wives were more scared and told their husbands they either couldn't hunt, or couldn't bring home the meat. That's gone this year."