Friday, February 3rd, 2023
Friday, February 3rd, 2023

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Hunters say Zone T has to go

Editor

Rhinelander, Wis. Two things that came through loud and clear at
a Jan. 18 meeting in Rhinelander; hunters want deer baiting and
feeding stopped, and they will accept a 16-day season if Zone T
seasons are dropped.

“The common theme at each of the two hearings we’ve had so far
has been the support for a 16-day deer season,” said Rep. Scott
Gunderson (R-Norway), chairman of an Assembly subcommittee on deer
management.

“A lot of people think the T Zones have to go. We’re hearing a
lot of interest in a 16-day hunt with no special seasons.”

The committee’s first hearing took place Jan. 11 in Onalaska.
Baiting was not a hot topic in Onalaska, but the interest in
Rhinelander equaled that of the 16-day season.

“I was listening to the baiting discussion in Rhinelander, and
wow, I couldn’t believe it,” Gunderson said. “Baiting came up quite
a few times. That has the committee thinking a little bit. I’m not
sure anyone was thinking it was going to be too big of an issue in
this, but it sure emerged in Rhinelander.”

The third most common subject was predation by coyotes (in
Onalaska) and wolves (in Rhinelander).

“Predation is also something we’re going to have consider,”
Gunderson said. “We heard about coyotes and wolves in Rhinelander
and what are they doing to spring fawn numbers. We had dogs being
killed by wolves this past summer and fall, and I think that’s an
issue. Where it fits in the mix, I’m not sure, but it’s definitely
on the list of things to look at.”

Gunderson noted that many hunters also have a “huge issue” with
DNR deer estimates and do not believe deer population
projections.

“I’m not so sure it’s the system or formula that doesn’t work,
but maybe the over-winter goals are too low. Maybe it’s not the
formula itself,” he said.

Conservation Congress chairman Steve Oestreicher, of Harshaw,
made that point on Jan. 18 at the hearing and again on Jan. 23 at
the Natural Resources Board in Madison (please see page 3 for a
report on that meeting).

Gunderson also addressed the Natural Resources Board on Jan. 23
to let board members know about the interest in a 16-day season the
committee has seen after two hearings. Gunderson also suggested the
board revise a question on the 16-day hunt offered by the DNR for
the spring hearings on April 8 (please see page 3).

Gunderson will be looking for more comments on a 16-day season,
a baiting and feeding ban, predation and herd estimates at the
remaining two public hearings. One hearing will be Tuesday, Feb. 19
at 1 p.m. at the Norway Town Hall in Wind Lake. The fourth public
hearing will be Wednesday, Feb. 20 at 11 a.m. at the Neville Public
Museum in Green Bay.

Gunderson will then set a “working meeting” of the subcommittee
in Madison, probably in March, that also will serve as a fifth
public hearing.

Gunderson would now like to hear from the DNR an official
position on deer baiting and feeding. So far, none of the DNR’s
wildlife officials have taken a position for or against baiting and
feeding. However, in the early 1990s, Wisconsin did contact
Minnesota and suggest that state ban deer baiting before problems
noted in Wisconsin surfaced there.

In December, the DNR’s top wildlife official, Steve Miller, said
the DNR hasn’t presented an official stand on the issue because the
Natural Resources Board is split on baiting and feeding. However,
hunters since then have pointed out that the board also logged a
split vote on approving the Jackson County elk herd in December and
the mourning dove hunt in 2000.

DNR conservation wardens have been quietly criticizing the DNR’s
lack of movement on deer baiting. Annual arrest reports have been
filled with comments about problems caused by baiting. However,
Gunderson said he would ask just the Bureau of Wildlife to present
its views to the committee.

“In fact, it could very well be one of our recommendations that
the DNR develop a position on baiting,” he said.

Feeding is regulated by the Department of Agriculture and any
changes there would have to come from that agency. Most hunters who
oppose feeding have suggested a ban from September through
December.

Comments from Rhinelander

Bureau of Wildlife director Tom Hauge opened the hearing by
saying the DNR’s 2001 deer estimate was off a bit. Before the 2001
season, the statewide herd was estimated at 1.65 million. Using
sex, age and kill numbers (part of the Sex-Age-Kill formula) after
the season, biologists came up with an estimate of 1.53
million.

“In 2000, the estimate was 1.8 million and we harvested 615,000
deer in a single year, a national record. This year, we projected
1.65 million before the season, based on fawn production from the
spring of 2001. Our preliminary harvest of 428,000 is expected to
end up around 440,000, or our fifth highest harvest on record.
Archers had their third highest harvest; muzzleloader hunters set a
new record with about 4,600 deer. It was the nine-day season that
did not perform as expected, especially on the antlerless side,”
Hauge said.

“The SAK is being questioned. It’s said to be the best system
out there. Is there anything being used elsewhere that we’re
monitoring?” Gunderson asked.

“There are only so many ways to do this on a statewide basis,”
Hauge responded. “In small areas even much smaller than a unit we
can do aerial counts or try to drive deer past counters, or we
could do a mark and recapture effort like we do with waterfowl.
That’s logistically and financially impossible on a statewide
basis.”

Roger Sabota, of Rhinelander, a guide, teacher and outdoors
writer, was the first of many speakers who mentioned baiting and
feeding. He described negative experiences on public land in Unit
38.

“I urge you to strongly consider a 16-day hunt and, if you’re
serious, please do something about baiting and feeding,” he
said.

Ken Anderson, of Eagle River, a Conservation Congress delegate
for Vilas County, supported a 16-day hunt because of the added
recreational opportunities.

“I don’t believe a 16-day hunt will answer your harvest
concerns,” he said. “You can get rid of Zone T, but you will have
to add something back in to address harvest in certain areas.”

Pat Harrison is a forester from Langlade County. He walked a
property line for the land he manages before the gun season and
found 17 baits in three miles.

“That’s better than one per 40,” Harrison said. “It’s causing a
black eye for hunters, there is the threat of disease, and it
congregates and holds deer. Baiting has become an unenforceable
situation for wardens. I recommend that baiting be prohibited from
May 1 through the Thursday before Thanksgiving. That would still
give bow and gun hunters the opportunity to use it. I implore you
to do the right thing.”

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