Monday, January 30th, 2023
Monday, January 30th, 2023

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Savings bond incentive offered to boost deer head collections

Editor

Dodgeville, Wis. DNR staff members manning “head collection”
stations during the Zone T season expected to be overrun with
hunters wanting to provide their deer for brain testing, but,
despite the hoopla leading up to the season, that didn’t
happen.

So now the DNR, in cooperation with Whitetails Unlimited, is
offering a savings bond incentive put in place just in time for the
Nov. 23 gun season opener.

“We’re urging hunters to participate in the collection program,
and Whitetails Unlimited has developed an incentive program to
encourage hunters to participate, even if it involves a little
extra travel on their part,” said Pete Gerl, WTU executive director
in Sturgeon Bay.

WTU has put up $10,000 worth of $100 U.S. savings bonds. One
hundred savings bonds will be given away to hunters who enter their
names into the drawing by having their deer accepted for testing at
a collection site.

So far, the DNR has collected brain stem samples from about
10,000 deer throughout the state. The department wants samples from
50,000 to 60,000 deer, so there’s a ways to go, said Tom Howard, a
DNR wildlife manager in Dodgeville, the heart of the CWD Intensive
Harvest Zone.

“In the CWD Intensive Harvest Zone, we have sampled 6,989 heads,
but that roughly 7,000 has been collected since March and April,
and includes the 500 deer we took in the first surveillance
effort,” he said. “That number also includes the roughly 1,500 deer
shot during the summer shooting periods. The rest are from the with
bow season and the special gun season that opened Oct. 24. We have
collected about 5,000 deer since Oct. 24. That’s a pretty good
effort, especially considering traditional hunting time is still to
come, but we have to have a lot more deer.”

The DNR also geared up collection sites in each county on Oct.
24 in its effort to test at least 500 deer per county. During the
Zone T season, about 3,200 heads were collected in the remainder of
Wisconsin. The DNR needs more. Howard said it appears that the
“silent majority” may be speaking very loudly about their concern
over CWD, or lack of concern, by not bringing deer into the
stations. Hunters registered more than 27,000 deer statewide during
the Zone T hunt, but only brought in 3,200 for testing outside of
the CWD zones.

In the CWD area, hunters brought in about 1,600 deer for testing
over the Zone T weekend.

“We erroneously thought hunters would beat a path to our door,”
Howard said. “It appears the vast majority is not concerned about
the disease. The harvest was much greater than 1,600 deer in those
units, but that’s all that we collected during the Zone T
season.”

One registration station in Ashland County checked in 85
antlerless deer during the Zone T season, even though the DNR was
not collecting heads at that site.

“Hunters had to go to Glidden if they wanted to get their deer
tested. That’s about 15 miles,” said Pat Kieweg of Butternut, owner
of Tom’s Bar. “I told everyone they could get their deer tested in
Glidden, but out of 86 hunters who brought in deer, 85 of them
registered their deer here, then took them home and butchered
them.”

DNR license statistics show the sale of gun licenses are still
behind last year, but the sales are now 18-percent down, as of Nov.
15, not the 24 percent it had been running.

Gerl said the savings bond program was created to encourage
hunters to bring deer in for testing. In the meantime, the DNR
increased the number of collection sites in the CWD zones to about
50 for the gun season.

“Hunters whose deer are accepted at a collection station will
have their names entered into a drawing for one hundred, $100 U.S.
savings bonds provided by Whitetails Unlimited. The location of CWD
collection stations in each county are available at any
registration station,” Gerl said.

Not every deer registration station will collect samples, and
not every deer presented at a collection station will be accepted.
That will depend on how many deer have already been collected from
an area.

“When we’re done, we will know more about the health of the
Wisconsin deer herd than any other herd in the U.S.,” Gerl said.
“It’s important for the testing program to collect deer from every
part of each county, and it’s impossible to collect samples from
every registration station. We’re asking hunters to travel a little
and bring their deer to the station in their county, and we’re
offering an incentive to help encourage that.”

The following guidelines apply: no fawns or head-shot or
neck-shot deer are being accepted; the drawing will take place in
February after every deer season has closed; if a head is accepted,
the hunter is automatically entered into the drawing.

25,000 deer from Erad Zone?’

The DNR also wants to remove as many deer as possible from the
CWD Intensive Harvest Zone, or Eradication Zone. That’s believed to
be about 25,000 deer. Is it possible to remove that many deer by
Jan. 31, when the special season closes?

“We’re going to take a stab at it,” Howard said. “We know that
the majority of deer taken during a season are taken during the
first two days under a normal nine-day season format. Those are the
two most important days. Can we get to zero? As the population gets
smaller, the return for effort is going to get wider. Other
measures may have to be instituted after the season if we don’t get
there. What that will be? We don’t know. We’re going to brainstorm
with landowners and local officials Nov. 15-16 in Dodgeville and
try to come up with some options.”

The DNR has asked counties to be involved in that two-day
meeting and to nominate representatives for the brainstorming
session.

“We’re looking at every alternative imaginable,” Howard
said.

Allowing does to reach the spring fawning season would wipe out
any gains made in deer removal this summer and fall.

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