Wednesday, February 1st, 2023
Wednesday, February 1st, 2023

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Madison New DNR chief warden Randy Stark said chronic wasting
disease, baiting and deer numbers were the most talked-about topics
during the 2002 gun deer hunt.

Stark, in his season-ending report to DNR secretary Darrell
Bazzell, also noted that there was widespread confusion among deer
hunters regarding tagging issues.

“Many wardens reported finding deer tagged with inappropriate
tags,” Stark said. “Many hunters advised that if the DNR wants
people to harvest multiple deer, they need to simplify tagging
options.”

He suggested removing the word “antlerless” from the regular
kill tag, increasing the size of the tags and using a larger print
on bonus or Zone T tags to better differentiate them.

“Providing Zone T tags to all hunters also confused hunters who
put the tags on antlerless deer outside of T Zones,” Stark
said.

Small tags are difficult to read and check for validation once
they’re applied to a string and attached to a deer, Stark said. He
also noted that bonus tags issued at terminals resembled regular
tags and Zone T tags. Stark also said more time needs to be spent
with registration station workers.

Wardens received calls of stations registering car-killed deer
and issuing earn-a-buck tags, advising hunters they could buy
licenses during the regular gun season, registering bucks with doe
tags on them, and issuing buck tags to individuals who brought in a
buck and a doe, each with a doe tag on them.

Wardens also expressed concern over the hunting hour
regulations. Depending on the type of day, hunting hours either end
with marginal light (if clear out) or nearly dark (on overcast
days). Stark said it’s difficult and dangerous for wardens to try
and apprehend those who choose to hunt late. Many wardens feel this
is a potential safety concern for hunters and wardens charged with
enforcing the hunting hour regulations.

There were 1,240 arrests during the deer gun season, a decrease
of 7.5 percent from 2001. The 2002 count was the fewest arrests
since 1976.

The top 10 arrests were: transporting an uncased gun in a
vehicle (117); transporting a loaded gun in a vehicle (112);
hunting over bait (87); shooting within 50 feet of a road or across
a roadway (82); hunting within 50 feet of a paved road center (69);
failure to validate the deer tag (51); hunting with an improper
license (44); hunting before or after hours (41); operating an ATV
on the roadway (41); and group deer hunting violations (30).

Wardens seized 172 illegal deer and three illegal black bear.
One of the deer was a 6-point albino buck. A wolf also was found
shot near Necedah. This was the fourth wolf shot in Juneau County
near Necedah in the last three deer seasons.

Wardens reported a high level of voluntary compliance with the
new baiting regulations, likely helped by the stiff fines for
baiting violations. In total, 87 baiting citations (49 were in the
north) and 28 feeding citations were issued statewide. Nearly all
people contacted in violation of the baiting ban knew the law and
chose to bait anyway. The penalty for illegal baiting is $1,096.
Stark said one hunter who was hunting over bait jumped out of his
tree stand, 12 feet to the ground, when approached by a warden.

Surprisingly, the vast majority of hunters contacted in the
field said they liked the baiting ban and hoped it would remain in
place in the future.

One hunter told a warden, “In the past 10 years deer have been
found where the most baiting and feeding was taking place. This
year deer were found in the best habitat and their movements were
natural, being driven by that habitat and the desire to feed and
rest.

“No baiting leveled the playing field for all hunters rather
than tipping the scales in favor of those who own larger tracts of
land and place huge quantities of feed and bait on the
landscape.”

In general, most hunters reported seeing adequate numbers of
deer, Stark said. Those who sat on trails or scrapes in the morning
and evening and made drives or still-hunted during midday did the
best, he said.

One group of hunters checked on Thanksgiving showed wardens what
they do when they find a bait pile.

They created a tag that stated, “This is an illegal bait. These
GPS coordinates and a picture have been given to the DNR.”

Despite months of CWD hype prior to the nine-day hunt, Stark
said most hunters contacted by wardens were not overly concerned
with CWD.

“Many said those that did not buy a license were fence-sitters
and were just looking for an excuse to quit,” Stark told
Bazzell.

A majority of hunters believe CWD was limited to an area in
south-central Wisconsin, Stark said. Even those who did think CWD
was in other parts of the state were not overly concerned because
the deer and elk disease has been in Colorado for many years and
has not caused health problems there.

Stark noted one exception. The number of Hmong hunters appeared
to be down substantially this year, especially in western
Wisconsin.

Some Hmong hunters advised wardens that their fellow Hmong
hunters are scared of CWD. This could indicate the need for
targeted information specifically tailored to the Hmong community,
Stark said.

Most hunters agreed that there was less pre-hunt excitement this
year. Some believed this may have been caused because their mates
or other non-hunting family members had CWD concerns and were
unwilling to consume venison.

With license sales down 10 percent from 2001, both wardens and
hunters reported an obvious decrease in hunting pressure.

“The trend continued throughout the week, and pressure dropped
to very little in certain areas by the end of the season,” Stark
said.

The changing landscape is negatively impacting deer hunting,
Stark said, with urban sprawl forcing hunters out of traditional
hunting spots in many areas of the state.

“Many hunters commented that it’s getting harder to find places
to hunt as houses continue to be built in woodlots that have
traditionally been hunting spots,” Stark said.

One farmer advised a warden that a 200-acre parcel of land he
hunted just two years ago was now down to a 35-acre woodlot.

“Access to private lands continues to become an increasingly
difficult issue,” Stark said. “It appears that as it becomes more
difficult for hunters to get permission to hunt private lands, they
buy land themselves for hunting. They, in turn, do not give
permission either.”

In Buffalo County, an area known for producing trophy bucks,
Stark said it has progressed to where some landowners won’t even
allow someone to enter their land for a few yards to retrieve dead
deer.

“We have to work with the deer hunting organizations to develop
a program to increase access to private land,” he told Bazzell.

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