Concerns are few as bow season kicks off

Editor

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.”

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