Monday, February 6th, 2023
Monday, February 6th, 2023

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Earn-a-buck may come to 28 units

Editor

Madison As DNR wildlife managers and hunters headed into deer
unit meetings that began early last week, wildlife managers made
available a preliminary list of 28 earn-a-buck (EAB) units and 50
Zone T units.

Heading into the 2003 deer seasons, the DNR had 31 units on the
EAB “watch list.” Following the 2003 deer harvest, three of the
units on the watch list were dropped, leaving 28 for EAB
consideration during the 2004 season, according to Brad Koele, DNR
assistant deer ecologist.

It’s possible that some units might be removed from the EAB or
Zone T candidate list between now and March 24 when the Natural
Resources Board (NRB) reviews the DNR’s recommendations for the
2004 deer seasons, but any changes are not likely to come from the
DNR at this point in the process.

“All of our internal work (between wildlife managers and
biologists) has already been done, and that resulted in the current
preliminary list that includes 28 potential earn-a-buck units,”
Koele said. “There are some talks still going on (within the
agency) and it is possible the list could change, but most of the
work has already been done.

“We are now preparing for the presentation (of EAB and Zone T
recommendations) to the Natural Resources Board for its March 24
meeting, where the NRB members will make the final determination,”
he said.

Some of the internal DNR talks centered around Unit 61, which
covers nearly all of Buffalo County, where outfitters are looking
for a way to escape the EAB requirement. They’ve told the DNR it
will be difficult for their clients to shoot a doe before shooting
a buck.

The DNR’s recommendation on Unit 61 will be presented to the NRB
during this week’s meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 25.

“The outfitters are asking for an exception to earn-a-buck for
their clients. We understand what they’re talking about, and we
have looked at that situation, but we don’t have any solutions that
don’t have a lot of negative aspects,” Koele said. “We will
recommend for not exempting Unit 61 from earn-a-buck to the NRB at
that meeting.”

Koele said nearly all of the 28 units on the EAB “candidate”
list have had at least three consecutive years of Zone T hunting,
and are still well above over-winter goals.

“Many of the units have had four years of Zone T and some have
had five years of Zone T,” he said.

Only Unit 78 is on the EAB list with less than three consecutive
years of Zone T it has seen two straight Zone T seasons.

Koele noted that population estimates for the EAB units that
exceed over-winter goals the most range from 47 and 48 deer per
square mile to 71 and 72 deer per square mile. Most of those units
are in the northeast.

The DNR also created an EAB “watch list” for 2005, if there
still is an EAB framework next year. The watch list includes units
from the proposed 2004 Zone T list: 1M, 18, 23, 46, 59C, 59M, 60M,
64, 64M, 65A, 70G, 77C, and 77M.

Koele said hunters in EAB units in 2004 will find the validation
and tagging framework similar to that used in 1996.

“When you register an antlerless deer that was shot in an
earn-a-buck unit, you will receive a buck authorization sticker
with your DNR I.D. number on the sticker. Put that sticker on your
gun or archery carcass tag, not the back tag,” he said. “In order
to get that buck authorization, you have to register the doe in an
earn-a-buck unit to get the buck sticker. You don’t get a sticker
for shooting a doe outside of an earn-a-buck unit.

“The buck sticker is not for an extra deer, it simply validates
the carcass tag for either-sex hunting in an earn-a-buck unit.”

Hunters in EAB units should make a note of which tags they’re
using to tag antlerless deer in EAB units. They should use a bonus
tag or a Zone T tag. One free Zone T tag will again be issued with
each license.

23-day season update

During a Feb. 17 unit meeting in Eagle River, Conservation
Congress chairman Steve Oestreicher and DNR wildlife manager Ron
Eckstein addressed the NRB’s advisory question that outlines a
potential 23-day general deer season framework. There has been some
concern about how, if the framework is supported in April, the DNR
would regulate antlerless deer harvest in units where the herd may
be at, or below, population goals.

“We would have to figure out a system that would allow one of
the carcass tags to serve as an either-sex tag in units with a lot
of antlerless opportunities, and as a buck-only tag in non-quota
units,” Eckstein said.

Oestreicher said it may still be necessary to apply for choice
tags in those units.

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