NRB approves CWD rules for ’05 hunt

Correspondent

Prairie du Chien, Wis. The Natural Resources Board (NRB) has
approved rules for 2005 in the chronic wasting disease zones.

The rules call for expanding the Western Disease Eradication
Zone (WDEZ) around new positives near Plain and Blanchardville;
expanding the Eastern DEZ around new positives found near the north
and east border of last year’s zone; removing most of Richland
County from the WDEZ; and expanding the Herd Reduction Zone (HRZ)
to include all of Unit 76A rather than just the southern half.

In addition, the rules call for the following:

Creating a five-day split in the gun deer season of the DEZs so
there’s no gun hunting the five days prior to the Saturday before
Thanksgiving;

Allowing earning of buck hunting authority in any earn-a-buck
unit in the state by shooting an antlerless deer in any EAB unit in
the state;

Opening a deer season for Belmont Mound State Park.

“Our objective is to reduce disease transmission and spread of
the disease by reducing the deer herd,” Bill VanderZouwen said.
“The goal is to reduce the deer herd to 5 deer per square mile in
the DEZ and 10 deer per square mile in the HRZ. Our philosophy may
not be popular, but CWD control is considered to be more important
than short-term recreational issues.”

At five hearings, 235 people attended, many of whom were in
opposition. Two points of contention were gun season dates and
earn-a-buck (EAB).

VanderZouwen said most hunters want the DNR to return to the
9-day gun season, give back the rut to archers only, and lengthen
the split between the Zone T and regular season. He said the DNR is
reluctant to go back to the nine-day season, because not everybody
is against hunting in early October and early November. Last year,
38 percent of the harvest was taken during the early November
season in the western DEZ.

“Fifty-eight percent was harvested during the four-day October
season and early November seasons, and I would surely hate to give
that up,” he said. “I doubt we could make up that 58 percent in the
nine-day hunt, and what if we had rain or cold weather then?”

The DNR is sticking with recommendations for the longer season.
Surveys showed that 45 percent of landowners hunted more.
VanderZouwen said that if the DNR is asking hunters to remove deer,
it has to give them time.

VanderZouwen said the season also has to be longer because the
DNR is testing deer and needs the time to collect samples.

VanderZouwen said the consequences of not having EAB in the CWD
zones are different than in the rest of the state, because the
future of CWD and the herd are at stake in the zones.

“It is justified as one of the best tools available for herd
reduction,” he said.

He said 43 percent of the antlerless deer in Unit 70A were shot
by the public. Adding the deer shot during the winter by the public
and the DNR, 50 percent of the antlerless deer estimated to be in
that unit were killed.

“This tells me the rule is working,” he said.

With less than a 25-percent antlerless harvest rate, the herd
will continue to grow, VanderZouwen said. With a 35-percent
harvest, the herd begins to decrease over time The herd in Unit 70A
is declining, and that is because of EAB, he said.

The alternative is an either-sex season, but the DNR believes
the best approximation of an either-sex season would be similar to
2000 when Zone T was used, but then the antlerless harvest was only
30 percent.

VanderZouwen said the DNR wants to retain the high doe harvest
rate while putting more emphasis on buck harvest because they have
a higher prevalence of CWD.

Steve Oestreicher, Conservation Congress chairman, said the
congress and the DNR were close to agreeing on CWD rules.

“In the (proposed) rule, the season was to start with an
earn-a-buck and progress to an either sex season in the DEZ and HRZ
the Saturday before Thanksgiving,” Oestreicher said. “In both
zones, the October season also was used to help with herd
management with an EAB option. While the congress opposed the
October season, it became apparent for this year that the DNR
needed this tool to help with disease management in both
zones.”

The congress proposed a compromise, asking that the early bow
season be an either-sex season in both zones running until Oct. 26,
and then follow the season structure outlined by the DNR for the
balance of the hunting seasons. The congress believes the change
would provide opportunity for both bow and gun hunters alike.

Oestreicher also said he’d like to see the Big Game Committee
start a CWD sub-committee to address growing problems, such as
refuge areas that harbor deer from harvest.

The final compromise between DNR and the congress looks like
this in the HRZ:

Either-sex archery hunt: Sept. 17-Oct. 26 and Nov. 19-Jan.
3;

Either-sex firearm hunt: Nov. 19-Jan. 3;

Earn-a-buck archery hunt: Oct. 27-Nov. 18;

EAB gun hunt: Oct. 27-31;

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