By Kevin Naze Correspondent
Madison — Twenty-year Conservation Congress member Steve
Oestreicher is stepping down next May from the chairman role he’s
held since 1998, but not before hunters get a chance to
“pre-qualify” for earn-a-buck (EAB) stickers.
Starting this year, hunters can “earn a buck” the following year
by shooting an antlerless deer during the current season.
Oestreicher, Conservation Congress Big Game Committee chairman Joe
Caputo, and other congress members have been urging the DNR to
adopt some method of advance EAB for a number of years.
“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it,” Oestreicher said of his time in
the congress. “But there comes a time. Three years ago I told (vice
chair) Ed Harvey that I’ve got to spend more time out in the woods
and out on the lake.”
Before he gives up the gavel, Oestreicher – an Oneida County
delegate from Harshaw – said he would love to see hunters
successfully eliminate the need for the controversial October gun
Long a proponent of getting rid of the early Zone T hunt while
enabling hunters to qualify a year in advance for potential EAB
units, Oestreicher said hunters have a golden opportunity.
“We’re counting on the bow and gun hunters to do their part in
harvesting antlerless deer this year,” he said. “Next year, with
the proposed season structure, we have a chance to get rid of the
early gun hunt for good. But if we don’t shoot enough antlerless
deer, it’s going to sunset immediately and the October season is
going to come back.”
Wildlife managers are not convinced that hunters will take
enough antlerless deer without the early gun season, but
Oestreicher thinks a new rule allowing advance qualification for
earn-a-buck might make a difference already this fall.
Thirty-eight of the 45 Zone T units this fall are on a watch
list for possible EAB rules in 2006. Hunters who register an
antlerless deer in one of those units this year will be mailed a
buck sticker valid in any non-CWD EAB unit next year.
A new record-keeping system tracks a hunter’s name, type of deer
registered, and the deer unit from which the deer was shot. A
maximum of two buck stickers can be obtained. If there are
earn-a-buck units next year, the stickers will not be specific to
bow or gun. However, the tags do not allow for an extra buck. In
other words, archers could continue to take only one buck. Gun
hunters outside the CWD zone could take additional bucks only if
legally participating in group hunting.
Hunters in units on the EAB watch list for 2006 can pre-qualify
by shooting an antlerless deer in any open season in those units
this fall or winter. The 38-unit watch list includes 22A, 23, 24,
25, 27, 46, 47, 51A, 51B, 54B, 54C, 57, 57B, 59B, 59C, 59M, 60M,
61, 62A, 62B, 63A, 63B, 64, 64M, 65A, 65B, 66, 67A, 67B, 68A, 68B,
74A, 77C, 77M, 78, 80A, 80B, 81.
Some other northern units also are in Zone T for the second
straight year, but aren’t on the list because wildlife managers
believe deer numbers can be brought to within 20 percent of
overwinter goal without EAB.
The DNR is proposing a two-year trial in 2006 and 2007 that
includes no October antlerless gun deer hunts outside of CWD zones.
However, if the average antlerless-to-antlered harvest ratio in
herd-control units statewide is below 1.4 in 2006, the rule could
sunset and an October season could return in 2007.
Even if hunters do a good job the first year but don’t the
second, the four-day October antlerless hunt would return in 2008
with a new start date – the Thursday nearest Oct. 15. It would be
held in units where a regular season would not be expected to bring
the population to within 20 percent of the overwinter goal.
“We need hunters to maintain a 2-to-1 harvest ratio (antlerless
deer to bucks) in many areas of the state,” Oestreicher said.
Oestreicher hunts in northern Wisconsin in a regular quota unit
with no bonus permits available. Still, he said he feels strongly
enough about the need to target antlerless deer that he used his
either-sex bow tag on an adult doe Oct. 16.
Caputo, of McFarland, said prequalification is something that
has been on the Congress’ radar for years, a real bone of
contention for hunters who couldn’t bank extra antlerless deer shot
from one year to the next.
“This is an opportunity for hunters to shoot those does during
the long season and earn a buck sticker for the following year,”
Caputo said. “And because they shot more does, hopefully they won’t
even have to use it.”
Caputo said he sees the flexibility as a positive.
“I think it’s going to lead to a lot more antlerless deer being
shot,” he said. “I give the DNR a lot of credit for saying, ‘Let’s
give it a try.’ ”
DNR big game ecologist Keith Warnke said there’s still some
concern within the DNR on whether or not hunters will take enough
antlerless deer without earn-a-buck this year. One line of thought
is that people who shoot an antlerless deer this year will have
their buck sticker and might not be compelled to shoot another
antlerless deer next year.
“On the other hand, we don’t expect that the people who already
shoot antlerless deer will stop,” Warnke said. “And from a
biological standpoint, it’s better to shoot an antlerless deer this
A heavy antlerless kill in units on the watch list this fall
will be needed for them to avoid EAB rules in 2006, Warnke said.
Hunters who want to get a buck sticker should make sure they
clearly and completely fill out their registration stub.
“The two most critical pieces of information are having the
correct deer unit and customer ID number,” Warnke said.
A new database system will help the DNR track kill by day, by
sex, by county and by unit.
The antlerless deer has to come out of a unit in 2005 that ends
up in EAB in 2006. Warnke said mobile hunters will want to be aware
of which units are on the watch list so they can shoot a deer in
that unit this yea and pre-qualify for EAB in 2006.
“Zone T is a good time to kill an antlerless deer. If your unit
is in Zone T this year, there is a good chance that it is the
second consecutive year and is on the watch list (for EAB in
2006),” Warnke said.