Sunday, January 29th, 2023
Sunday, January 29th, 2023

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DNR expects high whitetail harvest

Staff Report

Madison — Could hunters hit a 2006 bow, rifle, and muzzleloader
deer harvest in the range of 500,00 animals?

They could.

And, if they do, hunters will have taken a big step toward
getting most deer units close to long-range goals, according to
Keith Warnke, the DNR’s state deer ecologist.

“We were at an overall harvest of about 468,000 deer last year,
so, with the way the framework is set up this year, and the tags
that are available, 500,000 is certainly a possibility. If we hit
500,000, that would definitely be on the way to sound population
management,” he said.

But Warnke dislikes making projections or predictions, when it
comes to deer harvest.

“It really doesn’t matter how many deer we shoot – the end
number is going to be high once again. What is important is that in
the herd-control units we are hitting the two-to-one ratio – that
we hit two antlerless deer for every buck,” he said.

Although the DNR did not yet have much available last week in
terms of early archery or youth deer hunt harvest totals, Warnke
did see a preliminary report on deer kills in some of the state’s
2006 earn-a-buck units. He didn’t talk specific numbers, but said
he was encouraged by the early feedback.

“It looks like archers were killing seven-to-one antlerless deer
in the early going, but that usually evens out once the rut
starts,” Warnke said. “Antlerless deer are more susceptible (than
bucks) early in the season, and there is the earn-a-buck
requirement, so more archers are shooting does, but still I’m
encouraged overall to see that kind of a ratio.”

Warnke noted that in 2005, hunters in herd-control units shot
four antlerless deer for every buck, so the preliminary EAB results
from this year almost double the 2005 efforts.

As for predicting what hunters can expect for opening weekend,
Warnke said that’s always difficult because so much of the opening
weekend success depends on weather.

“We do have a Nov. 18 opener, which is one of the earliest
possible openers, so we should catch part of the rut, at least in
some areas of the state,” he said.

“We also want cool or cold temperatures so that we have frozen
water in swamps, we want snow, and we want light, steady winds, but
we’re not in control of any of that stuff.”

There’s one thing that Warnke does know: He wants hunters to
have fun this year.

“I’m a hunter. Hunting is one of my favorite things in the
world. Get out there and hunt, and have fun. Our number one
priority should be having fun and being safe,” he said.

This year, the gun deer season will run Nov. 18-26. The gun hunt
will be immediately followed by a 10-day muzzleloader season, which
will run Nov. 27 through Dec. 6.

Then hunters will enter a trial season – the new statewide
December antlerless deer hunt that will run Dec. 7-10. That season
– at least temporarily – replaces this year’s four-day October
antlerless deer season.

If the December antlerless hunt is not effective enough from a
herd management perspective, the October hunt may be reinstated in
the future, Warnke said.

In both CWD zones, a second gun season will open Nov. 18 and
continue through Dec. 10.

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