Wednesday, February 1st, 2023
Wednesday, February 1st, 2023

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DNR to continue late antlerless deer hunt

Staff Report

Madison — State deer hunters will not see an October antlerless
season in 2007, but the DNR warns that type of season could return
if hunters don’t kill more antlerless deer in most regions of the
state this fall.

State hunters held the October season at bay by killing enough
deer to set a new archery harvest record and a third overall best
state deer harvest ever, according to Keith Warnke, DNR state deer
ecologist.

Harvest numbers, which are still considered preliminary, include
a record archery harvest of 111,271 (70,651 antlerless) and 388,708
with gun (250,629 antlerless).

Overall, the antlered count was at 175,355, the antlerless at
321,280, and unknowns – usually improperly filled out registration
stubs – stood at 3,344, for a total of 499,979 deer.

In deer units designated as “herd-control units,” hunters shot
about 1.7 antlerless deer for each antlered deer, Warnke said. This
is above the 1.4-1 ratio needed to continue the October moratorium
into a second year, but “well short” of the 2-1 ratio needed over
the two-year trial period to discontinue the October antlerless
hunt in the future, he said.

“We hope to work with hunters to make a real concerted effort on
antlerless deer (this fall), or the October hunt will return (in
2008),” Warnke said.

The moratorium on the old Zone T season was implemented on a
two-year trial following more than a year-long effort involving
wildlife managers and deer hunters to develop a new strategy to
control Wisconsin’s burgeoning deer herd. Many hunters – especially
archery hunters – did not like the October antlerless hunt,
referred to in past years as a Zone T hunt. Although it was
effective at reducing deer populations, hunters believed the
October hunt interfered with archery deer hunting and caused
behavioral changes in deer that made hunting more difficult.

The Natural Resources Board approved the new season on a trail
basis with an option to reinstate October gun deer hunting after
one year if deer harvests in herd-control units dropped below a
1.4-1 antlerless to buck ratio, and with a return to the October
hunt if the antlerless to antlered ratio was below 2-1 over the
two-year trial.

Other provisions of the trial deer season framework
included:

  • providing hunters with one free antlerless tag for use in
    herd-control and earn-a-buck units;
  • making unlimited additional herd-control antlerless tags
    available for $2 each;
  • eliminating the hunter’s choice permit program;
  • providing archers with an additional archery antlerless deer
    carcass tag; and
  • expanding the youth hunt to two days.

The state is broken into five deer management regions (Western
Farmland, Southern Farmland, Eastern Farmland, Central Forest, and
Northern Forest), which are further divided into 135 deer
units.

“Each region will be evaluated separately,” Warnke says. “If the
2 to 1 harvest ratio is met in any of the regions, there will not
be an October hunt in that entire region.”

Of the five regions, only the Central Forest Region is at the
2-1 ratio.

According to DNR estimates, up to 1.7 million deer roamed the
woods last fall. Ideally, the DNR wants 1.1 million deer when
hunting begins.

In 2005, archers and gun hunters killed nearly 468,000 deer, the
sixth best season in history. Wisconsin holds the record for most
deer killed in a single year – 616,000 in 2000.

The state’s record antlered buck kill was set in 2000 at
212,322. The doe and fawn mark was reached the same season,
402,961. About one-quarter of the antlerless kill annually is buck
fawns.

In the first seven seasons of this century, state hunters
already have tagged nearly 3.4 million whitetails. That’s more than
the 1960s and ‘70s combined, all 10 hunts of the ’80s, and well
ahead of the record pace of the 1990s.

Deer herd status meetings begin across the state this week for
all deer units. DNR wildlife managers will discuss deer harvest
results by DMU, population estimates, proposed antlerless quotas
for the units, and the likelihood of reaching those quotas with the
regular nine-day hunting season framework. A list of the meetings
can be found on the DNR website.

Wisconsin Outdoor News editor Dean Bortz and correspondent
Kevin Naze contributed to this report.

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