October Zone T in ’08: still unknown

Madison – The biggest question among hunters following the
nine-day gun deer season is whether or not the ratio of antlerless
to antlered deer killed in 2006 and 2007 is high enough to prevent
the return of Zone T antlerless deer seasons in October of
2008.

The answer is still unknown.

That’s the word from Keith Warnke, the DNR’s deer ecologist, who
reported to the Natural Resources Board at its Dec. 5 meeting that
a preliminary look through 74,000 early deer registration stubs
showed “a lot of bucks in them,” but it isn’t unusual to see a lot
of bucks registered early. Typically, more antlerless deer come in
later in the season, he said.

The meeting also took place before the December four-day
antlerless deer season. Warnke’s presentation was prepared before
the end of the muzzleloader season.

The average has to be two or more antlerless deer to each
antlered deer killed in each deer management region during a
two-year trial, or the October antlerless hunt may be implemented
in that region in 2008.

“At this point, it’s still too early to tell what the final
harvest ratio will be,” Warnke told the board. “Once final harvest
totals are tallied, we’ll look at individual harvest ratios in each
deer management unit and region to determine if performance
standards have been met.”

During the 2007 hunt, the state had 57 units under earn-a-buck
regulations, and 60 herd-control units.

Warnke told the board that success of the season has a lot to do
with the weather, and this year it was considered average. Although
there was wind and rain on opening weekend in southeastern
Wisconsin and no snow cover in the majority of the state, there was
limited snow in the north and good rutting activity on opening
weekend, which kept deer moving.

The preliminary registration total is 343,644 deer, including
218,584 antlerless deer and 125,060 bucks. The antlerless harvest
was 5.8 percent above the 2006 harvest, which Warnke said helped in
attaining deer season goals.

This year’s nine-day season appears to be the fifth highest
harvest in the state and the fourth highest in terms of antlerless
deer.

“Over 115,000 hunters pre-qualified for the earn-a-buck buck
stickers this year, and it will again be in effect for next year,”
Warnke said. “Please don’t lose your buck stickers; put them in a
safe place for next fall.”

This was the eighth year of the deer donation program, and 55
counties participated; about 10,000 deer were donated, including
750 from Buffalo County alone.

Warnke was pleased with the youth hunt, which was held this year
for the second time. It focuses on getting the next generation of
hunters involved in the hunt. He said the October hunt is a great
time for adults and parents to take youths out; the weather is
mild, which aids in the mentoring process.

This year the DNR is entering all of the deer registration stubs
into its database, rather than sending the process out to a private
business to tabulate. Warnke said this will provide greater
efficiencies and a lower error ratio, and links the results
directly to the customer database.

For instance, the total deer harvest in Unit 13 in northern
Wisconsin had 22 percent of its deer registered by residents of the
unit, 37 percent from hunters who live in the 715 area code of
northern Wisconsin, 7 percent by hunters from Minnesota, and
another 7 percent by hunters who live in the 608 area code.

Warnke reminded hunters that hunting opportunity still exists,
since the bow season extends until Jan. 6, 2008, and the CWD DEZ
landowner and DEZ hunter permits run through March 31.

Randy Stark, DNR chief conservation warden, told the board that
during the nine-day season conservation wardens reported on a
number of trends they’re seeing out in the woods: more and more
tower blinds, some of which even have TVs and heaters; an
increasing use of camouflaged portable hunting blinds; increased
use of baiting; and increased use of ATVs, particularly in the
northern half of the state.

Changes in land use and ownership patterns also are noticeable,
as evidenced by billboards that now advertise industrial forest
land for sale as hunting land. Much of this land was at one time
open to public recreation, but now hunters are being displaced and
are looking for new places to hunt.

Leasing also is becoming more common, and Stark said there are
concerns that people of ordinary means could be forced out of
hunting.

Stark said that fewer deer

drives are noted by wardens each year, as the size and
organizational efforts of hunting groups diminishes, and rural
development increases.

“The majority of hunters now seem to be hunting from fixed
positions, often for a few hours in the morning, leaving at midday,
and then perhaps returning in the late afternoon. In part, this has
reduced the number of road-hunting complaints and violations
encountered, particularly early in the season,” he said.

The 2007 season saw 1.06 hunting accidents per 100,000 hunters,
which is below the national average of 3 incidents per 100,000
hunters. One accident was self-inflicted, three occurred during
deer drives, five involved members of the same hunting party, and
one involved a juvenile shooter.

Nineteen houses were hit by bullets this year, compared with 15
in 2006 and seven in 2005. This is probably a function of more
residential development in rural areas.

Stark said that wardens are suggesting that deer tags would be
easier to use if they included drawings of a gun or bow and buck or
antlerless deer to help hunters know exactly how to use the tag. He
also said some hunters are confused between the HRZ and DEZ zones
in the CWD zones, adding that the DNR may want see if those zones
can be combined.

Board members expressed concern about the use of camouflage
portable hunting blinds during the firearms deer season. A new
state law will require hunters on state land in 2008 to put blaze
orange on their blind during the gun deer season, but the board
would like to see legislation that would require orange to be used
on blinds on private land, as well.

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