Thursday, February 9th, 2023
Thursday, February 9th, 2023

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Archers set to take aim on Sept. 18

Madison – A mild winter, no earn-a-buck outside the chronic
wasting disease units last year, and a 2009 gun season opener that
likely saved more deer than usual are among the reasons to be
optimistic about this year’s archery deer hunt.

Jeff Schinkten, of Sturgeon Bay, the national president of
Whitetails Unlimited, Inc., said WTU’s staff of hunters are excited
about the prospects for the 2010 season, which begins Saturday,
Sept. 18.

“There are a few extra deer in the woods this year,” Schinkten
said. “We’re pumped.”

Despite annual complaints from hunters critical of DNR herd
estimates, deer hunting in Wisconsin is still world-class,
Schinkten said, ranking at or near the top in both total harvest
and Pope & Young and Boone & Crockett entries.

“Are there deer everywhere?” Schinkten asks. “No, but you can’t
just blanket the state and say deer are down everywhere, either.
There are always some spots with a lot of deer. In those places,
sure, take some out (to better balance the herd), but if you’re not
seeing many in your hunt area – or you want a chance at a trophy
buck – you might choose to let ’em walk again this year. It can pay
dividends down the road.”

DNR Wildlife Biologist Jeff Pritzl agreed that deer numbers vary
greatly, from some units having estimates of less than 10 deer per
square mile of habitat on the low end to highs in the
40-deer-per-square mile range.

“Some people like to hunt those areas with fewer deer, because
fewer deer means fewer hunters,” Pritzl said. “They’re more
interested in the actual scouting and pursuit than the ‘this is
where I always sit and I hope deer come by’ sort of thing.”

On the other hand, there are areas that have a good number of
deer. Pritzl heard loud and clear from a lot of hunters last year –
mostly those north of Green Bay – that they weren’t seeing many
deer.

“Some of those people made a point of calling me (this summer)
to tell me they’re seeing more deer, and things are looking up,”
Pritzl said.

One of the callers shared an interesting story about how “back
in the good old days” he was nervous driving back from his camp,
wary of deer crossing roads. The last few years, he hasn’t been
nervous.

“But this year, he said he’s getting kind of nervous again,”
Pritzl said.

Last year’s mild winter and standing corn in many places are
among the signs that point toward good productivity, though Pritzl
said summer deer sightings by DNR staff were just arriving in late
August.

A wet summer likely helped produce more natural forage, which
could eventually translate to better weights and rack sizes.
However, it also means lots of mosquitoes and wet swamps. Pritzl
said the mild winter and ample forage should mean more “fork”
bucks.

“The last couple years (following hard winters), we saw an
increase of spikes,” Pritzl said. “I would suspect we wouldn’t see
that this year.”

Pritzl believes last year’s less-than-ideal opening-weekend gun
season conditions (fog in many areas both mornings, mild
temperatures, and more than 1 million acres of standing corn)
likely saved a lot of bucks. The gun buck kill was the worst in
three decades, yet archers posted their fourth best antlered buck
kill. All of the top 10 archery kills have taken place in the past
11 years. The lone miss was 2002, a season marred by fears of the
new-found CWD.

2010 deer season rules

For the second straight year, earn-a-buck rules are indefinitely
suspended outside of the CWD Zone. Again, all 22 CWD units are
unlimited EAB.

The only time bucks can’t be targeted there is during the Oct.
14-17 and Dec. 9-12 four-day antlerless hunts. The October hunt
will be held in all herd-control and CWD units; the December hunt
is statewide, except state park units and non-quota areas.

New this year, 19 units – 18 regular units and Council Grounds
State Park – are antlered bucks-only for most hunters during all
seasons, including archery. That’s a first in modern times for bow
deer hunters. Exceptions apply for certain armed forces members,
disabled hunters, and first-time hunter education graduates.

Antlerless deer carcass tags will not be valid for most hunters
in following units: 7, 13, 28, 29A, 29B, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39,
41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 49A, 52, and 52A. Forty-four regular units had
antlerless tags available, but some units sold out quickly.

Hunters in the 46 herd-control units will again get a free
antlerless carcass tag with each deer license purchased (two with a
Conservation Patron license).

Also new this year, there is no longer a three-day waiting
period to use archery licenses purchased during the open season,
and nonresidents age 65 and older may use a crossbow if they so
choose – the same as residents age 65 or older.

Archers in regular and herd-control units have 104 days of
hunting. The early bow deer season runs Sept. 18 through Nov. 18;
the late hunt runs Nov. 29 through Jan. 9, 2011. The seasons in
metro (134 days) and CWD units (114 days) run even longer. The late
hunt in metro units begins Nov. 20 and ends Jan. 31, 2011; CWD unit
archers have a straight shot, Sept. 18 through Jan. 9, 2011.

In addition to the non-quota units this season, archers may not
target bucks during the October and December antlerless gun
seasons. They can during the two-day youth gun deer hunt Oct. 9-10,
but like the four-day antlerless seasons, they must comply with the
blaze orange rules.

More big bucks?

A year after a new state record non-typical buck and many other
monsters were shot by archers – often in former EAB units – one has
to wonder if the trophy potential will drop off.

Pritzl doesn’t think so, believing the shift to more older bucks
is here to stay.

“Earn-a-buck helped move things along, but it’s not the only
factor,” Pritzl said. “If hunter mentality goes back to ‘this might
be the only chance I get, and I’m going to take it,’ that might
mean a return to high mortality on younger bucks, but I don’t see
that happening.”

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