WI: State gun deer take recovers, somewhat

Madison – Preliminary numbers for the just-ended 2010 gun deer
season show Wisconsin hunters harvested 218,144 whitetails, an
increase of 11 percent statewide from 2009. All told, hunters
registered 102,006 bucks (a 17-percent increase) while 116,138
antlerless deer were taken (approximately 7 percent above
2009).

Officials caution, however, that the nine-day harvest numbers
are preliminary and are expected to change somewhat before a final
report is published in late winter.

Changes to the season structure make meaningful comparisons to
previous seasons difficult, however.

“The season included more regular units with a substantial
number of buck-only units, as many units in the Northern and
Central Forest regions are close to population goals or are below
goals,” DNR Big Game Ecologist Keith Warnke said.

When compared with years prior to 2009, the number of deer
harvested is still below historical figures. In 2008, 276,985 deer
were harvested in Wisconsin. That figure also was down
substantially from 2007 when 343,767 deer were killed during the
nine-day season.

Some regions that have been hit exceptionally hard include
Ashland County in the Northern Region where 1,246 deer were shot in
2010, while 1,613 were harvested in 2009, 2,508 in 2008, and 3,545
in 2007. While the harvest was up in Florence County (from 829 to
1,304), it still remained below the 2008 total of 1,411 and far
below the 2007 kill of 2,785.

Florence County led the way in the Northern Region; the harvest
increased from 829 to 1,304.

While the 2010 harvest in Marinette County in the Northeastern
Region was up 3.74 percent over last year at 4,381, the figure for
2008 stood at 5,383, and more than 8,000 deer were shot in
2007.

“Wildlife management, and especially deer management, is a
process of continual adjustment,” Warnke said. “This season’s
structure was influenced by deer hunters, population goal changes,
last year’s deer harvest, and the resulting estimated local deer
populations.”

The West Central Region of the state had the largest harvest of
any of the DNR’s five regions, with 76,892 deer shot. The harvest
there was up by more than 3 percent from 2009. In contrast, the
eight-county Southeast Region recorded a harvest of just more than
5,000 deer, but that was an increase of about 10 percent from
2009.

The Northern Region had the second highest total harvest with
58,463 whitetails registered, an increase of more than 18 percent.
The Northeastern Region came in next with a harvest of 43,222,
while the South Central Region recorded 34,522 deer killed.

Mike Rogers, of Prairie du Sac in Sauk County, reported
excellent hunting opportunities in his county, which had the
largest harvest (6,003) for the South Central Region. Some hunters
in Marinette County, however, are not happy.

Harold Grandaw is the patriarch of the Horse Apple Hill Deer
Camp near Dunbar in Marinette County. He has been keeping records
since the early 1980s. Of the 39 people affiliated with the group,
only nine shot bucks this year, Grandaw said. Another nine hunters
saw no deer.

“They were up there all week (units 41, 45, and 50), and they
are good hunters. You used to get 18 or 19 bucks back in the early
’90s,” he said.

“We would be all right if they would just leave the does alone
for a couple of years,” Grandaw said. “The (local) biologist just
won’t listen. We keep telling him there are no deer.”

Many hunters in Iron County also were left empty-handed, as only
470 deer were harvested. Of those, 453 were bucks, with only 17
antlerless deer taken in the largely buck-only county. The harvest
there was down by about 21 percent from 2009. The figures for 2009,
2008, and 2007 were 597, 1,009 and 1,536, respectively.

By the conclusion of the season on Nov. 28, the number of gun
deer licenses sold reached 621,000, according to DNR figures. This
number was down 3 percent from the 2009 season. Archery license
sales, however, followed recent trends with an increase of 510
licenses sold in 2010.

As in the past, many hunters waited until the last minute to buy
a gun deer license. At one point late on the Friday before opening
day, computers showed license sales coming in a rate of 333
transactions per minute. Hunters bought 235,547 licenses in the
five days before the opener. Deer license and tag sales continued
throughout the gun deer season.

“There are still days to hunt in 2010,” Warnke said.

The muzzleloader hunt began Nov. 29 and ran through Dec. 8 for
hunters holding unused gun buck and antlerless deer tags, Warnke
said. “And there’s the statewide antlerless deer hunt Dec. 9-12,”
he added.

A holiday hunt within the Chronic Wasting Disease Management
Zone will run from Dec. 24 through Jan. 9.

In February, DNR biologists will use unit-level harvest numbers
to develop over-winter population estimates and will propose season
structures for 2011 in March. The Natural Resources Board will take
up the proposal at its April meeting.

DNR officials are requesting assistance with two other
initiatives. The Deer Hunter Wildlife Survey is active until the
end of all deer seasons. Wildlife managers are urging hunters to
keep sending in reports of what they saw during the just-completed
nine-day gun season and upcoming special hunts.

Volunteers also are needed to accompany and assist researchers
in obtaining permission to access private property, live-capturing
deer, fitting them with radio transmitters, and then observing the
marked deer for causes of death, fawn production, and fawn
survival.

The 2010 gun season was relatively safe once again with only
four incidents recorded.

Young hunters also proved themselves to be safe and responsible,
according to Diane Brookbank, chief of the DNR’s licensing and
customer service unit. Mentored gun deer licenses purchased by 10-
and 11-year olds totaled 11,331 in 2010, about 1,400 more than in
2009.

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