Keep SAK, ban bait, say ‘deer teams’

Stevens Point, Wis. — The four citizen action teams that were formed March 9 to help implement ideas from the deer trustee report reached the halfway point in their deliberations and are leaning in certain directions – like keeping the sex-age-kill model and banning deer feeding and baiting.

The teams focused on four areas: herd health, simplifying seasons and rules, developing better procedures for conducting research, and creating a deer management assistance program.

After three other meetings, the 43 members of the four teams were on hand for a meeting June 8 at UW-Stevens Point to update their progress as they continue moving forward.

Kurt Thiede, the DNR’s Land Division administrator, welcomed team members and the public.

“A tenet of the deer trustee report was to make sure the public had input into deer management,” Thiede said. “We’ve had online chats, and today’s meeting is being streamed live over the Internet, so those watching also will have an opportunity to ask questions.”

In March, a survey was distributed to hunters as another means to collect deer management comments.

“The survey focused on broad, long-term deer topics, and over 9,000 responses were completed,” Thiede said. “The action teams are considering the survey results in developing proposals.”
DMAP

The 10-member DMAP team faced the unique challenge of creating a new program. In addition to the meetings in Stevens Point, members held a teleconference with Dr. David Guynn, one of the three deer trustees responsible for the report.

The team supports statewide DMAP on private and public lands, including the CWD zone.

Program components include:
• A free on-site consultation from a biologist and forester, with the landowner receiving a packet of information detailing specifics of the program;
• Providing landowners with instruction on conducting wildlife inventories and monitoring resources;
• Requiring participants to collect and report harvest data.

The hiring of a DMAP coordinator was supported. Members said the coordinator should work in the field, making property visits and working with landowners. Tom Hauge, DNR Bureau of Wildlife

Management director, said that a job description for the position is being completed. He expects recruitment to begin this summer, and hopes to have the coordinator on the job this fall.

The team wants a DMAP antlerless permit system, with tags to be issued by property-specific assessments. Members also support an annual meeting for DMAP participants where a variety of harvest data could be shared.

They favored working with biologists and foresters from other groups in conducting annual range evaluations to assess habitat health, and expanding the use of satellite imagery to aid in the effort. A DMAP fee around $50 also is being considered.

“This program will have landowners and the public working with the DNR, not rich people doing what they want,” team member Andy Pantzlaff said.

Herd health/CWD

The 11 members listed 14 ideas for improving CWD detection and preventing its spread.

They agree with the deer trustees’ report in taking a more passive approach to controlling CWD rather than trying to eradicate a deer population. However, they recommend continuing to reduce the herd to minimize animal contact and slow the spread of CWD.

In the CWD zone, they suggest returning to a nine-day gun season, with the regular archery, muzzleloader, and youth hunts. The team favors a reduced holiday hunt for antlerless deer only, and setting a total yearly maximum per-person harvest.

Team members recognize that more funding may be needed to expand testing. They suggest a license fee hike of $2 to $5.

While there is no evidence that people can acquire CWD from eating meat, providing more information on human health risks of CWD and variants like Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is recommended.

The team also proposed reducing the time required for getting test results from two weeks to a few days.

Regulations/seasons

With 20 members, this team offered several proposals for changing the state’s deer-hunting framework. They favored:
• Reducing the number of units, leaving the Northern Forest Region and Central Forest Region boundaries intact, and combining Farmland regions into three units;
• Simplifying the process by setting harvest regulations and antlerless quotas on three-year cycles, with the forest regions continuing on a one-year cycle;
• Increasing antlerless tag costs and charging a fee for antlerless tags in the CWD zone;
• Limiting antlerless harvest in regular and herd-control zones;
• Maintaining the current limit of one buck per gun license and one buck per archery license.

They also proposed that gun and archery tags be valid for either-sex deer in farmland regions, with the same license valid for only bucks in the forest regions. Hunters wishing to shoot more deer would buy a package of three antlerless tags for $20.

The team suggested that the DNR base antlerless permit quotas on unit demand rather than SAK data, population estimates, or other indicators.

Responding to concerns about shooting too many antlerless deer on public land, the team proposed restricting the days for gun hunting with allowable harvest on any property with public access.

Bowhunting and the muzzleloader season would not change.

Team members also favored discontinuing the October antlerless hunt in the CWD zone but allowing the DNR to retain authority to allow an early hunt only on private land in the zone.

In an attempt to send a message to the Legislature, the team supported a baiting ban, 13-2. Members also favored curtailing deer feeding and giving the Conservation Congress a more active role in deer management.

Science/research

This 12-member team was charged with providing direction and serving as a sounding board for science and research efforts.

Members tackled the thorny issue of the controversial SAK accounting model for monitoring deer population size and trends. After rejecting the deer trustees’ recommendation to severely limit use of SAK, they suggested its continued use on a scale larger than the current units.

They also want to explore ways to examine and incorporate local knowledge into deer estimates while the DNR continues to collect registration and harvest-age data during gun season.

The team supports retaining population goals, but encourages development of additional metrics for monitoring populations and evaluating unit goals on a three-year cycle, and including valid local input in setting goals.

They also recommended reducing the number of units while aggregating current units and maintaining recognizable boundaries.

The team endorsed continued research of predators, including geospatial studies and sustainable harvest of predators to monitor trends in population growth and predation.

There also was support for widespread use of trail cameras to study predators and to enlist more citizens in monitoring predator activity.

Moving forward

All teams emphasized the need for more effective communication with all stakeholders and the general public. Following the meeting, all teams met for another two hours to work on proposals.

Teams will meet June 29 and July 20, when they will present their final reports.

The DNR’s writing of administrative rules, based on the recommendations, will occur from July 20 through Aug. 26. In late September, the Natural Resources Board will review the proposed rules and will request a public hearing that is likely to take place in October.

In December, the NRB will review public comment and act on adopting the rules, which are expected to be in place for the 2014 hunting season.

How would hunters feel about a statewide ban on deer baiting and feeding? An increase in the price of a deer license to help pay for CWD surveillance? Fewer days of gun hunting for antlerless deer on public lands?

These are among proposals being considered as the state moves toward implementation of the deer trustees’ report.

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