Madison — The 2017 gun deer season preliminary figures show the harvest increased in the Northern Forest Zone, but decreased in the rest of the state.
“We saw a significant increase over last year in the Northern Forest Region, showing that we have a deer herd that is generally increasing,” Eric Lobner, DNR director of wildlife management, told the Natural Resources Board (NRB).
The NRB heard the DNR annual deer season report at its meeting Dec. 12.
Preliminary registration totals for this deer season include:
- 41,241 early archery harvest (compared to 43,149 in 2016, or a 4 percent decrease);
- 42,209 early crossbow harvest (compared to 34,468 in 2016, or 23 percent increase);
- 6,983 youth hunt harvest (compared to 8,799 in 2016, or 21 percent decrease);
- 195,738 harvest during the nine-day season (compared to 196,785 in 2016, or .5 percent decrease).
Totaling all of the 2017 seasons through the nine-day gun hunt, the overall kill is 286,171, with 134,183 antlerless deer and 151,988 bucks. This is 1 percent ahead of last year at this time.
A total of 6,412 deer were tallied for the muzzleloader hunt (2,677 bucks, 3,735 antlerless).
Lobner said that potential factors in the decreased harvest in the farmland zones included a delayed corn harvest and significant rain and wind.
Though the buck kill was up 13 percent in the Northern Forest Region, it was down 3 percent in the Central Forest Region, down 1 percent in the Central Farmland Zone, and down 9 percent in the Southern Farmland Zone.
One long-term trend is clear with the buck kill – a decrease in the percentage of the gun buck harvest and a large increase in the percentage of bow and crossbow buck harvest.
In the early 1950s, the gun kill accounted for all of the buck harvest. Today the gun kill is about 69 percent of the buck harvest. The buck bow kill was nil during the early 1950s, but today is about 34 percent.
“Hunters are choosing to hunt at different times of the year and they are choosing different weapon types,” Lobner said.
Another trend? The number of yearling bucks in the harvest is decreasing; the number of older bucks is increasing.
Previously the DNR aged deer at registration stations, but now without those stations Lobner said that the DNR goes to meat processors to get aging samples.
As of Dec. 12, 8,436 samples were submitted for CWD testing; 6,617 had been analyzed. About 350 (all but three are from the Southern Farmland Zone) turned out positive – all from within existing CWD areas.
The turn-around time for hunters to receive test results was eight to 10 days, but a national shortage of testing kits slowed the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Lab. There was a backlog of 4,500 samples.
Lobner said a company in France is the only one in the world to make the test kits, which also affects testing in other states.
The DNR had 115 in-person CWD sampling stations statewide and provided 100 self-sampling pilot test kits to hunters, of which 32 were turned in.
In an effort to slow the disease, the DNR gave brochures to out-of-state hunters who might take deer to their home state, and encouraged hunters who registered deer from CWD-positive counties to have their deer tested.
Ninety-four meat processors in 52 counties participated in the food pantry program. So far, 1,330 deer have been donated, accounting for 53,200 pounds of venison. This would make 212,300 quarter-pound burgers.
DNR raised the rate it pays processors from $55 to $65 per deer; carcasses in CWD counties were processed for $75.
New web videos
DNR changed the way it reached out to hunters this season, abandoning the one-hour deer hunting special TV program that was produced outside the DNR. The agency used more social media by producing “Wild Wisconsin” video segments for its website.
Lobner credited the DNR communication staff saying, “We launched the web Wild Wisconsin series and I would say it was a resounding success.”
The effort was supported by Legendary Whitetails, Mayville Engineering, Vortex Optics, and Meat Eaters.
“Our cost was about half of what we had previously done, or about 14 cents per view,” he said.
NRB member Greg Kazmierski said he heard some “pushback” about the sponsorship. He wondered if they were hand-picked, or was it by open bid?
Lobner said the new program cost $29,000. The DNR spent $13,000 in marketing costs, but received $8,300 from sponsors to help reduce costs.
Funding came from hunter license funds and Pittman-Robertson federal funds. Lobner said the DNR feels the branding costs for “Wild Wisconsin” will be reduced in future years now that it is off the ground.
Lobner said previously it cost the DNR $36,000 to produce the annual deer TV show.
Erik Barber, DNR communications specialist, said with a TV program the only option was to watch it on TV, while the new Wild Wisconsin can be viewed at any time on the web-site. If a viewer has a question on new rules they can watch that segment without having to watch an entire hour-long show. If there is a last-minute rule change, the DNR can make a change and put it up immediately.
“We’re focusing on how the public is receiving information – a lot of that is through videos and social media,” Lobner said.
NRB member Gary Zimmer congratulated the DNR, saying with all the changes right before the season it was a “yeoman’s job” done by the DNR.