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Deer Season Forecast
Posted on: 11/5/2012
Wisconsin hunters annually harvest more deer and more record class bucks than almost every other state. Hunter success during the 2011 deer hunting season varied across the state, but overall proved to be a successful one for many hunters. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) is committed to managing this big-game resource to maintain a healthy, ecologically balanced and sustainable deer herd. Let’s take a moment to look at the 2012 Deer Season Forecast by District.
The 2012 District Deer Season Forecast is an excerpt of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources 2012 Fall Hunting & Trapping Forecast. To download the complete forecast, visit http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/hunt/documents/forecast.pdf
Deer populations in northern Wisconsin got a real boost this past year. An extremely mild winter combined with early spring conditions really helped deer come out of the winter in great shape. The early spring green-up allowed deer to put weight back on quickly and likely contributed to heavier weight fawns and multiple fawns surviving. In the past, these conditions usually result in good antler development in bucks. I would expect hunters will see this during the 2012 deer hunting season. Local DNR deer managers in the north recognize that deer are not equally distributed across the landscape. In other words, in some areas there may be very few deer and other areas more deer. This can be very frustrating for the deer hunter, me included.
The DNR also recognizes that we do not have all the answers and we need to rely on others for more information. This year, for example, our quota recommendations were developed based on reasonable and realistic levels from input we received from hunters attending our public deer forums. We also rely on what hunters see out in the field. It is especially important to receive this information prior to the hunting season from the Summer Deer Observation survey during the months of August and September. Anyone can participate in this survey and send the results into the DNR. We always welcome more input and help with managing our deer herd. We share responsibility in this valued resource.
Another challenge we are all facing in Northern Wisconsin is the detection of a CWD-positive deer in Washburn County. This deer showed up as a ‘sick’ deer on the opening weekend of the nine-day gun season last year. It was euthanized and the test results clearly indicated it was CWD-positive. We are taking this very seriously, but we are also approaching it in a calm manner. We have developed a community-based approach to manage CWD in this area. We are reaching out to people in the community for ideas and feedback in how we should proceed. Our first step is to determine the extent of the disease and to share this information widely. We have been collecting samples from road-killed deer and from willing landowners who are interested in getting more deer tested from their own property prior to the hunting season. During the fall deer season we will be testing hunter-harvested deer from an area over 300 square miles in size around this CWD-positive sample. This will be the first step to determine the extent of the disease. We must first determine if this is a ‘spark’ that can be snuffed out or a ‘widespread fire’ that we may have to manage. We will be relying on hunters in this area to make sure they get any adult deer harvested in this area sampled. After we learn about the extent of this disease, we will then collectively determine the appropriate response based on our community-based approach to manage CWD in northwest Wisconsin.
West Central District
Twenty-one of the district’s 30 deer management units are at least 20% over their overwinter population goal and will have a Herd Control Unit season framework to help hunters manage deer in these units. Herd Control antlerless permits issued with deer licenses will be valid in these units, and additional antlerless permits will be available for $2.00 each. The nine remaining deer management units that have deer populations close to their overwinter goal will have a Regular Unit season framework, meaning the Herd Control tag issued with your deer license is not valid in these units; hunters who would like to harvest an antlerless deer in these units will need to purchase a unit-specific antlerless deer carcass tag. These tags are available starting on August 18, and cost $12.00 for residents or $20.00 for non-residents.
Mike Soergel, wildlife technician at Baldwin, notes that deer hunters should be aware of additional hunting opportunities on private lands enrolled in the Voluntary Public Access program. There are participating landowners in 10 counties scattered across the West Central District.
According to Wayne Hall, Wood County wildlife biologist, the moderate mid-summer drought in the southern half of the district may impact deer and deer hunters if it continues much longer. Lack of moisture certainly influences vegetation which, in turn, influences deer behavior. Hall also reminds deer hunters that it remains important to understand that deer are not evenly distributed across the landscape. Preseason scouting to look for habitat changes, food resources, bedding areas, and deer movement patterns will increase any hunter’s chance of success.
From the rural ridge and valley country with its higher concentration of habitat in the northwestern portions of the district, to the scattered farmlands, grasslands, and urban centers in the south and east, the Southern District’s deer herd varies as much as does the habitat. Good opportunities for deer hunting exist throughout the district, but deer distribution varies greatly, depending on habitat and hunting pressure. In general, the Southern District deer herd has grown slightly from last year, and hunters should have excellent opportunities this fall.
A mild winter followed by early spring brought does through winter in excellent shape and this year’s fawns were born into a lush environment that turned hot and dry through the summer. While the drought shouldn’t affect the number of deer, it will result in parts of the district experiencing poor agricultural crop and acorn production and reduced ground cover which may result in localized changes in deer movement. If drought conditions continue into the fall, reduced food availability may require deer to travel more to find available food sources which has the potential to increase deer visibility as well as hunter success.
Most of our southern deer are harvested on private lands which make up more than 90% of the landscape, but good deer hunting can also be found on the hundreds of thousands of acres of county, state, and federally owned lands open to deer hunting in the Southern District. Hunters that are interested in finding public land available for hunting should check out the Wisconsin DNR website at dnr.wi.gov; keyword: Explore Outdoors. Hunters interested in hunting on private lands are advised to get out well in advance of deer season to meet with landowners and seek permission to hunt.
Lastly, hunters should remember that the majority of the Southern District falls within the CWD Management Zone, so specific rules apply for this area. In particular, hunters have additional hunting opportunities provided to them through extended December seasons and Bonus Buck rules that are in effect in those areas.
Deer populations in the Northeast Region continue to increase after three consecutive years of conservative antlerless harvest and good fawn production. All of our Deer Management Units (DMU) south of State Highway 64 and DMU 51A to the north remain in Herd Control status. None of these unit populations were reduced measurably by the 2011 season, and most showed continued herd growth. Hunting parties in Herd Control units should strive to harvest at least two antlerless deer for each buck taken to do their part to maintain the flexible harvest options that we have had the previous three seasons.
The northern forest DMUs in our district experienced nice increases in buck harvest in 2011 and none of our units will be ‘buck-only’ in 2012. Most northeast forest units are close to goal populations, except 49A which continues to experience productivity challenges.
Antlerless harvests in our farmland units increased modestly in 2011, but not enough to keep up with herd productivity in most cases. Fawn productivity will likely be good again this year, and although some hunters will remain understandably conservative with antlerless harvest in pockets of low deer numbers, farmland unit hunters generally need to be comfortable harvesting antlerless deer in order to stabilize herd size and avoid more aggressive harvest regulations in the future. Hunters are crucial to management of deer populations, and can demonstrate their value to all Wisconsin citizens and future generations of hunters by maintaining deer populations in balance with the ecological and social landscapes. Utilizing antlerless tags not only promotes responsible deer management, it produces a naturally healthy and sustainable source of red meat protein for the family freezer inventory.This entry was posted in Things to Do