MADISON – Opening weekend of the 2007 Gun Deer Hunt is at the doorstep, and state wildlife officials say prospects are excellent, especially for those hunters who take time to scout their hunting areas before heading out.
“The herd is large and healthy and rutting activity is under way,” said Keith Warnke, deer and bear ecologist for the state Department of Natural Resources. “There is plenty of good hunting opportunity in all areas of the state but as always, the best chances for success go to hunters who’ve done the early legwork, scouting out travel lanes, food, water and bedding sites in order to be at the right place on opening morning.”
Biologists emphasize that it’s not too late to do some scouting.
“Deer respond to changes in their habitat and range over time,” says Warnke. “They change their patterns and routines in response to their environment. A tree stand or blind that provided good hunting in past years may not be as productive today due to changes in available food, forest cover, development, and other factors. Some of these changes take place slowly over time and aren’t as noticeable to hunters but they do affect deer behavior.”
Wisconsin’s deer herd is estimated at between 1.6 and 1.8 million animals heading into the nine-day Nov. 17-25 gun hunt, which will be followed by a muzzleloader only hunt Nov. 26 – Dec. 5 and a statewide antlerless deer only gun hunt Dec. 6-9. Deer hunters have harvested, on average, at least 460,000 deer every year for the last 10 years. Wisconsin’s deer harvest holds 3 places in the top ten North American deer harvests and in 2006 Wisconsin archery hunters established a new Wisconsin harvest record of 113,918.
DNR launches expanded call center features 1-888-WDNR-INFo
On Nov. 2, Department of Natural Resources Secretary Matt Frank announced the availability of an expanded toll-free 1-888-WDNR-INFo (936-7463) information center and violation hotline. The expanded call center will be staffed from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week to answer questions and to accept tips on violations. Spanish and Hmong speaking operators are available and the expanded service also features an electronic chat room where emailed questions usually will be answered within minutes.
“I’m very excited about these new customer services, especially on the eve of the deer season, one of our busiest times of the year,” said Frank. “Our call center staff are available when you need them, by phone or on-line. These services bring the DNR to you at your convenience and I invite you to try them out.”
Prequalification for Earn-a-Buck
Along with scouting it’s not too late to head out with a bow and prequalify for a buck sticker by shooting and registering an antlerless deer in anyone of the state’s 57 Earn-a-Buck (EAB) deer management units. Thousands of hunters have taken advantage of this relatively new program that allows hunters hunting in EAB units to have a buck sticker in their pocket on opening day of the gun deer season. They earned the buck sticker by either shooting and registering an antlerless deer in 2006 in a hunting unit that is part of the EAB hunt in 2007 or by killing an antlerless deer during the early bow season or with a gun during the October gun hunts in any of this year’s Chronic Wasting Disease units.
Stickers earned in 2006 were mailed to hunters beginning in August. Hunters who think they should have received a sticker but haven’t, should immediately check for their name on the prequalification database by going to the DNR Web site or by stopping into a Service Center. Time is running short to mail stickers in time for the opener. Hunters who already have a sticker need to hang on to it: lost stickers are not replaceable.
Baiting and feeding
Wildlife biologists and conservation wardens recommend that people who hunt deer over bait review Wisconsin’s deer baiting and feeding regulations found on the DNR Web site and on page 40 of the 2007 Wisconsin Deer Hunting Regulations pamphlet to avoid unintentional violations. Baiting and feeding of deer is prohibited in 26 counties and is regulated in all remaining counties.
Protected wild animals
Wolves and coyotes
Wolves and coyotes
The gray wolf was removed from the list of endangered and threatened species in Wisconsin but is still classified as a protected wild animal. Persons shooting a wolf are subject to citation and fine and possible loss of equipment and hunting privileges.
“Removing the gray wolf from the endangered and threatened species list did not automatically mean they can be hunted,” said Adrian Wydeven, DNR mammalian ecologist and wolf specialist. “If anyone is experiencing problems with what they believe to be wolf depredation on livestock or pets they should call us immediately.”
The department and its partner USDA-Wildlife Services actively investigate all complaints and will remove known depredating wolves.
Hunters are also reminded that coyote hunting is closed in roughly the northern third of the state during the gun deer seasons, which this year run from Nov. 17 through Dec. 9. This includes the nine-day gun deer hunt, the muzzleloader hunt and the December antlerless deer gun hunt. For more information and boundaries of the closed zone refer to page 52 of the 2007 Wisconsin Deer Hunting Regulations pamphlet available at license outlets and on the Hunting Regulations page of the DNR Web site.
Elk and Moose
Hunters are also reminded to look carefully and be certain of their target if they are hunting in the area of Wisconsin’s growing elk herd. Elk are protected wild animals in Wisconsin and it is illegal to shoot them. Elk are native to Wisconsin and once roamed over much of the state. Efforts to reintroduce them are underway and the growing herd is closely monitored.
Occasionally moose are found in Wisconsin, especially in the counties bordering the Michigan Upper Peninsula and these large mammals are also protected.
All hunters born after Jan. 1, 1973 are required to provide proof of successfully completing a Wisconsin hunter safety course or a similar course from another state to buy a hunting license in Wisconsin. More than 940,000 hunters have competed the training. In addition to learning about hunting laws, tactics and ethics, the four cardinal rules of gun safety are stressed. Known as “TAB-K” the simple to understand guidelines are:
- Treat every gun as if it is loaded;
- Always point the muzzle in a safe direction;
- Be sure of your target and what’s beyond it;
- Keep your finger out of the trigger guard until you are ready to shoot.
“Every year one of the most common sources of injury while hunting is falling out of a tree stand,” said Tim Lawhern, Wisconsin hunter safety education coordinator. “Our records show that one out of three hunters who use stands will be injured at some time. So in addition to your preseason deer scouting, check out your tree stand before opening morning. Make sure it’s safe and solid and either repair or replace anything that’s missing, looks worn or suspicious.
“Also, leave a hunting plan with someone at home or another member of your hunting party. It should list where you are hunting and when you’ll be home or when you’ll check in. It’s good insurance in case you become lost or disabled in the woods.”
2007 marks the second year of a two-year trial moratorium on October gun hunting outside of CWD zones requested by hunting groups.
The trial was designed to determine whether or not hunters could reach a 2-to-1 antlerless to buck harvest ratio in Herd Control units across the state over the two year span. The 2-to-1 ratio is necessary to pressure deer populations downward closer to established population goals.
Only one region (the Central Forest Region) of Wisconsin’s five deer management regions met the 2-to-1 goal in 2006. It is likely that October gun hunting will return to much of Wisconsin in 2008 say wildlife managers.
Nonetheless, deer and bear ecologist Warnke is optimistic hunters can get the herd close to unit population goals with several years of good effort.
“Hunters are making real progress at managing deer populations,” says Warnke. “Getting herd numbers to the goals is going to take time but with a sustained effort I believe it can be done. The key is for every hunter and every hunting camp to do their level best to harvest two does for every buck in all herd control and EAB units.
Deer hunting is big business
According to the 2001 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife Associated Recreation published by the US Fish and Wildlife Service
- Deer Hunting activity in Wisconsin produces $535 million in retail activity
- Deer hunting generates $1billion in total economic impact
- Deer Hunting generates $20.6 million in sales and motor fuel tax revenues