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DNR: Hunt was on target

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Mike Heine
November 30, 2007

Every year, some deer hunters are left out in the cold.


But much of southern Wisconsin seemed to provide hot hunting for hunters in the traditional nine-day gun season that ended Sunday.


Rock and Green counties are among 40 Wisconsin counties where more deer were killed this year than last. Rock County was up 13 percent, and Green County was up 50 percent.


Walworth County, however, saw a 20 percent decrease.


Hunters tagged 1,214 deer in Rock County, 2,082 in Green County and 497 in Walworth County.


Statewide, hunters bagged 343,644 deer over the nine-day gun deer season that ran Nov. 17 through Nov. 25, according to preliminary totals from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. That’s about a 2 percent increase over last year’s total of 336,211 and a 5.25 percent increase over 2005.


“All in all, things came together nicely for this year’s hunt,” Keith Warnke, DNR deer ecologist, said in a statement. “It’s too early to evaluate how the kill will impact individual deer management units until we have final harvest figures for all seasons, but it looks like deer hunters are enjoying this year’s hunting and filling their freezers.”


But the not everybody agrees with DNR estimates that Wisconsin’s deer herd is larger than it should be.


Cory Mielke of Indianford operates High Tines Outfitters and hunts on 4,400 acres in Buffalo County.


“Truthfully, there ain’t as many does as they say,” said Mielke, who had about 65 hunters in his camps. “I had guys that didn’t shoot their does. They were seeing 25 bucks to five does.”


Mielke’s clients saw deer, but DNR projections that some areas near to where he hunts have 26 to 30 deer per square mile of habitat are way off, he said.


“They’re full of it,” he said. “There is no way there are that many deer.


“Maybe there are 26 deer per square mile in some areas, but right around my place where the lodge is, we drive around at night and won’t see 26 deer per square mile anywhere,” he added.


“We’re constantly keeping logs on what we’re seeing and where we’re seeing it. Other areas we might find six or seven per square mile and that’s way down. It’s weird how you can drive around and see that. There are concentrated areas, but there are also areas that have nothing.”


In an earn-a-buck region of the state, that’s a bad thing, he said.


“There were probably at least 10 guys where, if it wasn’t for earn-a-buck, they would have shot bucks,” he said. “There were a couple that went home disappointed. I had guys say if it’s earn-a-buck again, they aren’t coming back to Wisconsin to hunt.”


Warnke said earn-a-buck is working at bringing up the kill numbers and bringing the deer herd toward DNR goals.


Pre-season herd estimates were 1.6 million to 1.8 million deer statewide. The goal is to have about 1.1 million deer before hunting starts in future seasons, Warnke said.


Antlerless kills were up 54 percent in counties areas under Chronic Wasting Disease surveillance. Hunters were, and still can, shoot an antlerless deer in the CWD areas to earn a buck tag for next year, Warnke said. Gun hunting in CWD zones is open until Dec. 9 and bow season continues statewide until Jan. 6.


“Some people don’t like (earn-a-buck). That’s understandable,” Warnke said.


“When these decisions are made, we know full well that they are not going to be popular or accepted by everybody. But managing the deer herd, that’s not a private action that can be done for any one person or group of people. It has to be done for the greatest good for the greatest number.”


Evansville’s Kyle Allen, who hunts both in Rock County and the La Crosse area, figured the kill totals have been up.


“I just don’t see the deer we have had in the last couple years,” said Allen, who has hunted every day but one since bow season opened in mid September.


He did two drives Wednesday morning and saw 12 deer.


“Years past, there would have been 30 to 40 deer in those two areas,” he said.


With earn-a-buck, people are taking smaller deer that would otherwise be passed up and available years later when they’re bigger, Allen said.


He thinks this year will be a peak season and, because of hunting pressure and killing younger, less-intelligent deer, next season will see slippage in the kill totals.


2006 and preliminary 2007 Regular Season Deer Registration [PDF]
2006 and preliminary 2007 Regular Season Deer Registration [XLS (Excel)]

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