Awaiting deer season numbers, one deerstalker blames the corn

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November 30, 2009
— Iím blaming the corn.

Itís either that or admit Iím a terrible deer hunter.

Yesterday was the last day of the nine-day regular gun deer season in Wisconsin.

Final harvest numbers will not be available until Tuesday. But opening weekend numbers were down 33 percent compared to last year.

I was among those who didnít bring in a deer.

I hunted the first four days of the regular gun season. My brother and I saw three deer mid-morning on opening day, Nov. 21.

That was it.

Of the three, two were does hiding in a cornfield. And, I imagine, the majority of the other 8,700 deer in Zone 77A were hiding in corn, too.

That number comes from the Department of Natural Resourcesí 2008 whitetail deer population report. Zone 77A includes Rock County and the western edge of Walworth County.

We hunted on public and private land in Darien Township and spent the most of our time in that DNR zone.

I hunted the same spots as a kid, and I seem to remember seeing somewhere between four and 10 deer a day. Maybe my memory is warped, and Iím only remembering the ďgood days.Ē

Or maybe it was because I hunted during bow season, which takes place earlier than the gun season and covers the peak of the rut. Thatís the deer mating season, and it means deer are moving around more trying to find dates.

Or, it could be the corn. According to USDA statistics, as of Nov. 22, only 48 percent of the grain corn was harvested in Wisconsinís southeast region, which includes Walworth County.

For the last five years, 87 percent of the corn has been picked by the same date.

Deer can hide almost indefinitely in corn. They can sleep, eat and make babies in there for days on end.

Itís fun to try to sneak up on deer in the corn. But itís a bad place to shoot, because you canít see more than a few rows in either direction. Shells can travel a lot farther than that.

This year, for the first time, the DNR has started keeping an online deer hunter wildlife survey. Itís an easy form to use. You just plug in the date and the location you hunted and then fill in the number of animals you saw.

Officials are tracking deer, badgers, fox and other animals. In previous years, the DNR has mailed paper surveys to hunters.

From the DNR Web site, dnr.wi.gov, you can print out a tally sheet to take into the woods. I recommend storing it in your hunting purse along with a paperback, tissues and string cheese.

You can take the online survey every day or fill out several days at once. You donít need a password or to share any personal information.

While the regular gun deer season is done for the year, other seasons include late bow, antlerless only and muzzleloader.

According to the preliminary survey data, Wisconsin hunters saw about 1Ĺ deer per trip into the woods prior to opening day. They saw almost as many turkeys.

I saw more turkeys than deer, at least in the first four days. Comparing my hunting hours to the state averages reported, I should have seen 7Ĺ deer.

Behind deer, hunters reported seeing ruffed grouse, raccoons and coyotes in that order of frequency. House cats came in a close fourth.

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