Deer plentiful for Saturday's gun-deer season opener
Wisconsin's regular nine-day gun deer season opens Nov. 22 and runs through Nov. 30.
The traditional season always opens the Saturday prior to the Thanksgiving holiday.
Officials with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources say that even after a pretty tough winter in parts of the state, and a harvest of more than 520,000 deer in the 2007-08 seasons, the deer herd is still a good deal larger than established population goals in much of Wisconsin.
DNR wildlife biologists estimate that the herd numbers between 1.5 and 1.7 million animals going into the fall 2008-09 seasons, a slight decrease from last year.
Because of this, most of the deer management units across the state, with the exception of some areas in the northeast, are under either herd control or earn-a-buck structures.
In deer management units designated as earn-a-buck (EAB), hunters are required to shoot an antlerless deer in order to "earn" a sticker allowing them harvest an antlered deer.
In units designated as regular or herd control, hunters do not need to first shoot an antlerless deer in order to shoot a buck.
A free antlerless tag will come with each archery and gun license that is valid in herd control, EAB and CWD units. Additional antlerless tags can be purchased anytime after the license is purchased for $2 each.
Gun hunters who wish to harvest an antlerless deer in a "regular" unit must purchase a unit-specific antlerless tag in addition to their license. These antlerless tags are limited in quantity for each unit and cost $12 each for residents and $20 for non-residents.
Many regular units still have antlerless tags left, while some have sold out.
Hunters could have pre-qualified for the buck harvest sticker by having shot an antlerless deer from an EAB or CWD unit last year, or by having registered an antlerless deer in either the early archery season or four day October antlerless deer hunt.
Hunters who shot an antlerless deer during a season from one of theses units this year should have received a buck sticker when they registered their antlerless deer.
In units that were not EAB last year, but are in EAB this year, hunter's should have received a "2008" buck authorization sticker in the mail if they registered antlerless deer from those units last fall.
Hunters can check their prequalification status on the DNR Web site.
"With and strong hunter commitment to herd management through hunting, the state is making progress toward population goals," says Keith Warnke, DNR deer and bear ecologist.
"Large antlerless deer harvests will always be needed, however, even with populations near goal, to stay at desired levels," he added.
Warnke says hunting has had a positive impact on deer herd management in recent years, and hunters deserve credit for that management.
Hunters can take advantage of an abundant herd and hunting opportunities to enjoy their pastime, help to secure the future of wildlife conservation by bringing in new hunters and help others by making use of the statewide food pantry donation system to help feed needy families.
All baiting and feeding of deer is banned in 26 Wisconsin counties (pdf) due to the presence of either chronic wasting disease or bovine tuberculosis in either captive or free roaming animals.
In the rest of the state, the practices are allowed subject to a number of restrictions.
There is a growing body of scientific evidence that clearly supports ending deer baiting and feeding from a disease management and prevention standpoint, say DNR officals.
In the past two years, the case for prohibiting baiting and feeding in Wisconsin has been strengthened by additional research into deer disease transmission and the behavioral responses of deer to the repeated placement of even a small volume of food.