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Hunters urged to take two antlerless deer for every buck

The rut is on in the Wisconsin woods.

"Deer are starting to move," said Allan Pribnow of Mr. T's Sport Shop in Iron River.

The rut -- or whitetail mating season -- means hunters probably will see more deer when the state's gun deer season opens Saturday.

"Everyone is asking how the rut is going," said Greg Kessler, Department of Natural Resources wildlife manager at Brule. "The rut is just getting into full swing now. Everyone is seeing bucks chasing and looking for does. They're active at times of day they haven't been previously."

The rut probably will continue through at least the first weekend of Wisconsin's nine-day gun season, Kessler said.

With mild winters and good deer reproduction, the deer population remains high in Northwestern Wisconsin. Hunters should have another excellent season, Kessler said. But not a record-setter.

"We aren't in the business of setting records every year," Kessler said.

Again this year, hunters are being urged by the DNR to shoot plenty of antlerless deer. Bonus permits, which allow the taking of antlerless deer, are just $2 each and may be bought in any quantity in herd-control units.

"The criteria we need to meet in all seasons combined is two antlerless deer for every antlered buck in herd-control units," Kessler said.

Nearly all deer management units in Northwestern Wisconsin are herd-control units.

Nobody has to shoot an antlerless deer before taking a buck this fall. But most units in Northwestern Wisconsin are on a so-called Earn-a-Buck watch list this fall. If not enough antlerless deer are taken in those units, they could become Earn-a-Buck units next fall, and hunters would be required to "earn a buck" by shooting an antlerless deer first.

Hunters can pre-qualify to shoot a buck in the 2008 deer season, if Earn-a-Buck rules apply then, by shooting an antlerless deer this fall. If you shoot an antlerless deer this fall, you'll get a sticker in next summer's mail qualifying you to shoot a buck next fall, if indeed your unit becomes an Earn-a-Buck unit.

"If all hunters and hunting camps do their very best to harvest at least two antlerless deer for every hunter, it will go a long way toward managing deer populations and possibly avoiding Earn-a-Buck rules in future seasons," Mike Zeckmeister, DNR northern region wildlife manager, said in a prepared statement.

If you don't shoot an antlerless deer in the gun deer hunt, you will still have an opportunity to do so in the muzzleloader season and the four-day antlerless hunt on Dec. 6-9.

Wisconsin is in the second year of a two-year trial in which a four-day October antlerless hunt has been waived. If not enough antlerless deer are killed this fall, hunters are likely to see that October hunt reinstated next fall, Kessler said.