Originally posted by: muskygirl on 11/17/2006 4:23:40 PM
Wisconsin deer hunting season opens Saturday
Robert Imrie, Associated Press
Last update: November 15, 2006 â€“ 4:58 PM
Wisconsin deer hunting season opens Saturday
WAUSAU, Wis. â€” If hunters feel pressure to shoot beloved whitetail does heading into Saturday's opening of the tradition-steeped deer hunt in Wisconsin, that's just fine with state wildlife managers.
It's a season hunters say they wanted â€” and they promised would also trim the size of a burgeoning deer herd that's grown so steadily that Wisconsin has killed more deer in the past decade than any other state.
What looms if enough antlerless deer â€” does and young bucks â€” aren't killed is more state regulations requiring hunters to do it.
"It is put up or shut up right now. We need to make good on this if we want to keep it for years into the future," said Ed Harvey, a Sheboygan area deer hunter and chairman of the Wisconsin Conservation Congress, an influential group of hunters and anglers. "Hopefully, hunters have gotten the message. They should be feeling a lot of pressure because the pressure is being put on."
The nine-day season for more than 600,000 gun hunters opens just before sunrise Saturday. The Department of Natural Resources estimates 1.5 million to 1.7 million deer roam the fields and woods â€” about the same as a year ago when archers and gun hunters killed nearly 468,000 deer, the sixth best season in history.
Still, the herd is far bigger than wildlife managers want. The goal is 1.1 million deer heading into fall.
Last year, the attention going into the deer hunt was far different. It was the first season after a Southeast Asian hunter shot and killed six white hunters after being caught trespassing in the woods of northern Wisconsin's Sawyer County, exposing racial tensions.
Unease and fear hung over the hunt, and there was evidence some Hmong hunters sat out the season, said Karl Brooks, the DNR's deputy chief of law enforcement.
Unlike last fall, no radio and TV announcements focusing on trespassing and landowner rights â€” some of the issues underlying the fatal shootings â€” are being run this year, Brooks said.
In the latest strategy to use hunters to significantly shrink the whitetail herd, the DNR scrapped a four-day antlerless-only gun season in October in areas with too many deer because hunters disliked it. It instead established a four-day antlerless-only season Dec. 7-11 throughout the state.
Here's the pressure:
If hunters don't kill enough antlerless deer this fall â€” ideally two antlerless deer for every buck shot â€” the October gun hunt would return next year and more deer management units would be designated "earn-a-buck," meaning hunters would have to shoot an antlerless deer to shoot a more coveted buck.
This year, 21 of the state's roughly 130 deer management units have that designation, which Harvey said no hunter likes either. That could grow to 38 next year, or roughly half of the state, unless the new arrangement works, said Keith Warnke, a DNR deer ecologist.
Mark Binkowski, a 50-year-old deer hunter from Wausau who hunts on 160 acres in an earn-a-buck zone in eastern Marathon County, figures half the hunters won't kill an antlerless deer voluntarily. He would shoot a big doe but not a little one, he said.
"I have two guys I hunt with who have to shoot does (because of earn-a-buck) and they are not too happy about it," he said. "I don't think there is that many deer. Now you are lucky if you see a buck all season."
Over the past decade, Wisconsin archery and gun hunters have killed an average of 465,000 deer each year â€” the highest average in the country, Warnke said. Michigan ranks a close second and Pennsylvania is third.
Wisconsin holds the record for most deer killed in a single year â€” 616,000 in 2000. Michigan holds the next two spots â€” 545,000 in 1999 and 542,000 in 2001, Warnke said.
Despite that hunting success, Wisconsin's herd keeps reproducing itself to unwanted levels, the DNR says.
The October hunt began in 1996 and was unprecedented for modern times. DNR records showed there had been no gun hunting of deer in Wisconsin in October since the late 1800s.
It was a response to the problems that an overpopulated deer herd creates â€” loss of farmers crops', too many car-deer collisions and an unbalanced ecosystem.
But hunters didn't like it, in part because of their love for the traditional November gun season starting just before Thanksgiving, Warnke said.
So the DNR created a hunt this fall that hunters say more closely maintains the traditions and rekindles the excitement of opening day, and gives them more leeway to shoot does.
Tom Heberlein of Lodi, a retired University of Wisconsin rural sociology professor who hunts and has written numerous papers about hunting's future, is not convinced hunters will voluntarily kill antlerless deer, disputing some game managers, including Warnke, who believe the state's hunting culture has changed.
"You ask them why they hunt. And I have never had one say to me, 'I hunt to be a wildlife manager. I hunt to control the herd,"' he said. "They hunt for social reasons. They hunt for reasons of being in nature. They hunt for reasons of personal achievement. But hunters have never thought of themselves as wildlife managers or herd managers."
For example, Heberlein said, the DNR has failed to dramatically reduce the deer population in areas of southern Wisconsin where chronic wasting disease was discovered nearly five years ago.
"About every program they have come up with has not fit with the culture and tradition of deer hunting," he said. "These game managers have their hands tied."
Sharon Rogalski, who owns Bow Hunters Shop in Black Creek in Outagamie County, said many hunters don't like to shoot does, and she, too, is convinced most hunters won't do it voluntarily.
"They all like to have those nice horns," she said.