DNR goes fishing for hunters? opinions
Long before the guns and bows come out of the closet, case or safe, planning for the 2013 deer hunting seasons hit the drawing board.
The first instance that state residents could find out what the DNR is thinking for this year’s hunt, and comment on those thoughts, came in a recent series of meetings. The local offering was held last Tuesday in the MHS auditorium, in front of a rustic backdrop of the preparations for the school musical ‘Oklahoma.’
Chuck McCullough handled most of the speaking duties, while local wildlife biologist Rich Weide chimed in with information on more of a local flavor.
This meeting specifically covered the deer management units (DMU) of 32, 42, 43 and 52. Detailed hand-outs for each of those units were available, containing a cover topographical map with manager’s notes, while the next page detailed harvest info for each year since 2005. The third page for each unit offered graphs of harvest and DNR deer population estimates compared to goal.
McCullough implored the group in attendance to make sure they filled out the DMU-specific hunter survey that can be found online at dnr.wi.gov. Type ‘Deer Hunter Forum Survey’ in the search line to access it.
The survey is open until April 12, so hunters and other residents need to make their opinions known soon.
McCullough assured attendees it wouldn’t be a waste of their time.
“This is not like ‘Deer Management 2000,’ ” he said. “That was a failure where a lot of work was put into it and only three things were implemented. This one is going to be enforced.
“There were 62 recommendations in Dr. (James) Kroll’s report (Deer Trustee Report, also searchable) and the (DNR) secretary (Cathy Stepp) says they will all be implemented. They fall in one of four groups: the Deer Management Assistance Program; Herd Health and CWD; Regulations and Seasons; and Science and Research.”
McCullough showed results an aeriel survey conducted by helicopter in the southern part of the state to show how some hunters could have zero sightings while others nearby find a wealth of deer.
He pointed out how two square miles showed zero and one deer, while adjacent square miles had roughly 140 apiece.
The deer management opinions of hunters are taking precedence at this time.
“Right now the hunters are louder than the farmers and foresters, so we’re going to manage to hunter satisfaction,” he said, noting farmers are being assuaged by crop damage payments.
The pair asserted they are listening to hunters worried about low deer numbers and high numbers of antlerless tags.
“Just to show what we’re doing, the SAK computer model recommends (a kill of) 1200 for Unit 32, and we’ve dropped that to 500,” Weide said.
“We’re just not seeing the numbers,” McCullough said. “Predators are a big part of that, and habitat is a part, also. I know the aspen are getting older. It’s getting to the stage where it’s not good for grouse or deer.”
McCullough explained that the DNR expects a 1-in-3 harvest success, so hunters should expect 1,500 antlerless tags available for each of Unit 32 and 52. They set a quota of 400 (1,200 tags) for Unit 43 and 200 (600 tags) for 42.
Weide also briefly talked about winter severity, noting the winter of 2007-08 was the last to fit the severe model. “It’s been in the moderate range, around 40-50,” he said. “Eighty is where we talk about it being severe. We’re having a late winter, so those numbers have not yet been popped into the model, although I don’t see it as anything serious. But this is going to lead to lower fawn reproduction.”
According to McCullough, one other change that could explain gun hunters not seeing as many bucks in the woods is the expansion of bow hunting.
“Thirty to 35% of the bucks are killed by archers,” he said. “That’s a huge deal if you only gun hunt.”
He also noted the effect of hunting style in deer sightings.
“As a society of hunters, we buy 40 acres and sit on it,” he said. “You can’t see deer if they aren’t moving. Our hunting style is more passive. We’re hunting differently than we used to and that’s affecting how many deer we see.”
When the meeting took off on a tangent of Chronic Wasting Disease, Weide interjected his opinion that the best way to slow the spread of the disease was to ban baiting and that his experience at registration stations led him to believe that the vast majority of hunters agreed with him.
He said he had talked to politicians who felt hesitant to address the issue, saying it commanded a 50-50 split in state residents.
But when he asked for a show of hands from the admittedly small group in attendance, he saw roughly that vote represented and immediately admitted it out loud.