Wisconsin gun deer harvest down 29 percent
Associated Press Writer
MADISON, Wis. (AP) - As expected, hunters in Wisconsin killed substantially fewer deer during this year’s traditional gun hunt, according to a preliminary report state wildlife officials released Tuesday.
Hunters killed 195,650 deer during the nine-day season that ended Sunday. That’s down 29 percent from 276,895 deer in 2008, according to the data from the state Department of Natural Resources.
DNR officials predicted a smaller harvest this year after they bowed to hunter pressure and eased up on herd control strategies. The agency cut back on zones with unlimited antlerless deer tags and suspended earn-a-buck - requiring hunters kill to an antlerless deer before taking a buck - across much of the state.
Hunters took about 109,400 antlerless deer, down 38 percent from 178,145 last year.
Final figures won’t be ready until February, but DNR big game ecologist Keith Warnke said it appears the state’s overall deer population has dropped.< /P>
The numbers could have far-reaching implications for next year’s hunt.
The DNR wants to expand the 9-day gun season to 16 days as a herd control method. The Conservation Congress, a group of influential sportsmen who advise the agency, opposes that, saying it’s not needed.
Congress Chairman Ed Harvey says the smaller harvest reinforces that argument. The agency should stick to a 9-day season through much of the state and keep earn-a-buck off the table again.
“People are not seeing deer to shoot,” Harvey said. “We hit them way too hard with a way too aggressive herd reduction framework. Now here we are. It’s going to take a while to recover from this.”
Warnke countered the agency could run a 16-day season without driving the population down by limiting antlerless tags.
“The 16-day season doesn’t impair the herd’s ability to grow,” he said.
The November gun deer harvest appears to be trending downward elsewhere as well.
Minnesota conservation officials estimate hunters took about 12 percent fewer deer during that state’s traditional November hunt than last year. Missouri officials say hunters took about 193,000 deer, the smallest harvest in 10 years. Hunters in Illinois killed about 66,000 deer during the opening three days of that state’s hunt, down from 72,000 a year ago.
Conservation officials generally blamed harsh winters, reduced antlerless tags and a wet fall that prevented farmers from harvesting corn, giving deer plenty of cover.
Other information in the DNR’s report included:
-The DNR sold 638,040 gun deer licenses, down from 642,419 last year. Hunters came from all 50 states.
-The agency sold 9,907 licenses to 10- and 11-year-olds through the state’s mentored hunt program, which allows children to hunt with an adult within arm’s reach. Wardens reported no firearm incidents among the young hunters.
-The DNR recorded seven hunting accidents. Four of them involv ed self-inflicted gunshot wounds. The incident rate was 1.11 per 100,000 hunters. The national average is 3 per 100,000.