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Wis. hunters upset about gun-deer season

January 13, 2010 at 09:56 PM

La Crosse Tribune

LA CROSSE, Wis. (AP) - Deer hunters continue to let off steam about the 2009 Wisconsin gun-deer season.

Whether it’s at the gas station, grocery store, restaurant, pub or even church, hunters are not pleased with the state Department of Natural Resources.

For the record, gun-deer hunters killed 196,078 deer, a 29-percent decline from 2008. The harvest included 86,780 bucks, a 12-percent decrease, and 109,390 antlerless deer, a whopping 39-percent decline from 2008.

Hunters overwhelmingly said they saw fewer deer, and the kill obviously reflects that. It was the lowest total harvest since 1982 and the lowest buck kill since 1980.

Hunters killed between 320,000 and 350,000 deer each year between 2004 and 2007. The harvest dropped to 285,240 in 2008, before the drastic slump in 2009. In the DNR’s defense, it did issue fewer antlerless permits and suspended Earn-A-Buck areas of Wisconsin, which obviously would lead to a lower harvest.

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However, many hunters have told me that Earn-A-Buck, years of antlerless permits and multiple hunting seasons devastated the herd. The severe winter of 2007-08 didn’t help either.

Tom “Ozzie” Ostlund of Onalaska sent me an e-mail shortly after the nine-day gun-deer season.

“I have enjoyed deer hunting for 51 straight years, and 2009 will be the last in Wisconsin for me. No more licenses will be purchased,” he said.

Ostlund continued by telling me his family has owned 80 acres in Clark County since 1974, and the last two years six hunters have seen less than six deer.

“I have personally seen six wolves in the area, and bears have been seen on my land,” he said.

“Deer hunting years ago was more fun than any book could describe,” he said. “Our deer camp was what deer hunting was all about. We had two families with our dads and kids, and the dads are hunting and telling stories. I hope the younger generations can realize the pleasures we had hunti ng over the years. What a great tradition.”

Ron Pearson, at R&E Sporting and Avon Shoppe in Tomah, also has heard many complaints from fellow hunters. Pearson also expressed his own feelings.

“Really, this was the poorest hunt I can remember since I started hunting,” he said.

The 2009 gun-deer hunt also disappointed my youngest son, 19-year-old Evan, who incidentally had to pass up a 12-point buck and a six-point buck during an Earn-A-Buck season a few years ago.

“We see fewer and fewer deer every year,” said Evan, who hunted hard on opening weekend but saw only one deer, which he couldn’t get a shot at.

“Why don’t they just close the deer season for a couple of years?” Evan asked. “Then, maybe we’d see deer like we used to.”

I stopped at a vacuum cleaner shop last week, and the owner asked if there was any truth to the rumor that the DNR was closing the deer hunting season for a year.

Trust me, there will be a deer hunting seaso n next fall.

And it won’t surprise me if we see fewer deer.

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