Outdoor Notebook: Lack of deer worries hunter about future seasons
It seems as though many of us spent the fall scouting the area for deer and deer sign, and already the season is over and the Christmas season is upon us. When the topic of deer hunting comes up a variety of emotions are shared. As we were preparing for both the archery and rifle deer seasons hunters across the northern third of the state were of the opinion that the deer population was lower than it had been in recent years.
During the recently completed gun-deer season, we shared details of what we saw in the woods each day. Very few deer were seen and a lot of those who spent the entire nine-day season hunting did not see any deer. Each evening we concluded that there were fewer deer than there were last year.
We constantly shared the feeling that when the harvest numbers were published there would be some excuses trying to explain why the kill is down.
Please look at the following numbers to get a feeling on how low the kill numbers were in northern Wisconsin.
Year Bucks Antlerless Total
2011 1747 2014 3761
2012 1632 1054 2686
2013 1505 792 2297
When looking at these numbers and trying to get a handle on how far down the totals are remember that the numbers for the last two years showed a decrease in the totals. This year the northern region saw a 15 percent decrease overall. The buck kill was down 11 percent. The northeast region was the only region to show an increase. That increase was 1.4 percent. Hardly significant.
A good deal of the information that I have read about the deer season blames the weather during opening weekend for the decrease in the deer kill. Admittedly it was cold opening weekend with a cold wind both days. However deer hunting has changed a lot over the past several years and for many hunters the weather is a non-issue.
Some hunters, who own property today, may hunt from elevated buildings that have a source of heat to allow a hunter to sit in comfort on comfortable chairs. Granted, not all hunters own their own property where they can build a “shack.” The use of relatively small, portable pop-up tents has expanded recently. A small L.P. heater can make these tents a comfortable place to sit while waiting for a buck. Also, this past deer season we had snow on the ground during the entire 9-day season. The snow definitely would have helped hunters see deer that moved during the day.
It is the wish of many northern Wisconsin deer hunters that the DNR would admit that our deer population is very low across the northern one-third of the state. Another item that has to be figured in their discussion is the presence of more predators than our area can support while still expanding the deer population. The list of predators includes a high wolf population. Bears and coyotes kill a high number of deer each year. During the 9-day hunt we saw fresh wolf, bear and coyote tracks. In one area we saw no wolf sign during the early part of the season and saw several deer in that area. On Tuesday, we started to see wolf tracks and overnight we did not see any deer sign the rest of the season in those areas where wolves had moved in.
I love to hunt deer and have enjoyed it for years. Today, I am concerned about the future of deer hunting in northern Wisconsin.
Just prior to the gun-deer season I had an experience that caused me to think about the safety of cross bows. I had returned to my pickup and was getting ready to shoot my cross bow to release the pressure on the bow. I pulled out my target and pulled the trigger. When I pulled the trigger it seemed that parts were flying all around my head. One of the bow limbs had broken. I was wearing heavy gloves and was not injured; just a bit shaken up.
The wish from our house to yours is for a safe and enjoyable Christmas.
Longtime Northwoods outdoors personality Roger Sabota writes a bi-monthly column for the Star Journal.