Fewer hunters means lower harvest in Northwoods
By Jared Raney
Despite reports of a high deer harvest statewide this year, Oneida and Vilas counties are experiencing a shortage of sorts, not necessarily in deer, but in hunters.
Because of the limit placed on antlerless deer tags, it appears that less hunters are coming up to hunt, instead staying further south, according to DNR warden Jim Jung.
“It’s been a quiet season, but I think we suspected it was going to be quiet, at least in the northern part of the state where we didn’t have any antlerless tags,” Jung said. “So numbers of hunters seem to be down, although conditions were really nice for deer hunters… my hunch, that they stayed down south, where there are ample over-the-counter antlerless tags.”
According to preliminary DNR deer harvest registration numbers, opening weekend harvest was down almost ten percent from 2014, with 763 deer killed.
Part of the change could be due to the new registration system, which this year switched to a completely remote electronic registration. So instead of bringing deer in to the DNR station, hunters just have to call or register their deer online.
It was a change made for hunter convenience, but there was some concern, among hunters and law enforcement, about the effectiveness of the change.
“The upside of this system is they should have numbers to compare, because everything is live, real-time,” Jung said. “But this first year is tough… I know that there have been some issues with the call-in, and of course in Northern Wisconsin part of it is just cellphone coverage.”
Jung also noted, however, that registration isn’t required at the point of kill. In other words, hunters have at least 24 hours in most cases to register the deer, until 5 p.m. the day after harvest.
Hunters simply have to tag the deer immediately, and call or register online when they can.
“It’s a big change. The thing in Wisconsin is everything is so traditional,” Jung said. “So this is a change, but especially a change for our older generation.”
For those who are technologically-impaired, Jung said it is important to note that a smartphone or computer is not required, and that call-in registration can be done from any land-line phone.
The big concern with a new system is that people will simple choose not to register.
“I’d heard it prior to season, and I’ve heard hunters comment in the field, the concern that people won’t register,” Jung said. “I’ve heard that in the field from hunters themselves, but we haven’t had any indication of that, if that’s been the case.”
Statewide, registration of deer kills over opening weekend was up more than 15 percent, which Jung said is an indication that the new system is working.
“I think the initial push for the switch, the feeling was it was an antiquated system. Other states like Minnesota had done this years prior,” Jung said. “For the convenience of our hunters, that was the reasoning.”