This week in outdoors: Looking forward and back at deer season
Outdoor Notebook: Deer Hunt 2016
A look at the season and changes implemented
By Roger Sabota
Special to the Star Journal
It is difficult to describe the recently completed deer hunt. For many years the Wisconsin DNR has been able to accurately project the deer kill numbers by the number of deer registered at deer registration stations. This year for the first time hunters were able to register their deer electronically as previously discussed in this space as well as in the big game regulations pamphlet. Kevin Wallenfang, DNR Big Game Ecologist, reported that about three percent of the calls made to the DNR to register deer had to be transferred to someone for help.
The DNR staff members who were working with the system felt that in general the system was working well. There are some problems that should be taken care of so the system will be ready for the 2016 deer season.
We have talked with a variety of deer hunters who hunted in Oneida County using archery equipment, muzzleloaders and rifles. In general terms none of those hunters were satisfied with the results of their hunt.
The most frequent complaint that I heard relates to the frustration of hunters concerning the deer that were shot in the antlerless zones. It appears that there were many too many hunters who were hunting for any deer, with or without antlers, in those zones. That action has undermined the concept of antlerless only zones.
The warm temperatures caused the deer to become quite immobile during the season. Most of the deer have put on their winter coats that are very warm. When the deer are forced to move they quickly overheat and are therefore uncomfortable. Hunters also found that they, themselves, quickly became overheated when moving through the woods.We hunted for the elusive whitetail deer for 8-1/2 days with a varying number of companions in our camp. Tom Twesme, who is my frequent hunting and fishing partner, stayed with me for the entire season. His two boys, Mark and Troy, hunted as much time as they could. Our son, Craig, spent opening weekend with us, returned to work in Green Bay and then spent time around Thanksgiving hunting with us. Duane Frey joined us for numerous days of hunting as well.
Tom and I learned that the deer would move about a half hour before dark each day and would give us a glimpse on their way to a feeding area.
We figured that we watched about six different deer but each one that we saw was antlerless. Early in the archery season I had watched what appeared to be these same deer as they seemed relaxed on their route past my stand. Once the rifle season opened they were extremely wary as they moved silently past me. Several days following the rifle season, as I sat in my stand with my crossbow, these deer seemed more relaxed and were not spooked by my presence in my stand. They came near the area where I was sitting most every day that I sat there. It was fascinating to watch the doe interact with her fawns.
Believe it or not Buffalo County experienced a rifle season that was 6 percent lower than the previous year.Now the question is, “How long before we have SAFE ice?” Every day we are getting phone calls from anxious ice fishermen who are ready to get out on the ice. The best advice that we can give is to carefully test the ice before setting foot on any lake. Visitors to the area should inquire about current conditions from a local bait or sport shop.
Longtime Northwoods outdoorsman Roger Sabota writes a bi-monthly column in the Star Journal.
Outdoor Report: El Nino hype confirmed
We first read reports of a strong El Nino pattern late last winter. All the signs were there. News stories through the summer and fall continued the drumbeat; a very strong El Nino was probable. Now, in December, we’re seeing just that.
A very warm autumn has passed on to a too-warm December, and the precipitation to date has been mostly rain. More than one winter enthusiast looked at last weekend’s heavy rain and noted, “if this was snow, we’d have a ton.”
We don’t have a ton of snow this weekend. Nor do we have good ice on area lakes. That combination is rare; even in past Decembers when we had thin snow at best, we usually had good lake ice. This one-two gut punch of no snow and no ice is very unusual. But it’s what we have.
The short of it now appears that cold weather this weekend will start to freeze lakes over and, equally important to winter sport, freeze the ground and low wetlands. Without a frozen base of dirt, any snow will melt from the ground and low areas will never fully freeze up.
It is likely, if the cold comes, that we’ll see enough ice for anglers to venture out soon. A brief surge of cold in late November had ice up on many lakes, and for a short time fishing was very good. But no matter how cold it gets, ice will be sketchy, with shallows and back bays possibly safe to walk on, but many areas, the majority, still unsuitable.
The best we can hope for is good, clean ice to start to form and ongoing cold in the next weeks to thicken it. Early ice is always risky, and we get nervous with talk of going out too soon.
Skiers and snowmobilers will be fortunate to even have a white Christmas. There is a chance for some snow, and with only a few inches on the ground skiers can get out. Snowmobiling is another thing altogether, and based on forecasts it will not happen in the foreseeable future.
The bottom line is simply this: we are in the midst of a very strong pattern of warm weather that will compromise winter sports for the short-term. But even in El Nino winters of the past, we eventually got enough snow to make winter sports doable. And that’s the best we can hope for.
The Outdoor Report is provided by the staff of Mel’s Trading Post, downtown Rhinelander.