The following was compiled by the DNR’s Woodruff area law enforcement and other personnel. Dave Walz is the reporting warden supervisor.
Warden Tim Ebert’s (Woodruff) most commonly received complaint this year was about the illegal placement of deer stands/blinds on state property after the close of hunting hours. Ebert found that hunters continue to desire to leave stands and blinds on state property during the hunting season.
Warden Jim Jung (Rhinelander) received several calls from hunters concerned about other hunters set up near their stands and baits on DNR property. The stands and bait piles tend to create a sense of ownership to an area.
Jung received a complaint involving a property owner concerned that her neighbor was shooting a firearm in a rural subdivision. There was no DNR violation, but the caller was upset because she had contacted another law enforcement agency eight times in the past and no reckless use or disorderly conduct charges had been issued.
Warden Brad Dahlquist (Crandon) continued to see an increase in hunter harassment complaints during the nine-day gun deer season.
Dahlquist notes every hunter harassment call this gun season were complaints on public hunting grounds. Dahlquist attributes these types of calls to the increased use of bait and game cameras on public lands giving the sense of claiming “territory.”
Warden Rich Thole (Boulder Junction) and recruit warden Jake Lassila received a call from a hunter Thole cited last deer season for an illegal tree stand on state property.
The hunter reported that he put up a tree stand on state property and hunted on Thanksgiving morning. He took a break and left his $300 rifle with a scope in the stand. When the hunter returned to his stand in the afternoon he found that his stand, climbing sticks and rifle had all been stolen. The case remains under investigation.
Search and rescue efforts
On the Friday prior to the gun deer opener, warden Kelly Crotty (Florence) and recruit warden Dustin Gabrielson assisted warden Dave Oginski (Wausaukee) and the Marinette County Sheriff’s Office in searching for an individual who was reported to be suicidal.
The wardens located the person on one of the public hunting grounds. He had sustained what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest.
Dahlquist and newly appointed Chief Warden Todd Schaller (Madison) responded to a call of a lost hunter near the town of Blackwell in Forest County.
The wardens coordinated search efforts with deputies from the Forest County Sheriff’s Office. The wardens located the lost hunter without incident.
Wardens in the Woodruff Team received numerous questions prior to the gun deer season about the herd control tags they were issued and whether they were valid statewide.
Hunters were confused this year because they could harvest an antlerless deer statewide with their archery license but not with their gun deer license. Consistency between the two licenses on antlerless harvest would help alleviate this confusion.
Illegal baiting or feeding issues
Baiting and feeding continues to be a source of conflict for adjacent property owners. Many hunters would prefer not to bait but feel they need to in order to compete with the neighbors in order to see deer. Baiting definitely creates an advantage over those who don’t.
Warden Tim Price (Eagle River) heard over and over throughout the season that baiting and feeding needs to stop. Price was told that the people who can afford to bait have the deer on their property thus preventing other hunters from having equal opportunities.
Illegal baits are the number one issue that keeps the wardens in the Florence County area the busiest prior to and during the gun deer season. The number one complaint that the wardens get from hunters are bait piles that are too large.
Many hunters say they don’t want to bait, but because the person next to them places bait out, it forces them to as well in order to compete on a level playing field.
Warden Pat Novesky (Three Lakes) saw an increase in the use of automatic feeders to bait and feed. Hunters are attempting to keep deer on their property by the use of these feeders.
Corn use as bait appears to be down probably due to high prices. Sugar beets, pumpkins and oats were popular choices this year.
Wolf and coyote hunting
No wolf hunting incidents were reported by the Woodruff Team.
Many hunters reported seeing wolf tracks while out hunting but did not observe the animals. Hunters were aware the coyote season remained open during the gun deer season; however, wardens did not report observing any coyotes being shot by gun deer hunters.
Hunters continue to blame low deer numbers on too high a wolf population. They like the fact that there is a season on them but feel more tags need to be issued. Several deer hunters advised they had wolf tags this year but did not have an opportunity to use them because the season closed too soon in most wolf management zones.
These hunters advised the season should open later than it currently does and they were waiting to trap or hunt wolves until the pelts primed up.
Public safety issues
Jung assisted the Oneida County Sheriff’s Office in an attempt to locate a hunter responsible for discharging a round that struck a vehicle on State Highway 8. No hunter was located. Fortunately the round did not penetrate the windshield and only cracked the glass.
Thole and Lassila located several ground blinds on state property that did not have the required blaze orange displayed and were left for an extended number of days. Most of these blinds were located as the result of complaints from hunters who were obeying the laws and thought it was unfair that others were not.