Conservation warden supervisor Dave Walz said the recently-concluded gun deer season was “overall kind of quiet,” but noted that violations were up from a year ago.
Walz supervises wardens in Florence, Forest, Oneida and Vilas counties.
“Violations were actually up this year from last year,” Walz said. “A lot more baiting issues, complaints, overall.”
Issues with stands and blinds were common, too.
“Folks complaining about blinds and stands left out and blinds with no blaze orange out on state land and that kind of stuff,” Walz said. “People cutting shooting lanes on state land. Those were probably our two biggest issues – illegal bait piles and tree stand issues.”
But area conservation wardens had plenty of other issues.
“The guys had a mixture of other stuff, whether it’d be some unattended fishing lines because we had the cold weather or some ATV issues where people were riding them where they weren’t supposed to be – a mixture of things.”
There were, of course, cases of serious violations.
“The guys made a few good cases in the area,” Walz said. “In Forest County (conservation warden) Brad Dahlquist had an untagged deer that some guys had gone up to the U.P. and shot.
“Tim Ebert (conservation warden, Oneida County) made a good case. There was a cabin shooting, out the back of a shed. Shooting birds and everything else that moved. That one he kind of worked on for a year here trying to catch the guy. That one worked out good.”
The bust was made in deer management unit 31, southwest of Minocqua.
Walz said the number of illegal deer was about what they’ve seen relative to past years. Most of the illegal deer this year were the result of confusion.
“We’ve talked to our wildlife staff over the past couple of years about making the tags less confusing, because what guys were doing is, when they bought their gun license they get that free antlerless tag that was valid in any herd control or CWD unit, and they don’t bother interpreting that, figuring out units where that’s actually good,” Walz said.
There are no herd control or CWD management units in the north, but hunters still sometimes think it’s OK to use the tag.
“They come in the registration station with that tag on an antlerless deer, then we get the call,” Walz said. “Most of the deer were seized because of that.”
Tags are also intentionally misused. Walz noted the case of Kelly Crotty, a conservation warden in Florence County, who had some hunters that had been misusing tags over a number of years.
“They admitted they were jumping the zones,” Walz said. “No tags available, or limited tags available in one zone, but there was plenty in the other, so they’d buy the tags from the zone that had a lot of tags, then they’d go shoot the antlerless deer over in the other zone.”
Walz said when game violations are made, the investigation sometimes turns up more than just what is immediately apparent.
Sometimes people will confess, or law enforcement has previous information from a complainant that they’re able to confirm.
Walz said that the person making the complaint is sometimes close to the violator.
“Oftentimes that person might be a relative or a friend who knows this is going on, but is fed up with it,” Walz said.
Of course, estranged spouses sometimes feel inclined to make those calls as well, Walz noted.
The hunting itself was not the greatest overall, but Walz noted reports were mixed. Not all reports were negative.
Hunters hunting DMU 35 in northern Vilas County had some antlerless tags after a couple of years without, and might have cause for some optimism.
“The hunters up there were seeing a lot of young deer, and antlerless deer, so they were glad see that,” Walz said. “Still not as many as they’d like, but it’s better than it was last year.
“Then in other spots, like the northern part of 31, north of the Willow Flowage, south of 70, they weren’t seeing many deer compared to previous years. It all depends on where a person was.”
He said the weather was affecting opening weekend participation.
“It was bitter cold,” Walz said. “We saw a lot of hunters leaving the woods by noon on Saturday and they didn’t come out the rest of the day Saturday or Sunday.”
“A lot of hunters saying they didn’t hear much for shots, and of course, deer numbers – harvest was down,” Walz added. “But, overall, the department expected that, especially here in the north, because we had a lot fewer antlerless tags.”
The muzzleloader season was quiet, as it typically is. Walz said they had “no real complaints.”
Read more in the “DNR Woodruff Team gun deer season summary.”
Craig Turk may be reached at email@example.com.