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11/30/2012 3:20:00 AM
Night deer hunt on hold
Judge Crabb rules state can enforce laws until Dec. 12
Area deer harvest down from a year ago

Statewide numbers show increase

By Craig Turk
of The Lakeland Times


As the regular nine-day deer season closed, DNR big game ecologist Kevin Wallenfang said reports from the field were mixed.

“We’re hearing all over the spectrum – we’re hearing from people that are saying they’re seeing more deer than they have in a long time and we’re hearing from people that say there are no deer where they hunt,” he said.

Wallenfang did note a variety of weather, which can have an effect on both the hunter and the hunted.

“It sounded like middle of the week, we still had issues with some fog out there ... they got 18 inches of snow up by the Brule – the far northwest – at least in spots, which apparently drove some people out of the woods and made the deer not move at all,” he said.

Wallenfang added that the later season snow mostly seemed to help those that were still hunting in areas of the Northwoods.

“We were picking up some quotes of people saying, ‘Yeah the warm weather is nice, but the deer just aren’t moving for us. We know that they’re there, we’ve got them on trail cameras, and all that kind of stuff, but we’re just not seeing the deer ... they’re not moving,’” he said. 

“It sounded like, later in the week, that changed a little bit.”

The season started well, but weather can also play a role in when hunters register deer.

“The opening weekend it sounded like we were off to a pretty fast start ... the warm weather out there, I’m sure that had some people registering some deer earlier than they normally might, so that they can get them [processed].”

Wallenfang didn’t believe weather was the only factor bumping those numbers up.

“After the opening weekend, the overall state harvest was up over 20 percent and just about every county in the state had an increased buck kill from last year,” he said.

“With the harvest up 24 percent it’s hard to imagine that all of that would have been a factor of warm weather. Some of that certainly had to have been a factor of a few more deer out there in some spots this year.”

Wallenfang said those places collecting data had good results.

“Our CWD sampling and age data collection at the registration stations – all of the preseason numbers, the objectives were pretty much met, so they had plenty of deer being registered,” he said.

Woodruff DNR wildlife biologist Michele Woodford said area hunters were seeing some deer. 

“I’m hearing that people saw quite a few antlerless ... talking to people that didn’t shoot deer but said they saw deer they just couldn’t shoot at,” she said.

Woodford indicated that the mixed bag of weather didn’t seem to deter hunters.

“Nobody’s been complaining about the weather at all, by any means,” she said. “Some years, weather is sort of the reason why people didn’t see deer.

“I guess ... there was a little bit of everything for everybody – snow at the end of the season and warm weather for people who wanted to stay out longer.”

Woodford was in Eagle River aging deer taken by hunters opening weekend.

“Saw quite a few bucks come in – actually some pretty nice ones,” she said.

“Some of the nice ones came from private land, some of the nice ones came from public land, too. There was a really nice one came from ... (DMU) 39 on Sunday, that I was drooling over.”

Woodford did get some hunting in herself.

“I ended up seeing a lot of deer, but I never pulled my trigger on anything,” she said. She added that she saw a buck on a drive, but felt the shot was unsafe.

Woodford was hunting in Chippewa County near family. She did capture a nice buck on camera.

“I had the game camera up on a tree that I hunted ... about 7:30 or so he came in – a nice, big buck. But he never came in during daylight.”


DNR preliminary numbers

For the nine-day regular gun season, preliminary deer harvest numbers show that 633,460 licensed hunters registered 243,739 deer. 

The DNR collects harvest numbers  through a survey of more than 600 deer registration stations, and says they will likely increase when all tags are officially counted.

The 2012 preliminary totals show an increase 7.7 percent from 2011. The tally showed hunters harvested 114,822 bucks and 128,917 antlerless deer. 

Preliminary 2011 figures showed a harvest of 102,837 bucks and 123,423 antlerless deer. Buck harvest increased by 12 percent and antlerless harvest by 4 percent.


Local counts

Locally, hunters registered fewer deer than in 2011. Antlerless harvests made the steepest drops, with fewer doe tags available in all area units, including some that were bucks-only.

Oneida County saw a decrease in buck harvest of 6 percent. Hunters tagged 1,632 bucks, down from 1,736 a year ago. The antlerless harvest of 1,054 was a decrease of 45 percent from 1,912 antlerless deer a year ago. Overall, Oneida County hunters registered 2,686 deer, down from 3,648 in 2011, a drop of 26 percent.

Vilas County hunters registered 1,249 bucks and 241 antlerless deer. In 2011, the numbers were 1,215 and 686, respectively. The buck harvest was up 3 percent, while the antlerless harvest fell 65 percent from a year ago. Overall, the deer harvest was down 22 percent in Vilas County, with total registrations of 1,490 compared to 1,901 a year ago.

Iron County saw 705 total registrations, down 14 percent from 816 last year. Hunters registered 440 bucks and 265 antlerless deer, compared to 480 and 336 a year ago. The buck kill was down 8 percent, while the antlerless kill fell off 21 percent. 

The DNR reports that of the total number of licenses purchased this year, nearly 29,000 were first-time buyers. Female hunters represented 33 percent of this total, and another 33 percent were youth, ages 17 and under. Eighty first-time buyers were 80 or older.


Seven shooting incidents

There were seven shooting incidents and one fatality during the 2012 gun season. A 22-year-old Milwaukee man died when he was shot while on land open to public hunting at Fort McCoy.

According to the DNR, total reported incidents for 2012 are below the 10-year average, which is nine.

The DNR says more than 25,000 students complete the hunter’s safety program every year. Before the hunter education course started, hunter fatalities during the gun deer season commonly ran into double digits.


Late seasons

There are additional chances to hunt deer after the close of the nine-day regular season. The muzzleloader season is open through Dec. 5 and late archery season continues until Jan. 6, 2013.  There is a statewide antlerless hunt Dec. 6-9.

There is also a special hunt in CWD zones in southcentral Wisconsin from Dec. 24-Jan. 6.

Go to dnr.wi.gov and search keyword “deer” for more information on season dates and regulations.

Craig Turk may be reached at cturk@lakelandtimes.com

Wolf harvest at 98

More zones near quota


Six-plus weeks into Wisconsin’s wolf hunting and trapping season, the harvest stands at 98 wolves and two zones have seen closures.

The DNR closed Wolf Harvest Zones 2 and 4 to hunting and trapping of wolves Nov. 16 as the zones neared quota and gun deer season loomed.

Zone 2 covers most of Vilas and Oneida counties. Zone 4 includes small portions of Oneida, larger portions of Lincoln and Langlade counties and parts of several other counties.

Zone 2 ended its season with hunters and trappers having taken 18 wolves of the 20-wolf quota for the zone.

Of the 98 wolves reported harvested as of 11 a.m. Nov. 27, 30 had come from Zone 1, located in northwestern Wisconsin, putting it very close to its quota of 32. Only three wolves were needed to reach quota in both Zone 5 and Zone 6.

Hunters and trappers have 24 hours to report a wolf kill.

The Wisconsin wolf season opened Oct. 15 and is set to close Feb. 28, 2013, or when harvest quotas are met. 

The DNR updates the wolf hunting and trapping page of its website with wolf harvest data. Go to dnr.wi.gov and search “wolf.”

Craig Turk
Outdoors Writer/Photographer

Judge Barbara Crabb of the Western District Federal Court ruled late Wednesday afternoon that the state may enforce the shining laws until Dec. 12 at which time a preliminary injunction hearing on the issue will be held.

“The state is pleased that shining will be prohibited until such time as we can adequately address these issues within the appropriate court setting. We will continue to try to work with the tribes to resolve this issue,” Department of Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp said following Crabb’s ruling.

The Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC), the commission that oversees Chippewa Tribes’ hunting and fishing rights, announced Nov. 21 that a commission order authorizing night deer hunting by tribal members in the ceded territory was in place.

Night hunting for deer was to start Monday, Nov. 26, but had been postponed.

Sue Erickson, GLIFWC public information director, said there had been applicants for night hunting permits from all of the Great Lakes Chippewa bands, except the Bad River Band.

That means members of the St. Croix, Mole Lake, Red Cliff, Lac Courtes Oreilles and Lac du Flambeau bands had applied successfully. As of Tuesday, a total of 74 Ojibwe hunters had applied and become eligible to participate in night deer hunting.

“They have to do a kind of a proficiency rules course, and that includes the marksmanship testing – which you have to pass,” Erickson said. “And then they’re also educated on the rules and regulations surrounding the hunt. And then they are required, also, if they’re going out, to submit a shooting plan that indicates a safe firing zone.”

As of Tuesday, one tribal hunter, from the Mole Lake Band, had received a night hunting permit, but GLIFWC cancelled the permit.

Hunts would take place from elevated stands, over bait, with the light to be used at the point of kill.

DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp, in a Nov. 20 letter to GLIFWC administrator Jim Zorn, urged GLIFWC not to go forward with the order that would allow night hunting for deer.

Prior to the recent moves, the state had been in discussions with GLIFWC regarding the possibility of tribal deer hunting at night. The GLIFWC commission order, coming the day before Thanksgiving left the state with little time to react, Stepp said.

The DNR filed a motion in federal court Nov. 21, hoping to block the night hunting. 

The tribes filed a cross-motion Nov. 27.

Erickson said the cross-motion was “requesting the earlier judgment that [didn’t allow] night hunting essentially be overturned, because circumstances have changed,” Erickson said.

The tribes and the DNR were scheduled to hold a conference call with federal Judge Barbara Crabb in Madison on Wednesday. A hearing date could be scheduled at that time.

The DNR contends that the new night hunt is the same as one the tribes tried to have put in place in 1989, when they argued that because the state allows night hunting for animals such as coyotes, tribes should be allowed to hunt deer at night. That hunt was not allowed to proceed.

Erickson indicated that the state’s wolf hunt is the change in circumstances that prompted the tribes to pursue night deer hunting.

“Licensed wolf hunters are allowed to illuminate at the point of kill,” she said.

The tribes maintain that the rules allowing night hunting for deer are similar to those the state has in place for night wolf hunting. Erickson said it’s not shining in which tribal hunters are looking to participate.

“I think it’s fairly important to differentiate between shining and illumination at the point of kill,” she said. “Shining is not allowed.”

The tribes came out in opposition to the state’s wolf hunting and trapping season, trying in September to halt wolf hunting and trapping in the northern part of the state by laying claim to all wolves in the ceded territory. 

That effort was denied. 

Under treaties signed in the 1837 and 1842, the Chippewa ceded 22,400 square miles across northern Wisconsin to the government while retaining off-reservation hunting and fishing privileges. Chippewa tribes conduct their own deer hunt, independent of state deer hunts, in the ceded territory. 

The 2012 tribal deer hunting season ends on Jan. 6, 2013.

The state’s regular nine-day gun deer hunting season ended Sunday, Nov. 25, with a 10-day muzzleloader season opening Nov. 26.

State law allows night hunting for wolves beginning Nov. 26, but area Wolf Management Zones 2 and 4 were closed Nov. 16 as they neared quota.

The zones include all of Oneida and Vilas counties.

Craig Turk may be reached at cturk@lakelandtimes.com

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