/ Articles / Oneida County Deer Advisory Committee holds first 2020 quota meeting

Oneida County Deer Advisory Committee holds first 2020 quota meeting

April 17, 2020 by Beckie Gaskill

Each county in the state has a County Deer Advisory Committee (CDAC). The purpose of the CDAC, which is a group of volunteers from many different stakeholder groups, is to gather public opinion on deer population goals, antlerless quotas and deer season options. From there the committee takes those opinions into consideration and also looks at a variety of metrics, deer herd trends and impacts to deer populations, including hunting. Once this is complete, the CDAC in each county forwards their recommendations on to the DNR, to eventually be approved by the Natural Resources Board (NRB). 

This year all CDAC meetings are being held via teleconference, and the public is welcome to call in, as several people did for the Oneida County meeting. Normally there would be public comment at the meeting as well, but this year that comment period will be April 16-28, via an online form found on the DNR website. 

DNR wildlife biologist Jeremy Holtz provided the committee members, and the public, a presentation that was available online on the DNR website. Normally he would present that at the meeting, but the phone in format dictated a change in plans. He provided information in that presentation by which the committee could start to form a recommendation for antlerless quotas for the county. One area he touched on was crossbow season and how that type of harvest has changed in recent years.

“Crossbow harvest has become a significant part of the overall harvest in Oneida, really across the state,” Holtz said. Of the 896 deer registered in 2019, 620 of those were with crossbow. This included 414 antlered deer and 206 antlerless deer, compared with 177 antlered deer taken with a vertical bow and 95 antlerless.  

Gun season, Holtz said, is still by far the most popular of the deer seasons. In 2019, there were a total of 916 antlered deer registered across all gun seasons (9-day gun, muzzleloader, 2-day youth and December antlerless) and 718 antlerless deer, for a total of 1,643 in Oneida County. There was a dip in both antlered and antlerless deer last year across the entire northern zone. The vast majority of those deer, 1,463, were taken during the 9-day gun deer season. 

While 55% of deer were harvested during the 9-day gun season, the next two largest categories, Holtz said, were archery, with crossbow accounting for 28% and vertical bow 12%. In Oneida County, approximately 40% of antlered deer, and 30% of antlerless deer are harvested with some sort of bow.

The distinction between deer harvested on public land versus private land is an important one, too, he said, as quotas are set separately for those two land types. While 46% of the land in the county is public land, only 31% of deer, or 793, were harvested on public land. On private land, there were 1,733 deer harvested in 2019. The harvest ratio, Holtz explained, was 0.68 antlerless to each antlered deer overall. He said harvest ratio is a quick way to predict what the deer population will do based on harvest. 

In 2019, Holtz said, there was a late opening for the 9-day gun deer season. Rather than the season opening on a specific date, the season opens the Saturday before Thanksgiving, which causes a late opener some years and an earlier opener in others. On average, a late opening of the season brings about a 12.9% drop in harvest. In 2018-2019, harvest was down 13.9%. The rut last year, Holtz said, really peaked and tapered off before the gun season started last year. 

He also spoke about the five CWD positive deer found near the Lincoln County line. While many negative tests have also come back, he said, much more information is needed to fully understand what is happening on the landscape. Going forward, more testing will be crucial in that light. There is talk of creating CWD management zones where more tools could be used to increase the number of deer harvested and subsequently tested. 

The fawn to doe ratio, Holtz said, is important when looking to learn about deer populations. Last year’s 78 fawns per 100 does was down a bit, he said. However, it was right in with the average seen in the North Central Forest zone in the past 10 or 15 years. 

Predation is also taken into account when predicting populations, he said. Summer deer observations are done after the majority of the fawns have been lost to predators, he said. Most predations are done before July, which is before deer observations are started. This gives a much clearer picture of the number of fawns that have survived that first crucial period. 

During the CDAC meeting, Holtz also talked about winter severity index. He said this year, Oneida County’s severity index was fairly high. He felt it was extremely possible the number could break 100, should we get more April snowfalls, as was the case last year. This could lead to higher fawn mortality and also impact buck harvest. This could cause a drop in the number of fawns by approximately 20 percent.

With all of that said, Holtz laid out the tools available to the Oneida County CDAC for the 2020 season. He said antlerless quotas for both public and private lands could be set. If the committee saw fit, it could create an antlerless only hunt for all seasons, and could issue youth antlerless tags even in counties that were buck-only for adults.

The objective for the deer population in Oneida County is to maintain the population numbers currently on the landscape.

When it came time to deliberate on quota setting, Oneida CDAC chairman instructed the committee members to remember they were setting quotas, which is the number of deer they would be trying to kill with the tags. The number of tags issues, of course, would be more than that number, based on average hunter harvest. The committee set the number of tags at 1,000 public and 2,000 for private land. The quota set would be 260 public 660 private, giving a total of 920 antlerless deer. 

Committee members felt this was a good starting place, and also looked for input from the public during the public comment period. The hope is hunters will weigh in online during that time. From there, those responses will be forwarded to the CDAC members, and taken into consideration at the final meeting. The Oneida County CDAC meeting will be held on Tuesday, May 5. If the meeting cannot be held in person at that time, due to health concerns related to COVID-19, the meeting will likely take place in the same format

Feedback can be given for more than one county. Holtz said many hunters hunt more than one county, and he hoped those people would provide feedback in all counties in which they hunt.

A full list of CDAC meetings can be found on the DNR website by searching “CDAC.” Reports from county deer biologists are also available there.

Beckie Gaskill may be reached via email at [email protected]

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