/ Articles / Vilas CDAC makes no preliminary changes from last year’s deer season quotas

Vilas CDAC makes no preliminary changes from last year’s deer season quotas

April 24, 2020 by Beckie Gaskill

Each county holds two County Deer Advisory Committee (CDAC) meetings in the spring of the year. The preliminary meeting is held in the beginning of April. Recently, the Vilas CDAC met via telephone conference to put together a preliminary recommendation for antlerless deer quotas for the county for this fall. 

The CDAC in each county takes input from the county’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) wildlife biologist as well as input from the public on what they would like to see for the upcoming deer season. The public comment period began April 16 and will run through April 29 in the form of an online survey. 

From there each CDAC will meet again in the beginning of May to revise their recommendation, if needed, and to then forward that recommendation on to the DNR, to be approved by the Natural Resources Bureau (NRB). Those recommendations are due to May 11, and will be initially sent to the NRB in May, with final approval in June. Final approval is being moved back to the June meeting this year to ensure all final winter severity index numbers are in and accounted for in all of the CDAC recommendations.

Each DNR wildlife biologist has normally made a presentation to the CDAC in their county at the meeting. However, this year with the governor’s stay at home order in place, each biologist recorded their presentation, all of which are available on the DNR website. Michele Woodford, from Vilas County, made her presentation available to the CDAC and the public for those interested. 

Vilas County CDAC presentation

Vilas County is almost equally split between private and public land, Woodford said, with 47% of the county public and 53% private land. The county is made up of approximately 84% deer range, meaning deer will not be evenly distributed across the landscape.

Woodford provided a 2019 deer season review in her presentation. Of the deer registered in the archery and crossbow season, 446 were antlered deer and 95 were antlerless. Archery accounted for 149 of those deer, with 125 antlered deer harvested and 24 antlerless. Crossbow hunters registered 321 antlered and 71 antlerless deer during the 2019 season.

Woodford also provided gun season totals. Thirty-two deer were registered in the county during the youth hunt, with a fairly even split from antlered to antlerless at 14 and 18 respectively. Muzzleloader season accounted for 24 harvests, with 21 of those being antlered deer.

The 9-day gun season was down from the 2018 numbers, as was to be expected with it being the latest possible season. When the season is late in the year, Woodford explained, harvest totals, historically, have been down by 12.9% from the previous earliest possible season. In 2019, where the season was the latest possible, harvest numbers were down 13.9 percent from 2018, which had the earliest possible season.

Overall, 791 deer were registered during the gun hunt in 2019. Of those, 612 were antlered deer and 179 were antlerless. This brings the total for all gun hunt seasons to 855 deer registered. Antlered deer accounted for 647 of those and antlerless 208.

When looking at public versus private land, there were more deer harvested on private land, but not largely disproportionate. On private land, which accounts for 53% of the land in the county, 925 animals were harvested, or 63% of all harvests in the county. On public land, 553 or 37% of deer were harvested.  

In 2019, there were 0.3 antlerless deer to each antlered deer, Woodford said. Buck harvest was approximately 1.2 animals per square mile, which was the same as in Oneida County. In 2018, that number was 1.6 bucks per square mile. 

Woodford also talked about CWD and testing being done in 2019. Due to more positive tests from the Three Lakes Trophy Ranch in 2019, she said, the feeding and baiting ban would continue in Vilas County until October 2021 if no more new positives were found. 

She also talked about testing within the county. She said the goal would be to test at least 300 animals in any two year period. In 2018, 296 tests were completed from deer harvested in Vilas County, and 174 in 2019. The more testing that can be done, the better idea the department can get regarding how the disease moves through the deer herd and across the landscape.

She also spoke about the 2019 season specifically. As stated, it was the latest possible gun season, which usually leads to less hunter success. When the gun season is later in the year, it falls during the post rut, or what she called the “post rut depression.” While it is not necessarily a depression for the animals, she said, it often is for the hunters. Deer tend to bed down and not move, even when drives are going on, Woodford reported.

The last factor her presentation looked at is one that arguably has the biggest effect on the deer herd: winter severity. The winter severity index gets one point for every day temperatures are below zero and one point for each day there is more than 18 inches of snow on the ground. 

The numbers Woodford presented were from February of 2020, which were the most recent available at the time of creating her presentation. It showed the Northwoods largely already into the severe category, which is 80-100 points. Most likely those totals would be over 100 by the time winter loses its grip on the Northwoods, meaning the index would fall into the very severe category.

The Vilas CDAC members reviewed her presentation and also discussed the preliminary recommendations among themselves. It was felt that, at least preliminarily, quota numbers could remain the same as last year. With a quota of 200 antlerless deer, assuming the historical 35 percent success rate, the recommendation was for 150 public and 350 private tags, according to CDAC alternate-chair Steven Budnik. The committee felt this would still allow for a good harvest opportunity and take into account tourism as well as taking pressure of off the one and two year old bucks in the county.

Budnik said the CDAC was looking forward to seeing the public weigh in. Public comment period will be open until April 29, and he invited all stakeholders and those who hunt in the county to respond to the survey to give their ideas and experiences. Woodford, too, said she would like to hear more from hunters about what they saw during the season. She wanted to know if hunters saw fewer, more or about the same number of deer in 2019.

All of the public comment will be reviewed before the May 5 meeting of the Vilas CDAC, where final recommendations will be formulated and sent on to the DNR. While there seemed to be an idea these meetings would be able to happen in person early on, now there is some doubt to that and Budnik said most meetings are being slated for teleconference for the month of May once again.

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

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