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Deer are plentiful, if you can find them

Mike Heine/The Week

(Published Sept. 17, 2007, 2:30 p.m.)

Wildlife supervisors for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources in south central and southeastern Wisconsin say chances of bagging a deer should be plentiful this season, which started last Saturday with the early archery hunt.

Statewide, the herd is about 70 percent above targets with about 1.6 to 1.8 million deer roaming the woods, fields, swamps and prairies, according to DNR projections.

Low over-winter kills and 10,000 less antlerless deer shot last year compared to 2005 in southern Wisconsin should mean plenty of opportunities in this part of the state. The deer management units in Walworth County are over population goals, according to DNR officials.

Seeing deer could be a different story, said Jim Houck, an avid deer hunter for more than 30 years. If the corn crops are still up, there won't be as many deer in the woods, he said.

"There is a lot more corn this year than in years past. A lot of farmers planted corn where there used to be beans," said Houck, of Lyons. "If we keep getting a lot of rain and farmers can't get in there with their pickers, that will be a big factor. I think we will be at the mercy of the weather."

Houck recommended hunting the transitional areas between cornfields and natural areas, particularly bedding grounds.

Tolerating the mosquitoes in the early season will be another challenge, he said.

"The mornings will be better because it will be cooler," he said. "It slows (mosquitoes) down a little bit. They are attracted to heat."

The August rains brought out the mosquitoes after they seemed non-existent in a dry July.

Here are some other things to know about this year's deer hunting season:

-- The often-criticized earn-a-buck program is back in the Chronic Wasting Disease zones, which include Walworth and Rock counties. The boundaries of the two zones, located in southeastern and south central Wisconsin have not changed since 2005.

Hunters will need to register an antlerless deer before being able to shoot a buck in the earn-a-buck areas. More than 60,000 hunters pre-qualified last year for earn-a-buck by shooting an antlerless deer.

The pre-qualification program will be in effect again this year for next year. Anyone who shoots an extra antlerless deer, with a $2 permit, can kill another buck this year or keep the tag for next year.

The DNR says the program is needed to reduce the numbers of deer in overcrowded areas.

"It does work," said Greg Matthews, DNR public affairs manager. "It's a matter of trying to balance social pressure and hunting pressure with the biological needs of the landscape. If we stick with earn-a-buck in areas that need it, we will make inroads toward making our goals, but there will be political backlash."

-- The DNR will not have the pantry program for deer shot in the CWD zones this year. More than $1.7 million in state and federal funding was cut from CWD control efforts and most of the money is going to testing deer in the CWD Disease Eradication Zones.

That means instead of donating them, hunters will more likely have to pay for processing two or more deer at butcher shops, costing $60 or more, Houck said.

"We're encouraging people to talk to friends, families, relatives to see if they'd be willing to take a deer," Matthews said.

Houck recommended checking with local food pantries to see if they'll accept deer that haven't been tested for CWD. If they do, you may be able to deduct the processing costs from your taxes as a charitable donation, he said.

Hunters donated 2,250 deer last year that were tested, processed and stored until results were returned. Doing so cost the DNR twice as much per deer as testing alone.

-- The DNR will no longer require CWD testing from the herd reduction zones. Testing will only be mandatory from the disease eradication zones and several "spark" areas where the disease was prevalent, such as near game farms.

Testing will be done on about 10,000 animals this year instead of about 30,000 as in years past, wildlife biologist Davin Lopez said.

-- Sharpshooters will not return to the woods following the hunting season. Using sharpshooters was also controversial among hunters and landowners because of the tactics used, Houck said.

It cost the DNR more than $300 per deer shot, Houck said.

The DNR removed 978 from the CWD zones, 26 of which tested positive.

-- Remember, the DNR needs the hunters and the hunters need the DNR, Houck said.

"Don't be discourage over a few rules," Houck said. "Lets just all pull together and make the best of it. There are still plenty of hunting opportunities out there for those who choose to look for them. We do have a problem here and we have to deal with it the best we know how. Let's work with the DNR. They need our cooperation and if we give them that, perhaps they'll put an ear more toward what we have to say."

Season Dates

Archery:
Sept 15-Nov. 17 and Nov. 26-Jan 6, 2008
Note: Archery harvests in all units are restricted to antlerless only Dec. 6-9

Gun:
Regular gun: Nov. 17-25
Muzzleloader: Nov. 26-Dec. 5
Herd control hunt: Dec 6-9 (statewide antlerless only)
Youth gun hunt: Oct. 6-7
Disabled hunt: Oct 6-14

Chronic Wasting Disease Units:

-- Disease Eradication Zone

Archery : Sept. 16-Jan. 6, 2008
Early gun: Oct 13-21
Late gun: Nov. 17-Dec. 9

-- Herd Reduction Zone

Archery: Sept. 15-Jan. 6, 2008
Early gun: Oct 18-21
Late gun: Nov. 17-Dec. 9

Registration Stations:
Bingham's Rental and Sporting Goods
953 E. Milwaukee St., Whitewater
(262) 458-2096
(CWD testing available)

JT's Bar
1281 N. Lakeshore Drive, Pell Lake
(262) 279-5905
(CWD testing available)

Delavan Lake Bait and Tackle
3542 Highway 50, Delavan
(262) 740-1208

For more information visit the Wisconsin DNR deer hunting Web site:
http://dnr.wi.gov/org/land/wildlife/hunt/deer/index.htm

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