Heavy winter kill likely means no doe hunt in northern Wisconsin this fall

2014-05-14T06:45:00Z Heavy winter kill likely means no doe hunt in northern Wisconsin this fallSTEVEN VERBURG sverburg@madison.com, 608-252-6118 madison.com

Winter weather killed so many Wisconsin deer over the last two years that state officials plan to take the unusual step of recommending that no antlerless deer licenses be issued in the northern third of the state for the upcoming hunt.

A year without antlerless tags should help deer numbers build back up, said Kevin Wallenfang, the state Department of Natural Resources big game ecologist.

“It’s going to be a regrowth period,” Wallenfang said. “We’ve had two bad back-to-back winters.”

Wallenfang said he couldn’t remember a year when no antlerless tags were issued for such a large area.

DNR staff will make the recommendation to the Natural Resources Board at its May 28 meeting, Wallenfang said.

He said the recommendation would cover firearms and archery seasons over most of the 17-county Northern Forest Zone. Hunters with children, disabled and military-on-leave licenses, as well as tribal members still would be able to hunt antlerless deer, he said.

Based on a DNR tally of days with more than 18 inches of snow and days with temperatures below zero, this winter was the worst on record, Wallenfang said. The winter severity index and several other measures of how well deer overwintered are used to determine goals for the hunt, he said.

Since Jan. 1, nearly 40 percent of juvenile deer being tracked by radio-equipped collars in northern Wisconsin have died, compared with 33 percent in 2013 and 6 percent in 2012, said Daniel Storm, a DNR deer research ecologist based in Rhinelander.

In 2013, spring came so late that the fat reserves deer live on during the winter ran out before plant life started growing again, Storm said.

Adult deer mortality ranged between 7 percent and 15 percent over the last three years, he said. About 500 deer are being tracked.

Most are killed by predators, but lack of food makes deer less able to evade and escape, Storm said.

Tim Van Deelen, a UW-Madison wildlife ecologist who works with the DNR on research projects, said he understands why the state would cut back on hunting next year, but he doesn’t necessarily agree.

“Having a few years of lower deer populations might be a good thing,” Van Deelen said.

Populations of hungry deer are so high most years that the herd harms commercial tree crops, native plants and biodiversity, Van Deelen said. But the DNR must respond to the desires of hunters who will accept less doe hunting in the short run to have a bigger overall herd — including trophy bucks — for the long run, he said.

“Hunters agitate for more deer,” Van Deelen said. “People who wouldn’t be activists about anything else will crawl out of their hospital bed and crawl across broken glass to advocate for more deer.”

Van Deelen said deaths of juvenile deer have relatively little affect on future herd size, compared to deaths of adult does, which haven’t increased greatly.

George Meyer, executive director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, said it may be necessary to protect antlerless deer for two seasons. He agreed that hunters would welcome restrictions in order to build the herd.

“People think of hunters as trophy hunters,” Meyer said. “The majority of deer hunters, that’s 600,000 people, the majority are just trying to bring meat to the table.”

Wallenfang said hunters surveyed by the DNR indicate that a successful hunt doesn’t depend on killing.

“People want to see deer,” Wallenfang said. “Seeing deer is the No. 1 measure of a quality hunt for people, and they’ve been seeing fewer and fewer.”

This is the first year of a new deer management system under which the state will set goals for generally increasing, stabilizing or decreasing the size of the herd by county, instead of setting numeric quotas in each of about 130 deer management areas.

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(12) Comments

  1. deer lady
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    deer lady - May 16, 2014 4:33 pm
    Deer can survive these hard winters if they have a food supply. The DNR does not approve of feeding wild deer and have banned feeding in numerous parts of Wisconsin....thus they die during years such as we just had. I have a deer farm in north central Wisconsin. My deer get all the food they care to eat and this was one of the healthiest years ever so deer do not die from the cold and snow...they die from lack of food to keep their bodies warm during winters like this past one. The wolves brought in to northern Wisconsin do not help matters either. I don't remember the statistics, but wolves eat a heck of a lot of deer each year. Why do you think the southern part of Wisconsin has more deer? They don't have wolves!!!
  2. hoytusa
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    hoytusa - May 15, 2014 5:58 pm
    It is not just the winter that wrecked WI whitetail hunting. It is the past 14 years of the DNR wanting everything that moved shot, including fawns. Now this is what THEY have. A complete MESS. And NO deer in northern WI. Plus all THEIR laws to chase people out of the woods. No wonder people are leaving the State to hunt and going where there is game that is managed well. I farmed for many years,, you cant go in the barn and shoot every heifer cow and expect calves in the spring. Most no one in Madison has any idea how to manage a deer heard or even hunts for that matter. I would love to make big bucks to make decisions on our deer heard.At least I know how to hunt and run a farm. I have seen and know of many places in WI that I do not see the deer herd ever coming back because it is hurt that bad. The DNR should be ashamed of what THEY have done to a resource that use to be the best in the midwest. They should and need to all be fired. And then put some farmers and hunters with good common sense on the board. Basically a college degree and money has got our deer herd where it is today. Completely done for and shot to hell. Plant some more wolves you dumb asses, that should really help the deer heard. Idiots
  3. hoytusa
    Report Abuse
    hoytusa - May 15, 2014 5:57 pm
    It is not just the winter that wrecked WI whitetail hunting. It is the past 14 years of the DNR wanting everything that moved shot, including fawns. Now this is what THEY have. A complete MESS. And NO deer in northern WI. Plus all THEIR laws to chase people out of the woods. No wonder people are leaving the State to hunt and going where there is game that is managed well. I farmed for many years,, you cant go in the barn and shoot every heifer cow and expect calves in the spring. Most no one in Madison has any idea how to manage a deer heard or even hunts for that matter. I would love to make big bucks to make decisions on our deer heard.At least I know how to hunt and run a farm. I have seen and know of many places in WI that I do not see the deer herd ever coming back because it is hurt that bad. The DNR should be ashamed of what THEY have done to a resource that use to be the best in the midwest. They should and need to all be fired. And then put some farmers and hunters with good common sense on the board. Basically a college degree and money has got our deer herd where it is today. Completely done for and shot to hell. Plant some more wolves you dumb asses, that should really help the deer heard. Idiots
  4. On_paper
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    On_paper - May 14, 2014 3:13 pm
    Well, we'll meet somewhere in the middle of the state: in Rock County they still have road kill carcasses laying in the ditch from the winter, helping to spread CWD, faster. 1 in 4 bucks down here has tested positive and the Disease is moving North faster than ever. The Insurance industries are happy as pigs in muck; we have the lowest deer/car crashes in years.
  5. WAKEUP
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    WAKEUP - May 14, 2014 12:22 pm
    Let me comment without a college deer degree, first deer mortality is percentage based the more deer the more that die from starvation. The lower numbers equals less deer die from starvation. You say mostly deer yards? When is the last time you spent time up north? I haven't seen deer yard up in years? With logging practices now days you don't get the old style migration of deer to the big log yards. The browse line was not low on my property because of less and less deer browsing over the last few years. You cannot refer to deer biology when there are unlimited antlerless tags. How is killing anything brown a biological technique? You take away the natural circle of life when you bring hunters with over issued tags into the mix. I have no degree in deer biology but have spent more time in my woods than any college student.
  6. bosco
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    bosco - May 14, 2014 11:14 am
    Pretty much anybody that has studied deer understands something you do not. Do not take this too personal as a lot of WI hunters do not. If the herd up north would have been as large as you suggest no deer would have made it through the last 2 winters. The few deer that went into the last winter had to compete for food, mostly in deer yards. There was not a lot of deer but they still died wholesale anyway. So what do you think would have been the result if way more deer would have been in the yards and ate all the food by mid Feb when the browse was already low from the prior winter? They would have all staved. It has happened before in prior bad winters. It is the circle of deer biology in the north woods.
  7. WAKEUP
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    WAKEUP - May 14, 2014 10:22 am
    Right on 2daylight, I have land south of Hayward, 10 years ago I had enough deer to at least give me some sightings while hunting. I quit hunting all together 3 years ago after I went two seasons without seeing a deer. I had friends hunt in my absence but they have since quit asking because they also never saw a deer in 6 days of hunting. The DNR has wiped out the herd b/c of the practice of issuing too many antlerless tags and convincing the general public that there was a deer behind every tree.
  8. Crow Barr
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    Crow Barr - May 14, 2014 10:19 am
    "Have Gun, Will Travel!"

    Go to where the deer are, end of problem!
  9. 2daylight
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    2daylight - May 14, 2014 8:53 am
    Sadly, the DNR now wishes to blame it's poor management of the Northern Wisconsin herd on the past winters. The fact is that they had this screwed up for the past 5 or more years. This past winter just has exacerbated the issue. Most of the top 1/3 of the state should not have had any antlerless tags for 2+ years.

    I wonder if anyone wishes to figure out how much money this will cost the business of Northern Wisconsin over the next 5 years? I am personally aware of what has cost in the past 2-3 years. S

  10. Whazzat
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    Whazzat - May 14, 2014 6:31 am
    No, it's not just like farming. When farmers have lean years they go to the mailbox to get their government check to make up the difference.
  11. eagledeer
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    eagledeer - May 13, 2014 11:13 pm
    just like farming. Good years and bad years.
  12. GeorgeWBush
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    GeorgeWBush - May 13, 2014 4:25 pm
    My V.P. Dick Cheney is an avid hunter. Perhaps the DNR should reach out for his two cents. P.S. Don't ever go hunting with him. He is a very poor shot.

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