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Deer quota confirmed

Pending approval by the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board, Douglas County will have a limited number of antlerless tags available for the 2017 deer season.

The Douglas County Deer Advisory Council voted unanimously Monday to approve a 500 antlerless quota for the upcoming season, with 600 permits available for private land and 400 for public land.

The council also approved an increase in antlerless permits for the Superior Metro Subunit, setting levels at 200 permits for public land and 100 for private land

Both plans match the preliminary recommendations the council proposed March 22.

“We’ve had some interesting feedback since we put out our preliminary recommendations,” said Al Horvath, chair of the Douglas County council.

Horvath said some interactions were friendly, while others bordered on hostile. He saw a stark divide between those wanting an antlerless harvest and those strongly opposed to it.

“I had a guy in a store that I’ve known for 25 years who would not talk to me. He wouldn’t even look at me,” Horvath said.

Council member Douglas Stevens, who represents Deer Management Assistance Program stakeholders, said he received similar feedback.

Two men who hunt west of Solon Springs were angry an antlerless harvest would even be suggested. Another man who hunts on the eastern edge of Douglas County couldn’t understand why the quota wasn’t higher.

Despite the strong opinions, attendance at Monday’s meeting was light.

That came as a surprise to Horvath and several audience members, including Dalton Zychowski, of Superior.

“It’s just kind of boggling to me that there’s only 15 people here,” Zychowski said. “Everybody complains about the deer population, but then nobody shows up.”

While Zychowski favored letting the deer herd recover for another season, he understood the arguments for beginning an antlerless harvest in 2017.

Others in the audience worried an antlerless harvest would send the herd back into decline, but DNR wildlife biologist Greg Kessler said the proposed 500 quota was far from excessive.

“I’m not nearly as nervous about it as most of you here in this room,” he said. “At some point, you need to reap the benefits of your efforts.”

Douglas County has had a bucks-only season for the past three years. During that time, a modest harvest continued in the Superior Metro Subunit and antlerless tags were available to youth, military and disabled hunters.

Over the three-year period, hunters harvested 1,773 total antlerless deer in Douglas County.

In 2013, the year before Douglas County moved to a bucks-only season, hunters took 2,408 antlerless deer.

With the antlerless quotas set by the council and the expected youth, veteran and disabled harvests, Kessler said the deer herd in Douglas County is still expected to grow 20 percent with a moderate winter. Without an antlerless harvest, he said growth would likely be closer to 27 percent.

“I really think if we don’t do this, we’re going to get behind the eight-ball,” Horvath said. “Then I think we’ll have antlerless quotas jammed down our throats.”

Tom Avis, the council’s hunting and conservation representative, shared Horvath’s concerns that local control could be stripped away if the deer population grows too rapidly.

“This may be a bitter pill to take, but we don’t want to let it get out of hand and have the politicians get involved, because they only care about re-election,” Avis said.

Changes ahead?

Several times during Monday’s meeting, audience members questioned whether the council could divide Douglas County into smaller regions to improve management.

Mike Miller, of South Range, touched upon the topic during  his remarks.

“With our habitat, we can’t manage the county properly,” Miller said.

Douglas County has several regions of diverse habitat, he said, and cannot be managed as a whole. Some areas of the county have seen the herd recover, but in others deer numbers remain low.

Horvath agreed with Miller’s concerns, but deer advisory councils do not yet have the authority to subdivide units.

Kessler said that option may be explored when councils meet in the fall to re-evaluate their deer population objectives.

“We’ve been told that, but until it happens all bets are off,” he said.

In the meantime, Kessler said, hunters must take a lead role in proper herd management

“There’s areas where a small harvest is appropriate, and there’s areas where it’s not,” Kessler said. “We have to trust the other hunters to make good decisions.”

Douglas County

Deer Harvest

Antlerless

* 2016............................................................................... 635

* 2015............................................................................... 639

* 2014............................................................................... 499

2013................................................................................. 2,408

2012................................................................................. 3,419

2011................................................................................. 3,643

2010................................................................................. 4,332

2009................................................................................. 3,516

2008................................................................................. 6,154

2007................................................................................. 6,812

* Bucks-only season; antlerless harvest allowed in Superior Metro Subunit and for youth, military and disabled hunters.

Buck

2016................................................................................. 2,877

2015................................................................................. 1,999

2014................................................................................. 1,897

2013................................................................................. 2,256

2012................................................................................. 3,094

2011................................................................................. 2,738

2010................................................................................. 3,284

2009................................................................................. 3,061

2008................................................................................. 2,963

2007................................................................................. 4,429

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