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DNR deer plan goes in right direction

The Exeland Rod & Gun Club says the Department of Natural Resources deer plan for 2014 is a good start to help the struggling deer herd recover in northern Wisconsin. Speaking to the Conservation Congress Deer & Elk Committee in Wausau on March 22, DNR Big Game Manager, Kevin Wallenfang said no antlerless deer tags will be issued in the northern forest zone for any 2014 deer hunts. This was one of our goals, eliminating antlerless deer tags to give the declining deer herd in northern Wisconsin a chance to recover. In recent years, local sportsmen from the northern region watched as the local deer herds began to decline at an alarming rate. After another dismal nine-day gun deer season this year, our club began a campaign asking deer hunters from the area and DNR for help in restoring order. The response we received was positive. Deer hunters all over northern Wisconsin asked what they could do to help. The response we received from DNR officials was also very positive. Wallenfang and DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp acknowledged there was a problem and action would be taken to correct it. Mike Paul, a member of the Exeland Rod & Gun Club, said there were too many antlerless permits issued. The SAK system the DNR uses to determine herd size wasn’t working. Inaccurate data was used, at least in the northern region. The predator population in the area exploded. The winter of 2013 lasted into May and hurt deer reproduction. The winter of 2014 is the among the worst on record and no doubt will have a big impact on the deer herd’s future. The combination of these factors turned out to be the “perfect storm” and it has had a devastating impact on the deer numbers in northern Wisconsin. The long and harsh winter still lingering in the northern region no doubt played a huge part in the DNR decision to issue zero antlerless permits for this part of the state. Club member Norm Rademaker said the organization has, for the past 30-plus years, kept records of the “winter severity index” to track of the effect of cold and snow on deer. The higher the number, the worse the impact on deer. The highest number previously recorded was 126. This year it’s over 170 and counting. Daryl Kinnear, a longtime member and former president of the club, said we’re very happy with the response from the DNR and hope we can continue working together on this issue. But this can’t be just a one-year Band Aid. Most of the hunters we’ve talked to feel it’ll take at least two or three years of issuing no antlerless tags before the deer numbers have a realistic chance to recover. There also is the predator problem. The DNR has addressed this with increased tags issued for the upcoming bear and wolf seasons. We’re on the right track but we’ll have to review results carefully each year to see if further action is needed.