Hunt’s late start has advantagesWisconsin’s regular nine-day gun deer season opens Saturday with plenty of deer and plenty of extra permits for hunters willing to shoot does. The season runs through Nov. 30.
By: The Eau Claire Leader-Telegram, Superior Telegram
Wisconsin’s regular nine-day gun deer season opens Saturday with plenty of deer and plenty of extra permits for hunters willing to shoot does. The season runs through Nov. 30.
The season opener is relatively late this year, which means the deer will just be completing their mating season and there will be less natural daytime movement.
“It means that there’s less chance of hunting the bucks in the rut like we did last year,” said John Dunn, the DNR’s Eau Claire area wildlife supervisor.
The trade-off for a later season is that it increases the chances of having snow on the ground, Dunn said. Hunters like snow because it increases visibility and allows them to more easily track deer.
Last year the gun deer season opened Nov. 17, one of the earliest dates possible. Hunters shot about 402,000 deer during last year’s nine-day gun season, the third-highest recorded total.
Last year was also good for bow hunters, when archers shot more than 116,000 deer, a new high.
The combined total of all deer seasons last year was more than 518,000 deer taken, the second highest on record.
Despite the heavy kill total and a relatively snowy winter that affected the deer herd in north-central Wisconsin forests, biologists estimate the state’s deer population at between 1.5 million and 1.7 million animals — probably a slight decrease from last year but still well over population goals.
In recent years the state has had between 240,000 and 250,000 hunters for the gun deer season, Dunn said. The highest participation in the gun deer season was 1990, when 699,275 licenses were sold. In 1999 the DNR sold more than 690,000 deer gun licenses.
Bow season continues to grow in popularity. In 2006 Wisconsin sold more than 254,000 archery licenses, Dunn said.
This fall 120 cooperating meat processors in 53 counties are processing deer donated by hunters for needy families. The program is administered through county governments, and the processors are paid by the state for the donated deer they process.
During the 2007 season, hunters donated 9,200 deer to food pantries, which produced 414,000 pounds of ground, packaged venison.
Health officials in Minnesota and North Dakota have advised food pantries not to distribute ground venison, based on evidence that ground venison from deer killed with lead bullets is more likely to contain lead than whole cuts of meat.
The Wisconsin program continues to distribute ground venison.
The process for donating extra venison hasn’t changed from previous years, said Laurie Fike, DNR venison donation program coordinator. Hunters still need to have a valid tag and to register the deer and deliver it to the processor. Fike recommends that hunters call ahead first to make sure the processors can accept the deer.
“There is no cost to the hunter other than transporting the deer, and it puts high-quality meat in food pantries for needy families,” she said.
Blaze orange blinds
A new rule this year requires hunters using camouflage blinds on DNR-controlled lands to have 144 square inches of blaze orange on the blind.
“You can wear blaze orange from head to toe, but if you’re sitting inside a camouflage blind it doesn’t do you much good,” Dunn said.
Although the rule only applies to state lands, Dunn said it is common sense to have some orange on a blind wherever you put it.
The rule does not apply to blinds constructed on natural materials.
State law requires gun deer hunters to wear at least 50 percent blaze orange on their upper body and to have at least 50 percent blaze orange on their hats.
DNR safety officials encourage hunters to wear solid orange. Camouflage pattern orange hunting coats that meet the legal requirements are available, but they are less visible in the field than solid blaze orange coats, Dunn said.
“Deer are colorblind. It’s not the color of your coat that’s going to scare them away. It’s your smell and your movements,” he said.
— Copyright (c) 2008, The Leader-Telegram, Eau Claire, Wis./Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.