The Douglas County Deer Advisory Council (CDAC) is recommending a bucks-only season for the general public in 2020.

Youth, military, disabled hunters and tribes would be able to take antlerless deer wherever they are hunting, and the metro area would have an allocation of 300 antlerless permits.

The move would help grow the deer population in the county following two consecutive seasons with unexpected harvest declines. The buck kill was down nearly 14% in 2018 and down 23% in 2019, said DNR wildlife biologist Greg Kessler.

Public comment on the recommendations will be taken online from April 16-29. Visit the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resource’s CDAC website for a link to the feedback survey, or visit the DNR website and type in the keyword CDAC.

Weather and a late gun season may have affected the low gun harvest numbers in 2019, Kessler said. The archery buck harvest, which increased by 8% from 2018 to 2019, may more closely reflect deer numbers hunters were seeing in the fall, he said.

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A total of 2,999 deer were harvested in Douglas County in 2019, with the majority (1,798) harvested during the nine-day gun season. That number includes 2,282 bucks and 717 antlerless deer. That ratio of 0.31 antlerless deer to each buck should help grow the herd, Kessler said.

The CDAC members discussed the fact that the pre-hunt deer population estimate dropped 29% from 2017 to 2019, indicating they have not met their objective to increase the deer herd. One of the big issues they identified is the uneven distribution of habitat, snowfall amounts, carrying capacity, land mix, hunting pressure and predator counts in the county. A recommendation to split the county into separate deer management units in 2017 was denied by the Natural Resources Board.

The CDAC's 2020 preliminary recommendations were made following an April 9 conference call that included 34 people. In addition to the nine CDAC members, the moderator and two DNR observers, 22 members of the public listened in.

“It was very strange to talk with people and not be able to watch body language, expressions, etc., to see how the information flow was working,” said CDAC Chairman Al Horvath. "All in all, I thought it was great that the DNR offered the meeting to allow public input.”