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State Takes Shot at Spring-Hearing Advisory Questions

Wisconsin’s seven-citizen Natural Resources Board (NRB) has its sight set on deer in a series of advisory questions proposed for the spring fish and wildlife hearings in April. 

The NRB plans to seek citizen input, both in person and through online voting, about extending the current nine-day firearm season to 19 days (which would eliminate the current 10-day muzzleloader hunt), eliminating the antlerless-only holiday firearm deer season and establishing a two-day no-hunting period before the first day of the firearm deer season.

In addition, the board is floating a proposal to allow crossbows for everyone Oct. 1-31, and crossbows during the remainder of the archery season only for those with a disabled permit or those who are older than 60. Archery and crossbow buck tags would not be valid during any firearm deer hunt in another proposal. 

The board will also ask for input on simplifying and streamlining regulations by eliminating deer-management zones and continuing to manage by county units and public- or private-land antlerless tags. 

More than 40 percent of the antlered buck harvest was taken prior to opening day of the gun deer season last fall, impacting the firearm season to the point where it may no longer be meeting the expectations of gun hunters. 

Meanwhile, the DNR’s list of questions includes one that I’ve long been in favor of: establishing a new, all-inclusive and multi-species license to be awarded in a lottery drawing as a way of raising funds for habitat restoration and wildlife management. For example, the winner might receive tags for all species, including bear and elk. 

The DNR is also seeking input on requiring nontoxic ammo in state-owned and state-managed wildlife areas.

Among the questions on which the Conservation Congress is seeking input are allowing county deer advisory councils to make recommendations on baiting, feeding and earn-a-buck; and a 16-day gun-season opening on the Saturday nearest to Nov. 15 (Nov. 12-18 would be the range).

The congress is also asking for a vote on increasing nonresident license fees for deer and bear, and opening the spring wild turkey hunting season a week earlier.

More 2019 Deer Tales

Hunters from all 50 states, one U.S. territory, 37 U.S. minor outlying islands and 43 other countries purchased a license to participate in Wisconsin’s deer season.

Still, total license sales are down more than 11,700 from last year, with all of the decrease coming on the gun deer license side.

Preliminary license sales stood at 565,824 for gun deer, 128,274 for archery and 100,614 for crossbow (not including upgrades) through Jan. 5. Gun deer hunting license sales peaked the day prior to the opener, when 101,839 licenses were sold.

Although the DNR does not have an accurate count of the number of bow and crossbow users, both 2019 totals will increase by more than 53,000 after Conservation Patron license holders are added in. Currently, such holders may use either bow or crossbow and don’t have to indicate which. Critics say that if the DNR wants a better understanding of the success rates of the two, it would need to know which weapon is the primary tool used. 

Nearly 90 percent of all deer licenses sold were to males (89.6 percent), but females made up nearly 23 percent (22.9) of new-buyer sales. 

There were 38,989 licenses sold to new hunters (or lapsed hunters who bought a license for the first time in 10 or more years), and 17,802 mentored licenses were purchased. 

Conservation wardens made more than 14,500 contacts during the gun hunt, including more than 8,000 during opening weekend. 

QDMA on the Issues

The Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA) took a position on 169 policy items on issues in all 50 states last year – the most the organization has ever taken in a single year. 

Kip Adams, QDMA’s director of conservation, said the group strives to advocate for wise policy and management of whitetails and will continue to lobby on behalf of white-tailed deer, wildlife habitat and our hunting heritage. 

In Wisconsin, the group supported CWD research, testing kiosks and deer-carcass disposal dumpsters; stiffer penalties for poaching; and the availability of earn-a-buck as a tool for county deer advisory councils. 

“We recognize EAB regulations are often controversial and generally disliked by sportsmen and women,” a letter from QDMA stated. “However, few strategies (if any) are more effective at increasing the antlerless deer harvest in an area.”

Outdoors Almanac

As of Jan. 17, Lake Michigan was three feet, one inch above its 100-year monthly average, which was a foot and a half higher than last year and three inches above the record set in 1987. Water levels were five feet, six inches above the all-time January low, set in 2013.

• The first two Door County state-park candlelight ski, snowshoe and hikes are set for Jan. 25 at Whitefish Dunes and Feb. 1 at Peninsula. There will be another candlelight event at Point Beach State Forest Jan. 25, and Newport State Park’s will be Feb. 8. 

• The Boone and Crockett Club’s 30th Big Game Awards book is available. There are more than 300 photos of the top-scoring trophies and more than 4,400 new entries from 2016 to 2018 among its 728 pages. Learn more at boone-crockett.org.

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