Wild Things: DNR Misses the Boat on Dividing Door North-South

When it comes to deer and deer hunting, there’s no way to make season recommendations that will please everyone. But if you’re one of the more than 300 hunters who provided written comments on the Door County Deer Advisory Council’s (CDAC) preliminary three-year population objectives and unit boundaries, you might feel doubly frustrated this week.

Even after a majority of hunters took the time to ask for splitting the county into more than one management unit, DNR wildlife biologist Josh Martinez said he was sticking with his original recommendation to maintain the boundary as it is: all Door County lands under the same plan.

Hunt club member John Propsom asked the group to consider three zones (south of the canal, somewhere north of the canal to the peninsula’s tip, and the islands), but Martinez explained that CDAC members are not in charge of voting on boundary proposals.

“I have overwhelming support for not changing,” Martinez began, citing a question on the online survey to which 264 people answered that they support the unit boundary and 120 answered that they prefer a change. 

After CDAC members pointed out that a majority of the written comments were in favor of a change, that no options were given for various boundary proposals and that there was no way of knowing whether a majority of the hunters who voted were from Southern Door – where the deer population is flourishing – Martinez said that even if he recommended a change, it would take an administrative rule and wouldn’t start until 2022. 

Martinez said it could be brought up again, perhaps with some better defined boundaries, in 2024. Including the rule timeline, that would mean the earliest Door could be split would be 2025.

A member asked whether a boundary change is something that could be brought up during the spring Conservation Congress hearings. Martinez said that’s an option, but it would have to pass locally, get past the state deer committee and be approved by the state’s Natural Resources Board.

During the public-comment period, Martinez was asked to reconsider his recommendation, but there was no opportunity for response. Hunters can email him directly at [email protected]

Concerned members of the public can also contact Natural Resources Board liaison Laurie Ross to submit written comments or register to speak prior to the Feb. 24 meeting, when final recommendations will be voted on. Her email is [email protected].

After the public input, the Door CDAC voted on the one thing it did have the power to do, which was recommending a goal to “decrease” the herd for the third-straight three-year period since the group was formed in 2014. It passed 6-1. One member said he believed “maintain” would be more appropriate after the online survey saw only 160 support the “decrease” objective versus 240 opposed.

Deer Hunt Update

The extended bow and crossbow hunts will end Jan. 31 in Door and Kewaunee counties. We don’t have updated figures because the DNR hasn’t updated the harvest summary page since Jan. 5.

Through that date, Door deer hunters had racked up 1,687 bucks and 2,381 antlerless deer in all seasons, for a total of 4,068 whitetails. Kewaunee County hunters reported 1,308 bucks and 2,238 antlerless, for a total of 3,546.

Door County’s harvest is up slightly from last year, but down from 5,264 taken during the 2017 season and 4,791 in 2018. The buck kill is the third lowest in the past nine years. 

Wolf Hunt Shot Down

Citing concerns over the legalities of a wolf hunt this winter after tribal governments weren’t included at the table, the state Natural Resources Board last week narrowly voted down a motion to direct the DNR to implement one no later than Feb. 10.

The DNR is planning on a managed hunt beginning Nov. 6, but critics say that will give animal-activist groups enough time to find a federal judge who will agree to block it. 

Wisconsin’s wolf population was more than three times its population goal already last winter, before new-pup recruitment from more than 250 packs. 

Sportsman’s Expo in Wisconsin Dells

Because of continuing COVID-19 restrictions within the City of Madison and Dane County, the 2021 Wisconsin Open Season Sportsman’s Expo (formerly Outdoor Life/Field & Stream Expo) will be relocated to the Kalahari Resort Convention Center in Wisconsin Dells March 26-28.

The expo ( will spotlight new products and learning experiences for hunting, fishing and outdoor enthusiasts. 

Whitetail Records

The Boone & Crockett Club’s latest Records of North American Whitetail Deer features 17 new state and provincial records set since the last edition was published in 2012.

Also included in the 688-page hardcover book is a special section featuring 37 hunting stories and photos of the top-scoring whitetails taken so far this century. To order a copy, visit

Water-Levels Update

As of Jan. 22, Lake Michigan was still 31 inches above its 100-year average, but it was down two inches during the past month and eight inches since last January.

Levels were about four inches below the all-time monthly high, set in 1987, and 59 inches above the record monthly low, set in 2013.

Bear-Quota Vote

The state Natural Resources Board was to vote on the DNR’s proposed 2021 black bear quota of 4,340 at its meeting this week, with slightly fewer permits (11,405 versus 11,535 in 2020) awarded to achieve it. 

This fall’s hunt will feature a new zone structure. Hunters had to apply by early December. 

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