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Wild Things: More Than 7,000 Deer Taken from Kewaunee/Door Peninsula in 2020

Kewaunee and Door county hunters have trimmed more than 7,000 whitetails from the peninsula this season, and they’re not finished yet.

The antlerless-only firearm deer “holiday hunt” runs through New Year’s Day, and the bow and crossbow deer season has been extended through Jan. 31.

All hunters – except those taking part in a late Canada goose hunt that runs to Jan. 5 – must wear blaze orange or pink clothing while the antlerless season is on. No bucks may be targeted through Jan. 1, even with archery or crossbow gear.

Through Dec. 21, hunters in Door and Kewaunee counties had registered 7,121 deer (Door 3,811; Kewaunee 3,310). Statewide, the count was 321,238, including 155,300 antlered bucks. 

The December four-day antlerless hunt and 10-day muzzleloader season produced more than 15,000 deer, including 7,219 (2,816 bucks) with muzzleloader Nov. 30-Dec. 9, and 8,490 (15 bucks) during the four-day season that immediately followed. 

Other totals: an updated Nov. 21-29 firearm deer count, 190,595 (86,055 bucks); crossbow, 62,029 (36,525 bucks); archery, 45,523 (26,506 bucks); and youth gun hunt, 7,482 (3,383 bucks).

The 2020 Wisconsin buck harvest is up about 18,000 from last season, but down more than 4,000 from 2018.

Door Could Be Split

Even though the Door County Deer Advisory Council (CDAC) did not vote to split the unit north to south, there’s still a shot that it could be managed differently beginning next fall. That’s because the public will be able to weigh in online between Jan. 4 and 13. 

The local council members didn’t let a third-straight drop in the Door County buck kill faze them when voting Dec. 7 to continue to try to decrease the peninsula’s whitetail herd. A three-year “decrease” recommendation from the council – the third since it was formed in 2014 – could be met with some pushback from hunters in the northern half of the county.

Should the public push be strong enough, Greg Coulthurst – Door County Conservation Congress vice chair and Door CDAC chair – said the group would revisit its preliminary recommendation.

In the absence of in-person registration, DNR wildlife biologist Josh Martinez said the only way to gauge harvest trends in specific areas would be through separating the unit, such as prior to 2014, when Northern Door, Southern Door and the islands were all in different management units.

Councils will meet via teleconference later in January to review public comments and make final recommendations, which the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will discuss and present to the state’s Natural Resources Board on Feb. 24.

Come spring, the CDACs will recommend county deer quotas, the number of free antlerless tags to give with each license, and the number of bonus public and private antlerless permits that will be available for sale.

To find out how you can voice your opinion online or listen in on the January meetings, visit dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/Hunt/cdac.

Lake Trout Rules Change

Until a new season structure is implemented, the DNR has reverted back to its old Lake Michigan lake trout season and bag limit. That means a two-fish limit and an open season from March 1 to Oct. 31.

Brad Eggold, the DNR’s Great Lakes District fisheries supervisor, said the original season length and bag limit will need to be implemented Jan. 1. He blamed COVID-19, partial fishing seasons and the sunset clause, but he said the agency hopes to have a five-fish bag back in place by summer. 

In 2017, in response to stakeholder input, the DNR put in temporary regulations allowing a year-round season and a daily limit of five lake trout. The Natural Resources Board made these permanent in 2018, but they expire Jan. 1. The sunset clause allowed the DNR to assess the regulations and ensure that they did not negatively affect Lake Michigan lake trout restoration efforts.

Data indicate that sport angler laker harvest did not increase significantly. A research group at Michigan State University is currently working on updating lake trout population models. 

More Cohos Than Kings

It was a most unusual salmon run at the Besadny Anadromous Fisheries Facility on the Kewaunee River this fall, with more cohos (1,806) than chinooks (707) processed between Oct. 2 and Nov. 4. 

A total of 240 female cohos produced more than 700,000 eggs for state hatcheries, while 181 female kings were estimated to provide more than 1 million eggs. 

Meanwhile, 3,845 chinooks were handled at the Root River weir. A total of 601 females produced more than 2 million eggs. That compares to more than 1,500 cohos seen and 422 spawned, producing about 450,000 eggs.

Weekly Water Levels

As of Christmas, Lake Michigan was continuing its seasonal drop, down three inches from last month and four inches from last December. Water levels were six inches below the 1986 record high and 59 inches above the record monthly low, set in 2012.

Ice has begun to form near the shore on Green Bay, but very few areas are safe for even cautious walk-on action. Snow this week insulated thin-ice areas. Anglers should wait for extended cold air, then check with local bait shops for the latest reports. 

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