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Wild Things: Plum Island Deer-Hunt Draw Set for This Week

If you applied for a shot at a limited gun deer hunt on Plum Island this year, watch your email. David Bolin, assistant refuge manager for the Green Bay National Wildlife Refuge (which includes Plum Island), said the drawing would take place this week. 

Last year was the first year when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) offered a limited hunt under a new plan. (Before that plan was completed, different authorities allowed hunting on the 325-acre island.) The USFWS partnered with the DNR last year to implement what it called a nuisance-deer control program on Plum Island to encourage forest regeneration and reduce the impact of deer on rare plant communities.

Bolin said more than 30 hunters participated last year before the quota of 30 whitetails was reached. That happened during period five, which ended Nov. 14. Fourteen does (three yearlings), 13 bucks (one yearling) and three fawns were taken. The oldest deer was a buck estimated to be four or five years old.

“After the 2019 hunt, it was still estimated that approximately 25 deer remained on Plum Island,” Bolin said. “The deer population can fluctuate during the hunting season due to hunting pressure on nearby islands, as the deer will readily swim.”

The Green Bay National Wildlife Refuge consists of Hog Island (2 acres), Plum Island (325 acres), Pilot Island (3.7 acres), St. Martin Island (1,260 acres – not the entire island) and Rocky Island (10 acres). 

Plum Island is part of an unusual island ecosystem that contains alvar (thin soil) and rare plant species such as the federally endangered dwarf lake iris, which grow along the shore of Lake Michigan.  

Deer overbrowsing has most dramatically affected the Canada yew population – to the point of nonexistent – and the effects are most visible along the deer browse line in the white cedars that circle the island.  

“Logging and heavy deer browsing have heavily altered the forest succession by changing the forest understory,” Bolin said. “Reducing deer numbers will allow plant species that are susceptible to deer browse to recover, but it may take decades.”

All hunting during the limited opportunity is by firearm, and the first period will begin Oct. 13. In contrast, Wisconsin’s bow and crossbow deer hunting season opener will be Sept. 12. That’s also the fall wild turkey opener, as well as several small-game hunts.

A $200,000 Payday

Rusty Salewske of Alpine, California, caught 13 smallmouth bass totaling 48 pounds, 11 ounces on Saturday to win $200,000 in an FLW Pro Circuit Championship headquartered in Sturgeon Bay. 

With just 12 minutes left to fish, Salewske sat in second place – four pounds, six ounces behind Bradford Beavers of Summerville, South Carolina. Salewske then calmly hooked and landed his last fish – a four-pound, 14-ounce smallmouth – to finish out the final minutes atop the leaderboard in a dramatic finale.

“This is the best thing that has ever happened to me in my fishing career by far,” said Salewske, who stepped away from pro-level competition in 2011 before returning to the pro circuit this season. “Of course having children and grandkids and things like that are better, but this is just unbelievable.”

The biggest fish on the final day was a five-pound, 10-ounce trophy. You can review results for the entire field at MajorLeagueFishing.com.

Fewer Pheasants in 2020

Upland game hunters who pursue ring-necked pheasants will need to find the best habitat for a shot at wild, holdover or fresh-stocked birds this year.

Budget and COVID-19 concerns both played roles in the DNR’s plan to raise and release about 33 percent fewer birds onto public properties this year. The coronavirus also forced the cancellation of the day-old-chick program used by several area conservation clubs.

About 50,000 birds raised at the State Game Farm in Poynette will be released on select public grounds throughout the season, which will begin Oct. 17, 9 am.

Natural Resources Board Chooses 2021 Dates

The Wisconsin Natural Resources Board (dnr.wi.gov/about/nrb) recently approved dates for its 2021 meetings: Jan. 26-27, Feb. 23-24, April 13-14, May 25-26 (all in Madison), June 22-23 in the Northeast Region (Oshkosh area), Aug. 10-11 in the Southeast Region (Oak Creek area), Sept. 21-22 in the Northern Region (Superior area), Oct. 26-27 and Dec. 7-8 (both in Madison). No meetings are scheduled for March, July or November. 

River Cleanup Complete

The DNR hosted a Sept. 1 media briefing to announce the completion of the Lower Fox River cleanup. Gov. Tony Evers, DNR Secretary Preston Cole, EPA Region 5 Administrator Kurt Thiede, USFWS Region 3 Director Charlie Wooley, Oneida Nation Chair Tehassi Tasi Hill and Menominee Indian Tribe Director of Agriculture and Food Systems Gary Besaw were expected to participate in the Zoom briefing, which aired online after deadline.

Neu Places Fourth in WISCO BASS

Door County angler Adam Neu placed fourth in a field of 37 competitors during an Aug. 30 WISCO BASS (Bass Anglers Singles Series) tournament out of Sturgeon Bay. Neu’s five smallmouths weighed 19.99 pounds. Gary Adkins won the event with 21.69 pounds. A 5.45-pounder was the day’s biggest.

Water up Five Inches from 2019

As of Aug. 28, Lake Michigan was 33 inches above its 100-year monthly average, five inches higher than last year and one inch above the previous record, set in 1986. 

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