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Wild Things: State Deer Harvest Tops 22,000

Ten seasons after they were first offered as a legal choice for any hunter, crossbows are an important addition to the Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) deer management toolbox.

In fact, crossbow deer harvests have outpaced vertical bow kills the past five seasons. It’ll be six after the 2023-2024 hunt is over.

Through the first 24 days of the season, crossbow users had registered 8,271 whitetails, including 3,577 antlered bucks. That compares to 6,292 for archers, with 2,224 of them bucks. 

Add in last weekend’s youth gun hunt preliminary tally of 7,594 deer, and more than 22,000 have already been hauled out of Wisconsin’s fields and forests since the bow and crossbow hunt began Sept. 16.

In the two-day mentored gun hunt that ended 20 minutes after sunset Sunday, Door County youths reported 50 bucks and 59 antlerless, while Kewaunee County youths registered 60 bucks and 65 antlerless. 

Other area county totals in the youth gun hunt were Brown, 69; Calumet, 49; Manitowoc, 107; Outagamie, 112; Oconto, 192; Marinette, 177; and Shawano, 307. 

Wisconsin’s fertile central farmland zone produced 4,816 deer in the youth hunt compared to 1,617 in the southern farmland, 912 in the northern zone and 249 in the central forest. 

Meanwhile, as of Oct. 9, Door hunters had reported 137 deer with crossbow and 65 with archery equipment. In Kewaunee County, the count was 78 with crossbows and 60 with vertical bows.

Elsewhere on the hunting scene, the ring-necked pheasant season begins at 9 am, Saturday. Birds stocked by local sportsman’s clubs and the DNR are key to the action. 

Also opening Saturday are the Open Water Duck Zone; Zone B ruffed grouse; Southern Zone cottontail rabbit; and red and gray fox hunting seasons. Reopening after a five-day split is the Southern Zone duck season.

Taking Good Shots

Whether using bow, crossbow or firearm, multiple studies have estimated wounding rates on deer, turkeys and other game at 15 to 25 percent.

To reduce that, it’s essential that hunters practice enough to consistently put an arrow, bolt or bullet in the bullseye, then only take shots they know they can make while afield.

The National Bowhunter Education Foundation has educational tools designed to increase shot accuracy for quicker harvests and game recovery. The advanced anatomy and shot placement guides offer transparent overlays and accompanying text specific to deer, turkey, elk and black bear. 

These guides are terrific tools for hunter education instructors and ethical hunters alike. Learn more at nbef.org.

Focus on Forests

National Forest Products Week is Oct. 15-21 – a chance to shine the spotlight on healthy, sustainable forests and the numerous products they provide.

For generations, trees have supplied resources for building material, fuel and paper. Fruits, nuts, fungi, herbs and medicines also come from the forest, and Wisconsin’s 17 million acres of forestland provide wildlife habitat, carbon storage and erosion control.

The forest products industry contributes more than $24 billion in goods and services in Wisconsin, and employs more than 60,000 men and women.

When there’s an active market for timber, landowners have a financial incentive to follow management plans and conduct harvests that keep the forest, wildlife and overall ecology healthy.

Sustainable forestry practices ensure that trees are grown and harvested responsibly, providing economic, social and ecological benefits.

Fishing Update

Anglers who haven’t put away their equipment have a wide variety of species to pursue, from spawn-minded salmon and brown trout in bays, harbors and rivers to hungry perch, pike, bass, walleyes and muskies in Green Bay.

Low water continues to impact the salmon spawning run, with hundreds of Chinooks dying before they made it all the way to the Besadny Anadromous Fisheries Facility.  However, Strawberry Creek has been getting decent numbers thanks to its proximity to the lake and supplemental flow from a pump. 

More rain this month would be welcomed by crews that still need to collect spawn from coho salmon and brown trout at Kewaunee and Racine. 

Leave The Leaves

If you want to assist small critters and pollinators, consider holding off on your fall cleanup until spring.

Leafy mulch can insulate plants, slow erosion and provide hibernation habitat for wildlife such as frogs, toads, and insects, including caterpillars. 

As they decompose, leaves provide nutrients for micro-organisms that are the life of the soil.

Learn more about pollinators and get solid gardening advice at usda.gov/peoples-garden.

October Big Day

A popular event for birders, October Big Day is Saturday, Oct. 14. Birders are asked to submit at least one eBird checklist that day to help set a new world record. Last year, nearly 35,000 people from 185 countries submitted 80,000 checklists with eBird. Learn more at ebird.org/news/october-big-day-2023.