Wild Things: Time to Split Door for Deer?

CDAC to vote virtually Jan. 25

Is there enough support for Door County Deer Advisory Council (CDAC) members to vote to split the management unit north and south?

We’ll find out Monday night, when CDAC members meet via Zoom or phone to finalize three-year goals on what direction they’d like to see the local deer herd go. Across the state, CDACs are voting on final three-year goals to try to increase, decrease or maintain deer numbers in their areas.

Kewaunee County held its meeting Jan. 20, after this paper went to press. Council members expected to finalize their initial recommendation to try to maintain the herd at its current level – something they’ve done twice before.

Even after three straight years of a declining county buck kill, Door County voted “decrease” for the third straight time. However, if there’s enough public support for separating the unit, individual goals – north and south – would be voted on.

The online comment period is over, but hunters and others interested in voicing their opinion on a split can contact individual CDAC members before the 7 pm meeting on Jan. 25. Phone numbers and emails are available at

To listen in, find the Zoom link for any meeting in the state or learn more about the CDAC process, visit

Record-setting Gun Sales

A record-setting year for gun and ammunition sales has been good for the shooting-sports industry, but it’s been hard on hunters and target shooters looking for specific ammo.

Using adjusted FBI data, 2020 showed an astounding 60 percent increase over 2019. The more than 21 million background checks shattered the previous high of 15.7 million set in 2016 by more than a third. 

Jim Curcuruto, director of research and market development for the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), said recent surveys estimated that nearly 40 percent of firearm purchasers were buying their first gun, which equates to more than 8 million new gun owners. If even one out of every eight of those first-time purchases was for hunting purposes, that’s a million new hunters needing gear for their adventures afield.

Past research has shown that many first-time hunters won’t become active participants unless a friend or family member mentors them. Curcuruto – and every recruit, retain and reactivate specialist at state fish and wildlife agencies – is hoping that even a small percentage of the more than 50 million seasoned sportsmen and outdoorswomen will take a novice under their wing in 2021.  

The NSSF estimates that the lifetime retail sales value of 8 million new gun owners is well over $100 billion, so the industry has a vested interest to engage, recruit and make lifelong participants out of these customers.

Record sales last year will mean a record windfall to state fish and wildlife agencies this year: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will divvy up hundreds of millions in excise taxes collected on guns, ammo, bows and arrows. 

In light of all the recent interest, many hunters and target shooters are simply hoping that ammunition manufacturers boost production so they can once again find their favorite loads on store shelves. For months now, stores have too often been picked clean of ammo. 

Art of Conservation Contest

The National Fish Habitat Partnership and Wildlife Forever are collaborating on the 2021 State Fish-Art Contest ( The new alliance has also created a fish-habitat writing award to highlight the importance of protecting, restoring and enhancing aquatic habitat.

Young artists have the opportunity to win awards and national recognition while learning about a state-fish species, its behaviors, habitat and threats such as invasive species. The free program includes a structured activity guide that assists students and challenges them to create fish art and write about their chosen species.

To enter, students must create an original illustration of any official state fish and written words detailing its behavior, habitat and the efforts to conserve it. Entries are categorized in K-3, 4-6, 7-9 and 10-12 grade levels. The creative-writing portion is not required for the youngest group, but all writing entries received will be judged and considered for awards. Creative writing allows students to expand on what they’ve learned and highlights their views on conservation. The entry deadline is March 31.

Educators can use Fish On!, the full-color State-Fish Art Lesson Plan, to integrate the disciplines of science and art.

Sturgeon Spearing 

Wisconsin’s Lake Winnebago system sturgeon-spearing season will open Feb. 13 for those who purchased licenses by the deadline or were drawn for one of the limited upriver lottery tags. The season will run up to 16 days, or until any of the harvest caps are met.

New this year – and related to the ongoing pandemic – registration stations will be located at boat landings, city parks and government buildings, and they will be operated as drive-through only. Spearers will be required to remain in their vehicle throughout the process.

Weekly Water Levels

As of Jan. 15, Lake Michigan water levels were down seven inches from the same period last year, including three inches during the past 30 days. The lake was four inches below the record monthly high, set in 1987, and 59 inches above the record low, set in 2013.