Woodland Trails: Hunters complain about deer hunting seasonAre you happy with this year’s Wisconsin Thanksgiving week deer season? Never before have I heard so many complaints from hunters, almost all of them saying the same thing: Where were all the deer?
By: Jim Bennett, Hudson Star-Observer
Are you happy with this year’s Wisconsin Thanksgiving week deer season?
Never before have I heard so many complaints from hunters, almost all of them saying the same thing: Where were all the deer?
Deer kill numbers were down in group after group after group. In years past there were always a few folks who complained but I can never remember a deer season that so many people considered a downer.
Once again it looks like the total harvest of regular season, archery season, muzzleloader season, youth hunt and two special antlerless hunts will bring the total harvest up to just under 400,000 deer. To that you can add another 50,000 car-deer collisions, and you can see that we lost a lot of deer this season. That is a lot of pressure on Wisconsin’s deer herd. No wonder so many people were complaining about where the deer were.
More complaints came across this writer’s desk from all over the state than I have ever heard before. I was getting those reports from groups of experienced hunters. I got them from groups of DNR employees. I got them from groups who hunted farmland, groups who hunted big woods and groups who hunted swamps hard all season. That includes my family group.
I saw two deer all season! I talked to others who have taken several deer in the past few years who got blanked this year. And then there were a few on the flip side of the coin. One group of friends I know who hunted up near Eureka took 12 deer opening weekend and many were mature bucks! One man took seven deer opening morning!
One man I talked to was a DNR information officer who told me that his group took two deer when they normally take around a dozen. He thinks DNR wildlife officials will more than likely say they, the DNR, might have overestimated the actual deer herd in some places. But that is nothing new.
For years there has been a constant heated discussion between DNR deer population experts and hunters who say they know how many deer they have on their land. Those numbers just don’t jibe with DNR totals.
So how can we take nearly 400,000 deer and still have so many complaints? Let’s say that numbers of the herd were overestimated and there weren’t as many deer as the DNR actually thought. Take away the youth hunts, antlerless hunts, archery hunts and deer-car collisions and you can see why there were so many Thanksgiving week season complaints: There are only so many deer to go around.
When you only hunt Turkey Week, your odds drop. There was a time when the DNR relied on the Thanksgiving Week hunt to take most of their deer, but all of that has changed.
There was a time when few deer were taken by archers, but today’s archers with their high-tech compound bows can put an arrow though a class ring at 20 to 30 yards! They take nearly 100,000 deer a season today. Add another 70,000 antlerless deer taken each season. Add all the car-deer collisions. And finally add all the lands lost to development and leasing and you can easily understand why so many hunters are depressed over this year’s deer season.
I can remember the good old days when the Thanksgiving Week hunt was the big kahuna, but it’s easy to understand why harvest numbers are down. And all the pressure from all the varied hunters is changing the deer’s normal routines. Deer are not dummies. If they are chased around all day they will learn to be more active at night. Trail cameras have proven that. Deer activity, except for a few young deer, has changed and today deer have become more and more of a night animal. In order to survive they have to.
But this is just a part of the picture. I am only skimming the top of the milk tank and taking a little cream off the top. I want to talk to a few DNR officials and get their side of the story in a future column. But no matter what I find out from the DNR, it looks like we can look for more seasons like this one. I am not satisfied with that!