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Experts predict lower 2009 deer kill

Wisconsin wildlife biologists anticipate the statewide deer harvest will be lower than last year.

"There are a number of factors coming together in 2009 that will most likely lead to a lower total deer harvest," said Keith Warnke, big game ecologist for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. "There are fewer herd control units and no earn-a-buck requirements except in the Chronic Wasting Disease Management Zone, below average fawn production in the past two years, a reduced number of antlerless permits in northern Wisconsin due to lower deer populations in that region and a delayed corn harvest. All these will contribute to a lower antlerless deer harvest and a lower total harvest."

Herd control and earn-a-buck hunts encourage or require hunters take antlerless deer. With a reduction in earn-a-buck zones, the antlerless deer kill will be down and therefore the total harvest are almost certain to drop, wildlife managers said.

"Hunters told us they wished to return to a more historically traditional hunt," said Warnke. "They will see that traditional hunt in many units in the north and central forest where deer populations are at or close to a healthy goal, and where there will be no earn-a-buck and few antlerless permits issued. Herd control and earn-a-buck are accomplishing what they were intended to do, bringing deer numbers down to healthy population goals in parts of the state."

A byproduct of the 2009 season structure may be an increase in the proportion of bucks harvested in some units. Biologists note that local populations are the most important factor to the hunters and that can vary widely. Scouting, patterning and lining up alternative hunting spots could make the difference.

"As every year, hunters will need to do their homework and scouting and find areas deer are using," said Warnke. "Hunters who spend time getting prepared are most likely to be in the ranks of successful hunters. Annually, fewer than 40 percent of hunters bag a deer."

Deer populations are lower in a number of areas across the state compared with past seasons and fawn production for 2009, while improved from 2008, is still below the long term average, according to biologists.

Agricultural observers across the state are reporting that wet fall weather has slowed the corn harvest in many areas and it now appears likely that large acreages of corn will still be standing when the gun deer season opens. Standing corn provides outstanding cover for deer.