There are several reasons I try not to write too many articles about deer. First, I talk about deer to someone, somewhere, by phone, email, or in person, every single day. Seriously-whether at a restaurant, or in a grocery store, even at church on Sunday, deer find their way into the conversation somehow.
Second, there are a lot of people out there who know a lot more about deer, and deer hunting, than I do. I get corrected quickly and often when I write about deer.
Third, I sometimes think people are under the impression that deer are all I work on. I can also state that there are many people out there that are not deer hunters, and I want to give them a share of my time as well.
We have a lot of wildlife in Wisconsin-more than 650 vertebrate species, from a crickets and frogs up to bears and elk. Our game species, or wildlife we can legally hunt or trap, get a lot of our time and attention. In my job as a field biologist, no single animal gets more attention than deer. Deer hunting is a huge part of Wisconsin culture. I think I saw a saying once that said “Deer hunting isn’t life or death-its way more important than that.” In my years of working in wildlife management, I have met many people whose self-esteem was closely tied to their deer hunting. It defines these people, at least in some respect.
I grew up obsessed with deer hunting. I am not sure why. We hunted for deer with firearms in the Northwoods, heading into the Langlade County Forest with our camper made from a converted school bus and setting up camp. I just don’t recall us ever really getting a lot of deer, or really big deer. Dad hunted for meat.
I think he hunted for fun, too, but he focused on bringing home meat. He always told me “you can’t eat the horns.” He never put a set of antlers on the wall. Still, us boys dreamt of shooting a nice big buck. I started hunting in 1983. We would send in for our hunter’s choice permit, and cheer when we managed to get one for the group. We would see very few deer, but were always happy with what we had, or saw. I knew nothing of harvest quotas or permit setting. I figured the DNR knew what they were doing, and would tell us what we could harvest.
The world of deer management is changing, if you haven’t tuned in. We have held meetings in Vilas and Oneida Counties, talking about the proposed changes to deer management and hunting seasons. Under the current proposal, our deer management units will be enlarged. While our nine day season is largely unchanged, there are proposed changes to the archery season, the December antlerless season, and the muzzleloader season. There will be changes to antlerless deer harvest quotas, as well as changes to the process we follow to set them. There are proposals for additional tools like bonus buck tags and landowner tags. There is a Deer Management Assistance Program in the plan for helping private landowners manage deer on their property. We are nearing the end of a two year journey of rebuilding Wisconsin’s deer program for the 21st century.
There are more meetings scheduled around the state. If you missed the meeting, you still have time to get involved and voice your opinion. Go to the DNR website, www.dnr.wi.gov and in the search box type “deer trustee report.” You can watch a 20 minute video that presents the same information I gave in my talk. You can also fill out a survey online, expressing your opinion on the topics mentioned above. The survey is active until Nov. 8. Help map the future of Wisconsin deer management.
Jeremy Holtz is a wildlife biologist with the Wisconsin DNR and writes a weekly column in the Star Journal. To contact him, call 715-365-8999.