At a relatively quiet Spring Fish and Wildlife Public Hearing at James Williams Middle School, DNR Wildlife Specialist Jeremy Holtz told the crowd that his office will recommend a buck only hunt this year in order to alleviate pressures on a dwindling deer herd.
“We are recommending a buck only hunt,” Holtz said to the crowd of more than 200 people at Monday’s meeting.
The news was met with applause from the crowd and those good feelings would prevail through the night as there was very little in complaints during the sometimes contentious meetings.
While the news of the buck only hunt was welcome, the reasons for needing the buck only restriction was troubling for the DNR and most in attendance.
“The harvest was poor,” Holtz said. “And our deer numbers are a concern. We have an estimated 20,000 deer in Oneida County and we have 13,000 to 15,000 hunters. So you can see how those numbers are an issue.”
In fact, last year’s harvest numbers were just a continuing troubling trend over nearly a decade.
Last year, 4,056 deer were harvested in Oneida County. But just seven years ago, 9,309 deer were harvested, more than a 50 percent drop in those seven years.
Adding to those numbers was one of the most severe winters on record. The winter severity index as of Monday’s meeting was 140. The DNR considers it a severe winter if the index is over 100. The department gives one point for a day with the temperature below zero and one point for a day with more than 18 inches of snow on the ground.
“This has been a very severe winter,” Holtz said. “I have only found one winter that was more severe. We are expecting a 25 percent reduction in the deer herd.”
Holtz said the winter weather has had an impact on fawn production. The severe weather can cause some does to miscarry fawns which will put further pressures on the deer herd down the road.
During the meeting, officials also spoke with the crowd about the newly created crossbow season which will run at the same time as the archery season. For those that wish to hunt with either a traditional bow or cross bow will need to pay $3 for a dual purpose tag.
Another rule change facing hunters next season will be that the hunter that kills the animal has to be in the vehicle the animal is being hauled in until they get it home or to a processing facility.
The group voted on one rule change at Monday’s meeting.
The proposed change was to allow trolling statewide instead of just the 18 counties that already allow trolling up to three lines in all waters. The new proposal would allow one trolling line per angler in the other 17 counties including Oneida County.
Some at the meeting asked if the question could be broken into two questions one for trolling with live bait and the other for trolling with artificial bait.
If the measure gets voted down, the current status quo will remain in effect.