By Roger Sabota, special to the Star Journal
Think back to the first time you went deer hunting in Wisconsin. Are you one of the lucky hunters who saw a deer on that first hunt? Or are you like one of the hunters who last year told me, “You know Grampa, I have hunted with you for four years and so far have not even seen a deer.” That was a statement that made me think seriously about deer hunting today and what could we do to keep young people interested in hunting. Jack began hunting deer just as the deer population crashed across Northern Wisconsin. Prior to that time we usually saw at least some deer in our area and had some shooting success. There are many reasons why people hunt besides killing a deer. One of those is the traditions that have been carried on for many years among families and friends and those traditions are passed down to the younger members. But most hunters will tell you that actually seeing deer really sparks their interest.
There are numerous reasons for the decline in numbers of deer. It is a multi-complex situation with ample blame to be shared. We have high numbers of predators from bears, coyotes and wolves. Further complicating this situation a Federal Judge has returned the wolf to endangered status therefore ending any hunting of wolves.
Wisconsin has a long tradition of being an excellent deer hunting state but when one looks at the numbers of deer killed by hunters in Wisconsin it is necessary to consider that we have a high deer population in the farming areas of the lower two-thirds of the state and across the northern one-third the numbers are lower.
Due to open seasons, market hunting and loss of habitat America’s whitetail populations plummeted in the late 1800’s. Thanks to sportsmen this carnage ended and the numbers of deer increased. The question is will we have to go through a rebuilding program again.
One step that has been taken to rebuild the deer herd is to curtail the number of antlerless deer tags across the northern portion of the state of Wisconsin. It is important to remember that archery hunters are not allowed to shoot antlerless deer as well as those who hunt with a rifle. The big challenge is to convince hunters that this step is necessary.
In another ruling a Federal Court Judge apparently does not believe how serious the deer population situation is. This Judge ruled that the Native Americans may now shoot deer after dark. This may take place between November 1 and late December. That is a blow that our Northern Wisconsin deer herd did not need.
Normally at this time of the year the Northern Wisconsin bucks enter their breeding activities referred to as “the rut” therefore we see more movement of deer during this time.
In spite of regulations that affect my participation in the way we hunt and fish we frequently enjoy both sports.
The DNR’s Division of Forestry has been asked to do a feasibility study looking at the possibility of moving the Forestry Division to Northern Wisconsin. My thought is that this would probably be a worthwhile change.
Longtime Northwoods outdoors enthusiast Roger Sabota writes a bi-monthly column for the Star Journal.