BY ROGER SABOTA
Special to the Star Journal
The whitetail deer is the most sought after big-game animal there is in the continental United States. Each year it appears that the number of deer in the state increases. For many years in the state of Wisconsin, deer hunters concentrated their efforts in the northern third of the state. That has changed. The abundance of whitetail deer in Wisconsin appears to have moved to the central part of the state. In some areas of the state efforts are being made to shoot numerous deer per hunter in an effort to control the population. However that is not true in this area.
I have hunted northern Wisconsin for over 40 years. At this time many Northwood’s residents are traveling to the agricultural areas where the deer population is much larger. We continue to hunt in the northern part of the state simply because we enjoy hunting in the big woods and most years we hunt with snow on the ground.
According to the National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife Data, which is conducted every five years, in 2011 hunters spent $2.5 billion in Wisconsin. That was broken down into the following categories: trip-related expenses, $358 million; equipment, $1.5 million and $722 million on other expenses. Wisconsin is ranked second among all states in the number of resident and non-resident hunters. In 2011 there were 131-thousand hunters who visited Wisconsin and spent $314 million here. That survey should be conducted again this year.
Many books have been written about whitetail deer in a variety of habitats. Wisconsin has even gone so far as to have a special hunt for young people with more liberal regulations in order to encourage them to begin hunting deer.
The youth hunt regulations are praised by some hunters and criticized by others. We talked to several hunters who accompanied youngsters on the hunt a full month before those hunters over the age of 15 are permitted to hunt with a rifle. The age for youth hunters is between 10 and 15.
In Wisconsin, deer hunters are able to use shotguns with slugs, rifles, muzzleloaders, archery equipment and crossbows.
As previously mentioned in this column, this year hunters may not hunt over bait in Oneida, Vilas and Forest counties. This restriction was implemented because a deer with CWD (Chronic Wasting Disease) was shot in Vilas County. When a deer with CWD is discovered hunters in contiguous counties are not able to hunt over bait.
Some hunters are of the belief that in those areas where hunting over bait is not permitted deer will move naturally and over longer periods of time and not be as nocturnal as they now seem to be. I am anxious to see whether this is true. Our group usually consists of six to eight hunters; this year it appears that there will be only six during opening weekend.
Those who are interested in an up-to-date preliminary tally of the deer harvest totals in Wisconsin can log on to dnr.wi.gov preliminary deer harvest totals. These results are updated weekly and are listed by zone, county and type of deer harvested.
Even though the weather has been quite mild for this time of the year, Tom Twesme (The Osseo Jinx) and I chose one of the coldest days last week to musky fish. It was particularly cold in the morning because of the wind. Our success was not especially good except for one undersize musky that jumped and actually landed in the boat. There is a mad scramble by everyone in the boat when that happens.
That had happened to me one other time many years ago when I was fishing with my father on the Chippewa Flowage.
As the weather turns colder we are questioning how much more time we want to spend in the boat musky fishing. But, as I say this, I remember that two of my largest fish were caught in early November.
Good luck to those who are willing to brave the elements and continue musky fishing during the month of November.
Longtime outdoor enthusiast Roger Sabota writes a bi-monthly column for the Star Journal.