BY ROGER SABOTA
Special to the Star Journal
The 2016 whitetail deer hunt has drawn to a close. As usual, on opening morning of the season, we did not need an alarm clock to get everyone in our camp up and ready to head out into the woods.
Our opening day group was a little smaller this year. It consisted of Tom Twesme (The Osseo Jinx), Mark Twesme, Duane Frey, Drew Poggemann, our son, Craig, and this writer.
Normally on opening morning we hear shots about 6:30 a.m. this year it was quiet until the first shots about 3 p.m.
By the end of the day no one in our group had shot. I saw the tail of one deer in thick cover and Tom saw one deer.
The high winds on opening Saturday definitely contributed to poor hunting conditions.
If killing deer were the most important thing for the members of our group we would have stopped hunting a number of years ago. Getting together with family and friends has always been a big part of our deer season as it is with many groups of deer hunters. But it would be nice to see a deer now and then!
One of the highlights of our deer season was that our granddaughter, Gretchen Arneson, was one of the successful hunters. She was hunting at the Arneson’s hunting cabin and bagged her spike buck on opening Sunday. She also had been successful last year with her bow.
Our group varies in number during the nine-day gun season. Hunters come and go based on their work or family obligations, but the “Osseo Jinx” and I always hunt for the entire season.
The preliminary numbers of deer harvested for the 2016 season have been released by the Wisconsin DNR.
The number of licenses sold in 2016 was 598,867. In 2015 there were 612,377 licenses sold. This is the first time since 1976 the number has dropped below 600,000.
According to preliminary results the total number of deer harvested in 2016 was 196,785. The number of antlered deer harvested was 97,892 (5.7 percent increase) and antlerless deer harvested was 98,893 (6.2 percent decrease).
The biggest change in the buck harvest was in the Northern Forest Zone, which is approximately the northern one-third of the state of Wisconsin. There were 23,445 bucks taken in that zone, 30 percent higher than in 2015. The number of antlerless deer harvested in the Northern Forest Zone was 8,955, a 21 percent increase over 2015.
In talking with a variety of hunters who hunted in and around Oneida County many have questioned how the deer kill in the Northern Forest Zone could be up when so many hunters saw few, or in some cases, no deer. As previously discussed in this column there are no clear-cut answers. The habitat in the counties in the Northern Forest Zone varies greatly. In addition the number and type of predators and the weather conditions can be very different therefore affecting the population of deer in a specific area. For instance, the number of deer in some parts of Oneida County is very different from other parts of the county.
Anyone interested in the harvest numbers in all the Wisconsin counties can check the DNR website at: dnr.wi.gov key words, ‘deer harvest summary.’
Statistics show that 2016 was a very safe hunting season. With almost 600,000 deer hunters who purchased licenses there were only five hunting-related accidents with no fatalities. In 2015 there were eight hunting related accidents with three fatalities.
Many of those who are anxious to move on to the sport of ice fishing will have a little longer wait on many of our lakes. Ice that had formed on many lakes is no longer there. Safety is the key word for those heading out on early ice.
Longtime Northwoods outdoor enthusiast Roger Sabota writes a bi-monthly column for the Star Journal.