By Roger Sabota
Special to the Star Journal
The subtitle in the December issue of Wisconsin Outdoor News says, “Buck kill up, total harvest down.” Since the close of the Wisconsin gun-deer season this writer has talked with many hunters who do not bear this out. Of the many hunters we have talked with many do not believe this statement and feel that it is misleading.
In Iron County the kill went from 188 bucks last year to 299 this year. Florence County increased from 615 to 820 and Forest County from 614 last year to 848 in 2016. Kevin Wallenfang mentioned in the Wisconsin Outdoor News that the better buck kill in the north was good to see, but it doesn’t take much to hit 30 percent when working with small numbers.” The percentage figures makes the numbers look larger.
Of all the hunters and personnel in sport shops that I talked with only two hunters said that anyone in their group killed a deer. We simply do not believe the numbers that were reported by the DNR are accurate.
For many years the Wisconsin DNR has used mandatory registration at a deer registration station. This method seemed to work very efficiently providing close to 100 percent of the kill being registered. This year Wisconsin changed to a mandatory registration using either the phone or a computer. The DNR reports that this method was successful and plans to use it again for the 2017 deer season. Some question the accuracy of the new method. The old saying comes up – “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
This weather up to Christmas provided us with snow and some extremely cold temperatures. There was enough ice on our lakes to allow anglers to move easily but carefully on some of the lakes. Then on Christmas Sunday the nasty weather attacked the entire state. Our area was pelted with freezing rain and cold temperatures. When the weather changes so abruptly and it is not pleasant for any outdoor activities the topic at our house turns to “what happens to the wild animals in such weather conditions?”
That also may bring up the question of severe weather and how it affects the deer population. The Winter Severity Index is calculated by adding the number of days with a snow depth of at least 18 inches to the number of days when the minimum temperatures were zero degrees Fahrenheit or below. Points accumulate throughout the winter. A Winter Severity Index of 50 or less is considered mild, 50-79 is moderate, 80 – 90 is severe and over 100 is very severe. Readings are taken by Wisconsin DNR biologists and some readings are from the National Weather Service stations.
In 2015-16 the highest WSI was 25. In the past there have been winters when the Severity Index was over 100 in northern Wisconsin. Obviously, the more severe winters negatively impact the mortality of the deer herd.
In 2014 the DNR started a bobcat monitoring project. Oneida, Forest and Vilas Counties are part of the 12 counties that the research is being focused on for the 2015-16 trapping season. Trappers who incidentally capture bobcats are encouraged to contact the DNR so a radio collar can be attached before the bobcat is released. According to Scott Zimmerman, President of the Wisconsin Trappers Association, the Association supports this research project in the northern zone. It will help set the harvest goals for the 2017 season.
More information can be obtained by contacting Nathan Roberts, DNR Carnivore and Furbearer research scientist, 715-490-9345.
Our bird feeder and bird/squirrel feeders were not frequented at all until a few days before Christmas. This was of concern to us since usually once the big feeder is put in place we have squirrels within hours! We knew we had put the feeder up a little later than usual this year so we wondered if those who usually had frequented our feeder had decided to dine at one of the neighbors. All summer and fall our yard was full of birds and squirrels and then after our first major snowfall they all disappeared! Birds and squirrels. Just before Christmas one little black squirrel showed up and had the feeder to himself. By the next day there were more that were coming and going and the birds were back. Where they were prior to that we’ll never know.
No ice fishing report yet. Holiday activities, ice and weather conditions have kept me off the ice. The “Osseo Jinx” is scheduled to be in Rhinelander over the New Year’s holiday so I am sure there will be some ice fishing. BUT – he is the “Jinx” so be prepared!
It is time to consider New Year’s Resolutions. So far I haven’t put a lot of thought into the subject but I am sure that spending more time outdoors in 2017 will definitely be on my list.
Longtime Northwoods outdoor enthusiast Roger Sabota writes a bi-monthly column for the Star Journal.