Outdoor Notebook: Where are the deer?
For another year, deer season is over and the holidays are here. For many in our area, the time to fish through the ice has arrived. I have a tendency to not get on “first ice” but prefer to let a good layer of ice form before venturing out. Although it is embarrassing to admit, over the years I have fallen through thin ice four times. Hopefully that is enough times to experience that thrill.
On the second Saturday late in the afternoon of deer season, I was sitting on a stump near an open marsh. In the area where I was there is a pine plantation that butts up against the river that flows through the woods. Several years ago the pines had been thinned, thus providing relatively good visibility. The road that travels through the plantation has been cabled off for the past two years. There had not been any man-tracks in the snow-covered road, thus I figured that it might be a good place to ambush a buck.
At 3:55 in the afternoon I heard a shot across the river in my direction. When I arrived back at camp, I told the guys that Jerry filled his buck tag again this season just before dark. We knew that Jerry has a stand across the river from where I had been sitting. Of course we did not know for sure that it was Jerry who shot, but on Tuesday evening he called to tell me that he had shot a fork horn on Saturday evening at 3:55 p.m. He has been quite successful from that stand for four years.
That last evening of deer season there were only three of us left in camp. Included was my constant hunting and fishing companion, “The Osseo Jinx” (Tom Twesme), his son-in-law, Fernando, and this scribbler. We were enjoying a cold beverage while looking at the buck antlers that decorate the walls of the “shack”.
We have been hunting in the Monico area from our shack for just over 20 years. Each year we place the antlers from the bucks that we shoot on the walls. The antlers are labeled with the year each was shot. During the first 12 years, our group killed four to six nice bucks each year. Following those 12 years, the number of bucks our group has shot dropped down to two to three bucks. Each of those years each of our crew saw somewhere close to 10 deer during the season. Then, during the 2009 and 2010 seasons, no one in our group shot a buck. During the recently completed season, our group shot one spike horn buck. Several of the hunters in our group did not see a deer.
The number of deer we shot and the number we saw decreased during those years when there were large numbers of antlerless deer tags available. During the 2010 deer season, there were no antlerless deer tags available across the north. DNR game managers said that no antlerless tags would be issued in an attempt to rebuild the deer herd across the northern part of the state. In Game Management Unit #38, no antlerless tags were available in 2010, but for the 2011 season 4,000 antlerless tags were available. I think there is no good reason to protect antlerless deer during one season and then make 4,000 antlerless tags available the next season. I am aware that some disagree with me; however, the group that hunts from our shack sure does.
During his campaign for Governor, Scott Walker heard so many complaints about deer management that he created the position of an independent expert with recognized scientific credentials and demonstrated experience in the field of whitetail deer management to review Wisconsin’s deer management practices as a wildlife Deer Trustee. The person who was hired to take an objective view of deer management in Wisconsin is Dr. James C. Kroll, who is better known as Dr. Deer. Dr. Deer lives in the state of Texas, and is well known in many southern states.
If you wish to contact Dr. Deer to let him know your feelings regarding deer management in Wisconsin, he can be emailed at email@example.com.
The wish from our house is for each of our readers to have a Merry Christmas and a joyous New Year.
Longtime Northwoods outdoors personality Roger Sabota writes a bi-monthly column appearing in the Star Journal.