CDACs consider prolonged winter in final recommendations

MADISON, WI - As more snow hits northern Wisconsin and local concerns rise about its impact on the deer herd, County Deer Advisory Councils (CDAC) are wrapping up their portion of the annual antlerless harvest quota-setting process for the 2018 deer season.
While winter 2018 will not go down in history as one of the more severe winters on record, it has stubbornly persisted, reminiscent of 2014 when ice still covered northern lakes for the spring fishing opener in May. Councils take winter data into account, and this has led several to recommend reduced antlerless harvest quotas, compared to original recommendations in March.
"We were sailing along nicely in the mild to moderate category, and thought winter was pretty much behind us," said Kevin Wallenfang, deer and elk ecologist for the DNR. "With this recent storm, we are getting more reports of younger deer appearing gaunt and stressed, but adult deer look good in most areas."
With more than two feet of snow remaining in some areas, the anticipated warming weather may not provide relief for another week or two.
Wallenfang said that CDACs went into their March quota setting meetings recognizing what a fourth straight mild winter would do for the deer herd, and set their recommendations accordingly. However, this most recent storm bumped the Winter Severity Index in some areas into the severe category.
"With winter dragging on, several councils, on the recommendation of local department biologists, reduced harvest recommendations in the hardest hit counties during April meetings."
DNR wildlife biologists and volunteers annually monitor the effects of winter weather on the deer herd using several methods, and this information is shared with CDAC members to help inform harvest recommendations and antlerless tag levels.
The Winter Severity Index uses a combination of cold temperatures and deep snows that have previously been shown to negatively affect winter stress levels and ultimately the health of deer. WSI measurements are recorded annually at 42 stations throughout the northern half of the state from Dec. 1 to April 30.
Each day that the temperatures fall below zero degrees Fahrenheit and/or the snow depth is more than 18 inches, conditions are noted for each station. For example, a day with 20 inches of snow and a temperature of -5 would receive two 2 points for the day. Winter conditions are considered mild if the station accumulates less than 50 points, moderate if between 51 and 80 points, severe if between 81-100, and very severe if over 100.
At the end of March, just three stations were in the severe category (all in Iron County), while several were moderate, and the remaining stations were considered mild. However, this latest storm will push a number of locations in the severe category.
"While current conditions are concerning, winter impacts are cumulative, which is exactly what WSI measures over time - hard winters are not something new to Wisconsin's deer herd," said Wallenfang. "Adult deer can handle it well in most years, and even in the very worst years we typically see only about 10 to 15 percent loss of adults - previous year's fawns can be hit considerably harder and we are certainly seeing some rough-looking fawns in some areas."
Wildlife biologists across the north have been in the field investigating reports of noticeably stressed deer, monitoring habitat conditions and checking car-killed deer for body fat content.
"Throughout much of the north, internal examinations are showing decent fat content on their backs and around major organs of adult deer," said Wallenfang. "Most does that have been examined are carrying at least one fawn, and bone marrow fat content is fair to good on the majority of deer. As you head south into farmland areas, fat content and pregnancy levels are very good. This winter should have little to no impact on farmland fawn production."
Wallenfang urged people to check the rules and recommendations related to winter deer feeding which is illegal in some counties. The DNR provides helpful information link "helpful information" to Considerations for Feeding Deer brochure to ensure that people who choose to feed wildlife do it properly, so as not to kill the very animals they are attempting to help.
It is important to note that straight corn is an unhealthy food source for deer if they have not consumed it previously. For landowners, cutting trees to provide natural browse is the best option.
Final recommendations for the 2018 deer hunting seasons will be presented to the Natural Resources Board in Madison at their May meeting.

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR


Minnesota bear hunt application deadline May 4

Hunters are reminded that applications for bear hunting licenses are being accepted through Friday, May 4, wherever Minnesota hunting and fishing license are sold, online at mndnr.gov/buyalicense and by telephone at 888-665-4236.
A total of 3,350 licenses are available in 13 permit areas. Bear licenses cost $44 for residents and $230 for nonresidents, and there is a $5 application fee. The season is open from Saturday, Sept. 1, through Sunday, Oct. 14.
Notification to lottery winners will be made by Friday, June 1. Lottery winners will receive a postcard in the mail and can check online at mndnr.gov/licenses/lotteries/index.html to see if they were drawn. The deadline to purchase licenses awarded by lottery will be Wednesday, Aug. 1. Any remaining unpurchased licenses will be available over the counter starting at noon on Monday, Aug. 6.
An unlimited number of bear licenses will be sold over-the-counter for the no-quota area that includes east-central and far northwestern Minnesota. No-quota licenses are valid only in the no-quota area. Hunters with a no-quota license can harvest one bear.
Bear hunting information is available on the DNR website at mndnr.gov/hunting/bear.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR


Try Sandhill's Learn to Hunt Deer program


BABCOCK, WI - Anyone with an interest in trying out a new hobby in the outdoors is encouraged to apply for a Learn to Hunt Deer course at Sandhill Wildlife Area.
Sandhill’s Learn to Hunt Deer course emphasizes important lessons taught in hunter’s safety with hands-on instruction, teaches valuable lessons through a workshop and ends with a mentored deer hunt for participants.
Subject matter for the workshop is:
* Deer biology.
* Wisconsin deer management.
* Hunting rules and regulations.
* Sportsmanship and ethical hunter behavior.
* Basic gun safety and marksmanship.
This program is not limited to youth participants. While the youth program is limited to kids between the ages of 12-15, the beginner adults (16 years or older) category is for individuals who have never hunted deer with a firearm before. All participants must complete a Hunter Education Course before the hunt portion of the class.
Applications are available at dnr.wi.gov, keywords “Sandhill outdoor skills center” and must be submitted by June 30. Applications can be submitted on the website or submitted via US mail to Wayne Hall, C/O Sandhill Wildlife Area, PO Box 156, Babcock, 54413. Successful participants will be notified by July 15.
Specific dates of the hunt and workshops are published on the application. It is important to note that all participants and chaperones are required to attend the workshop.
For questions about the hunt, contact Hall, DNR wildlife biologist, at 715-884 -6331.
Sandhill Wildlife Area is located on County Highway X just outside of Babcock. For more information regarding Learn to Hunt classes in Wisconsin, search keywords “Learn to Hunt.”

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR


Have a safe, successful spring turkey hunt

MADISON, WI - Approximately 80,000 hunters will be heading to the field for the 2018 spring turkey hunting season, with the first period starting April 18.
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Conservation Warden and Hunter Education Administrator Jon King says there are two key factors needed for safe turkey hunting.
"The two most critical ingredients for a successful spring hunt are a detailed hunting plan in one hand and a firm grip on firearm safety in the other," King said.
DNR statistics show 80 percent of accidents during turkey hunting seasons involve hunters mistaking other hunters for game, or hunters failing to positively identify their target.
The other 20 percent of accidents are self-inflicted, usually the result of violating one of the four firearm safety rules.
"Turkey hunters, like all hunters, must practice these four basic safety guidelines when handling their firearms," King said. "Treat every firearm as if it is loaded, always point the muzzle in a safe direction, be sure of your target and what's beyond it, and keep your finger outside of the trigger guard until ready to shoot."
It's a good idea to wear a blaze orange cap or gloves while walking. And find a hunting spot that allows you to rest your back against a tree or some other object that is as wide as your shoulders. This helps protect you from not only an errant shot, but from the good vision of the turkey.
Never stalk a wild turkey and don't try to approach closer than 100 yards to a gobbler. The chances of getting close enough for a shot are slim, but the chances of becoming involved in an accident are increased. The less you move, the safer and more effective you will be in field.
Follow these simple rules for a safe and successful hunt:
* Identify your target; it's not a good enough reason to take a shot when hunters only think they are seeing a legal target.
* Do not shoot at sound and movement.
* Be certain of your target, what's in front of it and beyond it.
* Avoid wearing red, white and blue. These colors are also shared by gobblers.
* Use gobble calls only to locate a tom, not to attract one. Some other hunter might think you're a turkey.
* Keep hands and head camouflaged when calling.
* Never carry or move an uncovered decoy.
"Continuing Wisconsin's safe hunting tradition is a shared responsibility of all hunters," King said.

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR


Despite snow, spring turkey season begins Wednesday

In 1978, Minnesota held its first turkey hunt in modern history. During that season, a lucky 420 hunters drew permits. Since then, interest in pursuing these big game birds has expanded along with their population and range.
Last spring some 50,000 turkey permits were issued, and hunters registered nearly 12,000 birds.
“Wild turkeys are now found almost everywhere in Minnesota,” said James Burnham, DNR hunter recruitment, retention and reactivation coordinator. “It’s true that wild turkeys can be a challenging species to hunt, but getting started as a turkey hunter isn’t difficult. Camouflage, a shotgun, an inexpensive call and a license are all you really need.”
Minnesota’s excellent turkey hunting is a management success story. Due to habitat loss and unregulated hunting, the state’s last native turkey was spotted in 1880. After several re-introduction attempts dating back to the 1920s, successful trap and transplant efforts began in 1971.
Historically, wild turkeys were found primarily in the forested river valleys of southeastern Minnesota, but favorable habitat has allowed for the expansion of the wild turkey’s range to include most of the state.
“Recent changes have made it easier for more people to get started turkey hunting,” Burnham said. “Archery hunters and youth hunters are exempt from the lottery, and licenses for a large portion of the season can be purchased by anyone.”
The season runs from April 18, to May 31, and is divided into six hunt periods, A through F. Hunt A and B licenses for firearms hunters age 18 and older are limited in availability and assigned via lottery drawing. Archery and youth hunters (under 18) are exempt from the lottery and may purchase a spring turkey license valid during all hunt periods, including hunts A and B. All licensed turkey hunters can participate in Hunt F if they have an unused tag from one of the earlier hunt periods.
Visit mndnr.gov/hunting/turkey for more information about turkey hunting in Minnesota.

2018 Spring Turkey Hunt Periods
Hunt A: April 18-24.
Hunt B: April 25-May 1.
Hunt C: May 2-8.
Hunt D: May 9-15.
Hunt E: May 16-22.
Hunt F: May 23-31.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR


NRB approves 2018 migratory bird hunting season format

MADISON, WI - As a result of great scientific information and input from the public, migratory game bird hunters in Wisconsin pursuing ducks, geese, doves, woodcock and other migratory game birds will see some notable changes in 2018.
The final season framework was approved by the state Natural Resources Board at its April 11, meeting in Madison.
“These season frameworks were based on input we received from the public, input from conservation and hunting groups, and results from a waterfowl hunter survey,” said Taylor Finger, Department of Natural Resources migratory bird ecologist. “We expanded our outreach efforts in 2018 using social media to increase our engagement with our users, and we saw attendance at statewide public hearings double the and a nearly 400 percent increase in total comments received regarding the 2018 waterfowl season proposals.”
Finger notes the waterfowl season structure process is a perfect example of the important role the public can play in decision making, and thanks all those who submitted a comment or attended a meeting.
The first of the 2018 migratory game bird seasons will open with the early Canada goose, mourning dove and early teal seasons starting on Sept. 1. Regular waterfowl hunting seasons will include a 60-day duck season which will start with a statewide opener on Sept. 29, and 92-day regular goose season which will have two splits to allow hunting during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

Highlights from the approved season structure include:
* North duck zone will open one week later than in previous years, resulting in a single statewide opener for the North, South and Mississippi zones on Sept. 29.
* Elimination of the Horicon Canada goose Management Zone (resulting in a single statewide regular goose zone).
* Increase in the daily Canada goose bag limit to three birds per day.
* A second split in the South Canada goose zone resulting in a goose season that is open during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.
* And increase in the pintail daily bag limit (from one to two) based on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service season framework.
As a reminder to Canada goose hunters, registration of Canada geese and in-field validation of the Canada goose hunting permit is no longer required.

Early season dates are:
* Early Teal - Sept. 1-7 (6 birds per day, Sunrise – Sunset Shooting Hours).
* Early Goose - Sept. 1-15 (5 birds per day).
* Mourning Dove - Sept. 1 to Nov. 29 (15 birds per day).
* Woodcock - Sept. 22 to Nov. 5 (3 birds per day).

Duck season dates and bag limits are:
* Opening day shooting hours would begin one-half hour before sunrise for all regular waterfowl hunting seasons.
* Youth Hunt - Sept. 15-16.
* North Zone - Sept. 29 to Nov. 27.
* South Zone - Sept. 29 to Oct. 7, and Oct. 13 to Dec. 2 (five-day split).
* Mississippi Zone - Sept. 29 to Oct. 5, and Oct. 13 to Dec. 4 (seven-day split, closed Oct. 6-12).
 
The daily bag limit statewide is six ducks, including no more than:
* Four mallards, of which only one may be a hen.
* One black duck.
* Two canvasbacks.
* Three wood ducks.
* Two pintails.
* Three scaup.
* Two redheads.
* Five mergansers can be harvested daily, of which no more than two may be hooded.
 
Regular goose season dates
With the elimination of the Horicon Canada goose management zone, the state is now a single statewide Exterior goose hunting zone for the regular season. The Mississippi River is a sub-zone within the Exterior Zone.
For Canada goose hunters that have already purchased a Horicon Canada goose permit, your permit will still function as your regular Canada goose season authorization and does not require that you re-purchase an Exterior Zone goose permit.
 
Another change was made to the daily bag limits which increased from two geese per day to three geese per day during the regular Canada goose hunting season.
The Natural Resources Board also approved the incorporation of a second split in the Southern Zone regular Canada Goose season which would close the season down with the South Zone duck season and reopen again on Dec. 16, and run through the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.
* Exterior Zone (92 days total).
* North - Sept. 16 to Dec. 16.
* South - Sept. 16 to Oct. 7 (5-day Split) and Oct. 13 to Dec. 2 (13-day split) and Dec. 16 – Jan. 3, 2019.
* Mississippi - Sept. 29 to Oct. 5 and Oct. 13 to Jan. 3.
For more information regarding waterfowl hunting in Wisconsin, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keyword "waterfowl."

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR


Wisconsin Conservation Congress Learn to Hunt Bear tag applications due

PRAIRIE DU SAC, WI – The Wisconsin Conservation Congress will once again award a bear harvest tag to a novice hunter based on the applications and essays which are due April 25.
The Learn to Hunt Bear Program (LTHB) is an opportunity to expose novice hunters to the hunting experience and recruit new hunters into the sport.  
The Conservation Congress is one of the statewide conservation organizations that are specifically issued a bear harvest tag through the LTH Bear Program. Each year the Wisconsin Conservation Congress is granted a tag with the express intent of awarding it to a deserving individual with the desire and interest in learning more about hunting bear.
Applicants must fill out and submit an application along with a brief essay describing why they would like to be considered to receive the bear harvest tag and why they would like the opportunity to hunt bear.
Learn to Hunt Bear events are open to anyone who is 10 years old or older who has not previously participated in a Learn to Hunt event for the species being hunted and no hunter education certification is required.
If you are a novice hunter, or know someone that would be interested in receiving the WCC’s LTH Bear Harvest Permit, please direct them to the WCC website. The link to the application can be found under the “Community Outreach” section. Applications must be postmarked by Wednesday, April 25, 2018. The successful applicant will be notified by May 12, 2018.

SOURCE: Wisconsin Conservation Congress