Minnesota firearms hunters registered 161,057 deer through the third weekend of deer season, according to the Department of Natural Resources. Preliminary results through the third weekend show that the number of deer registered was up 16 percent from 2016. Of the deer harvested, 53 percent were bucks, compared to 63 percent during the same period in 2016. In Zone 1, in northeastern Minnesota, total firearms harvest was up 36 percent. In Zone 2, which covers the majority of the state and runs from Canada to Iowa, harvest was up 10 percent and Zone 3, in southeastern Minnesota, was down 5 percent. “The conditions were generally good for hunters participating in the last week of the Zone 1 season and for the start of the 3B season in the southeast, which provided a boost to the statewide firearms harvest,” said Erik Thorson, acting big game program leader. Based upon the number of antlerless permits available and the number of permit areas that allow multiple deer to be taken, the DNR is projecting the 2017 total deer harvest to be around 200,000. The 2016 total harvest was 173,213 and to date firearms and archery hunters have harvested about 180,000 deer this year. In much of Minnesota, the firearms deer season ended Nov. 12, and the northern rifle zone season ended Nov. 19. The late southeast firearms deer season is open through Sunday, Nov. 26. The muzzleloader season begins Saturday, Nov. 25, and continues through Sunday, Dec. 10. More information on deer management can be found at mndnr.gov/deer.
SOURCE: Minnesota DNR
Hunters asked to ignore deer collars
Dan Storm, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources researcher, hopes deer hunters do not treat collared deer in Dane, Grant or Iowa counties differently than deer without collars. These animals, 138 adult deer and 91 fawns, have been fitted with GPS collars beginning a five-year study of deer predators. What kills them is one of several factors Storm and his team hope to find out? The answer would be misleading if one group of deer or another were selected against or favored. “We want hunters to shoot a collared deer if that’s what they would do if it didn’t have a collar,” Storm said. “If it’s a deer they wouldn’t shoot, then don’t take it.” This is research and treating deer this way helps to remove some of the bias. Some of the adult deer and fawns have already died from all the causes one might expect, including hunting, vehicles, predators and disease. A first-year report will be available to the public early next year. If hunters do take a collared deer, the DNR would like the collar returned to save money. The collar and two ear tags have phone numbers for the hunter to use to contact Storm’s team. Once the researchers receive a call from a hunter, they will go to the hunter, retrieve the collar and collect some general information from the hunter and measurements from the deer. “We make it as convenient as possible for the hunters,” Storm said. “We generally make an appointment to meet someplace convenient for the hunter." Whatever the hunters do, they should not cut off the collar. It can be re-used on another deer during one of the next four trapping seasons. Generally speaking, there have been some surprise movements, particularly by the bucks, according to Storm. That information will be summarized later, too. This movement has led to the team slightly changing the format. Rather than a fixed schedule of data returned every four hours, Storm hopes to get the deer’s whereabouts every hour during the rut. Storm says day and night movements and changes during the rut are of greater interest than when they first started the study, so data collection points will be stepped up. Collars on adult deer transmit information directly to the research team’s radio and computer systems. The fawn collars do not. So far, cooperation by the public and hunters have been excellent and Storm expects that will continue. Deer of all ages and genders will be trapped this winter, fitted with collars and add to those trapped during 2017 and are still alive. Trapping will then continue each winter through 2021 in the three counties, all of which are in the chronic wasting disease region. Landowners in these regions have been assisting trapping and observing deer, bobcats and coyotes, as well as permitting research to continue on private land. While collars on bucks, does and fawns vary slightly, those on does are most easily observed.
Deer season chronology highlights traditions
Every time a “deer rules committee” puts a target on the back of a long-standing deer hunting tradition, I page through “A Century of Wisconsin Deer,” by Otis Bersing to see just how long hunters were issued metal tags, back tags, wore blaze orange coats and field wardens first appeared. The Game Management Division of the old Wisconsin Conservation Department printed Bersing’s book in 1956. I suspect I got my autographed copy at a garage sale in La Crosse and never parted the cover until years later. Bersing signed this one Jan. 26, 1956, for the original owner, Martha Engel. If there were more scientists left in the present Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, they could add another 60-year segment to the book. One of the former DNR employees used to update the chronology every November for the department’s seasonal news release. His position may have been one of the many useful positions cut from the hard-working, history-laden staff. His last entry was in 2014 where he highlighted the pilot program for electronic registration. In 2001, the entry spoke of three deer testing positive for chronic wasting disease, a mishap that has all but consumed the DNR, hunters, staff and many of the state’s political figures since that eventful evening in the Mount Horeb High School gymnasium. Last year, when a politician slipped the blaze pink law into the budget to the dismay of many a female hunter and some eye doctors, I went back to see when blaze orange appeared. It was 1980 when it became the only legal color until 2016. It was 1945 when red clothing was the required clothing color. In 1951 orange clothing was added to the red. If one were to graph hunter deaths and injuries from bullets, we’d quickly see why red, orange and finally blaze orange were necessary. Pink was not necessary, except for some clothing store proprietors. In 2015, hunters wore back tags for the last time, except for a few of us who had a few years of tags crafted by graphic artists. The first back tags appeared in 1942. Metal carcass tags appeared in 1920, a few years after paper tags in 1917. Now we’re back to paper, and in reality nothing at all with the mid-season dropping of validating and attaching carcass tags, which was slipped into the last state budget, too. Doesn’t anyone read the budget before they sign it? As much as most dislike the line-item veto, here and elsewhere were clearly opportunities to use it appropriately. Talk now is about an elk season. In 1912, Wisconsin’s elk season was closed. Wisconsin now has two bow seasons, one called the archery season and the other a crossbow season. The first bow season was in 1934. In 1940, protection was provided for all albino deer, at all times. Modern times saw the season open to shooting albinos in CWD areas. That was recently shut down, too. Like waterfowl and pheasant openers, in 1950 gun- deer season opened at 8 a.m. In 1953, hunters learned about registering their deer at check stations. Those became unnecessary, management thought, after electronic registration squeezed in. However, good ideas die hard and still nearly 300 check stations, albeit by volunteers, persist to help some hunters phone in their results. The real reason for these volunteers is because some hunters still want to show off their successes and talk to other hunters who did and did not connect. “Retired” hunters, non-hunters, too, used these in-person stations to stay in touch with what helps make Wisconsin... Wisconsin. In addition to looking for ways to consider eliminating long-standing deer hunting traditions, maybe some young Democrat or Republican will peruse Bersing’s chronology and find some good traditions that are worth trying again to interest more new hunters or revitalize some of the folks who “retired.”
Packers beat deer hunting most Sundays
Does sitting in a deer stand in northern Wisconsin, rifle in hand, take priority over watching a noon home game between the Baltimore Ravens and the Green Bay Packers? Maybe it does for some hunters. “If the game is at noon, we’ll see hunters rolling in here about 11 a.m.,” said Bob vanDoorn, who owns Doorn’s Inn with his wife Amanda. “Some stay for the entire game. A few might leave at halftime, depending on the game and whether it’s a noon or 3:25 p.m. kickoff.” Doorn’s Inn is one of two businesses vanDoorn’s own along County N in mid-Bayfield County. Food, drink, and television are the main draws, but they also have meat raffles most Sundays, too. Most of the patrons are out-of-towners, according to Bob vanDoorn. He guesses it might be a bit too noisy for the older, local crowd, according to what he’s seen during his 12 years, after coming across the border from the west. Many of the hunters are done and heading home when they come in for lunch before traveling south shortly after the game. A few might go back out and get an hour in before season closes for the day. “This can be a pretty excitable crowd and they gave up deer hunting to come and watch the Packers,” vanDoorn said. It doesn’t help any that Bob and Amanda have not lost their love for the Minnesota Vikings, but they do root for Green Bay as long as Minnesota is not the opponent. The vanDoorn’s don’t expect anything to change much this year, either, though Green Bay lost their star quarterback. Even during losing seasons, the hunters still come out of the woods to watch and cheer, he said. Sometimes Amanda sets up some free shots with Packer scores, but usually not during Vikings' games. The best crowds, the most vocal, are during Vikings and Packers in an overtime game. If the Packers win, Bob expects and receives good-hearted ribbing and he acts as though he doesn’t mind it, because this is his business. “If the Vikings win, it quiets down quickly,” he said. Then the crowd may turn to grumbling about deer hunting and not seeing enough deer. “I don’t have the nerve to tell them that part of the reason they don’t see deer is because they’re sitting in my bar,” vanDoorn said. “But this is a bar and people are supposed to come here and grumble a bit. That’s what bars are for, isn’t it?
Contemplate deer from a Leopold bench
An easy-to-make, durable and comfortable bench is often pictured outside the Aldo Leopold shack, which occupies land (part of an abandoned farm) Leopold purchased in 1935. The farm is on the sandy floodplain of the Wisconsin River in the Town of Fairfield in Sauk County. Aldo Leopold died in 1949, at the age of 62, in Baraboo, WI. Leopold, his writings, research and teaching, are synonymous with early ecology, which quickly delved into Wisconsin’s white-tailed deer. In 1943, Leopold was part of a committee to assess a deer problem that had drawn public awareness. That led to the publication of an assessment entitled “Deer Irruption.” It seems fitting that facsimiles of the original bench he crafted would make an ideal seat for a stationary Wisconsin deer hunter to sit, observe and hunt deer. While this bench is not easily transported, many hunters have a favorite deer stand and this secure bench would serve the purpose at that oft-used location. Plans can be found on-line or in numerous books and then modified slightly to fit a hunter’s needs. After the season, the bench could occupy a location near a homestead, yard, park or pond. Or, it could stay for year-round scouting and mind-searching moments. Choice of wood, board dimensions and finish can accommodate the hunter, too. Denny Friske, of rural Dane County, has constructed numerous sizes of Leopold benches and prefers cedar to other soft and hard woods. “I’m a real estate agent and was representing some sellers in Cross Plains who had one of the Leopold benches on their front porch. 'I would like to take the bench and make a pattern of it. I want to start making them,'” Friske told them. Friske made some adjustments and started using two-inch boards, 8-, 10- and 12-inches wide, for the backs, seats and legs. He rounds all the edges for design, cuts the sharp corners, and counter sinks all screws. Natural oil is his standard finish. I purchased one, but it was claimed by another in the household, who painted it bright yellow for a deck/yard bench. While workable in the woods, I prefer a more natural finish which is what the next bench will have. Boy scouts, Eagle scouts, shop classes and numerous woodworkers, particularly in the Spring Green area now make and sell Leopold benches. Some have advanced to using a laser to etch designs, names and nature scenes on some boards. Since Aldo Leopold’s original studies on Wisconsin deer and deer habitat, it seems appropriate to have one or two of these benches on hunting property. Functional, yes, but also a conversation piece to get hunters, hikers, deer watchers and photographers talking about deer and thinking about deer ecology, conservation and management.
Weather forecast not ideal for deer hunters
Wisconsin’s weather forecast for the opening weekend of gun-deer season is expected to have something for everyone, but nothing ideal. Those hunters who want an excuse to stay in bed or at least inside can say the moderate wind and highs and lows of 10 degrees below normal for south and southwest Wisconsin are not conducive to good hunting. Hunters who can tolerate moderate wind, slightly below normal temperatures, and some possible stiff wind chills, particularly on Sunday, may have what they prefer, or at least what they will endure. Haddie McLean, WISC-TV Channel 3000 meteorologist in Madison, forecast windy and light, mixed precipitation Saturday morning with temperatures in the mid-30s. “Any snow flurries that falls with the rain will not stick around as the skies clear and precipitation ends later opening day,” she said. Sunday will start out in the teens early, with highs around 30 degrees, she said. Breezy conditions will remain much of the weekend, likely diminishing later on Sunday. Wind chills could make temperatures feel like single digits some of the time. Temperatures will moderate early next week and then turn colder moving on toward Thanksgiving, with chilly conditions for the second weekend, too. Normal temperatures for this part of Wisconsin are low 40s for highs, but low 30s will be the norm for much of the early part of the season. Hunters should not have to endure the cold and wind they braved (or avoided) in 2016, but a toned down version of that bone-chilling opener. To find snow, or a better chance of snow, McLean motions to the far northern state’s counties. Wayne Whitemarsh, who heads up Marshland, the outdoors department in McFarlanes’ Retail and Service Center in Sauk City, looks the wind in the face and says, “There is nothing you can do except keep your spirits high. “For sure, don’t let your guard down while on the stand,” he said. “That’s about the time when deer are going to be moving and you’ve got to be ready all the time.” Whitemarsh is a dawn-to-dusk guy opening weekend, taking what he needs into his enclosed tree stand, which helps him remain positive. “If I can out-sit everyone else and hang in there, their mistakes can be my gain. If they get cold and start walking around, I’m going to be ready for anything they push out of the brush,” Whitemarsh said. “And if no deer come along, which is what happened last year, I get to see the woods and wildlife come alive as the day goes on.” Gregg Sikora, of Stoddard, south of La Crosse, shot the largest deer in his life on a windy, wet day. “The best weather is when I can still (quiet) hunt walking slowly on wet leaves and have a south wind and walk into it. The deer I shot was still in its bed and I walked up on it.” Sikora is no fan of snow because the deer don’t move much, he says. But the breeze means the deer can’t hear him as well. Deer move a bit more, too, when it’s colder, so 20-30 degrees would be fine, he said. The weather is what is, and the season is a short nine days. Most successful hunters take advantage of as many hours as they can, knowing no deer are shot indoors, even during ideal weather.
Why do we go deer hunting?????
Kevin Wallenfang, Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources big game ecologist, has an appropriate axiom for hunters participating in the 2017 gun-deer season opener Saturday. His mild counsel has little to do with making a list and checking it twice. It’s more about mental preparation, frame of mind, and a reminder of what’s important when as many as 600,000 hunters head woodward opening day. He asks a question of himself. “Why does Kevin going deer hunting?” And then answers somewhat philosophically: “Because, good or bad, rain or shine, whether few deer or a lot of deer, that’s what Kevin wants to do during gun deer season.” To understand the big game ecologist, who is heavy on numbers much of the year, it’s time to turn the page and simply hunt. “If they can do that and not continue to be all wrapped up in the why of regulation changes, population estimates or registration numbers, and let all that stuff go and just hunt, it should be a good season,” he said. “Deer hunting is still sitting on a pail, in a blind, up in a tree stand. It’s still hunting and this is that moment. Let’s live in the here and now.” For those who need a bit of a push, deer numbers have generally increased. There are just a few bucks-only counties, and we’ve had three mild winters, biologists are proclaiming. The present registration system helps let Kevin be himself and think and do hunting the first weekend more than years ago. Oh, he still has to check on a few things, after all that’s still his job even on an day off. “The early season numbers from e-registration will be available Tuesday and then I’ll do interviews. I’m up in Vilas County, where I usually am and I’m up there to hunt with a few friends,” he said. The DNR released a communications packets last month, so there is less to do until the first registration tallies are posted on the DNR web site. Until a few years ago, calls were made to in-person registration stations to get the lowdown. But now everything is electronic, even the “help me register” stations feed the numbers in through a phone or computer. “Hey, we’ve got a gun-deer season,” Wallenfang said. “Just go out and enjoy the season and forget about all the stuff that is behind the scenes (until later when it’s discussed again.)” One analogy Wallenfang sometimes uses is to compare deer season to sausage. “If you like sausage, don’t watch it being made or think about how it’s made when eating it,” he said. In other words, if you like gun-deer hunting, don’t try to analyze how it all came to be while trying to enjoy it. Enjoy the hunt. “Right now is a hunter’s time to have a great deer season,” Wallenfang said.