Use these hunter safety tips while out and about

MADISON, WI - It is no accident Wisconsin is known nationally as one of the safest places to hunt deer for the whole family and friends.
"This state is fortunate to have thousands of volunteer hunter education instructors dedicated to keeping everyone safe while enjoying the outdoors," Hunter Education Administrative Warden Jon King said. "And you have to credit the hunters who carry on that safety priority during their own hunts and as mentors. This is what makes Wisconsin a great hunting state - the people."
Wisconsin's culture of hunting safety started a half century ago when the department launched a six-hour course stressing firearm safety. The course was voluntary, and while the impact was not momentous, the number of firearm injuries during the gun-deer hunt began to decline.
Then came more change in 1980 when hunters were required to wear blaze orange during gun-deer hunts - and the number of firearm incidents dropped more dramatically.
Five years later came the expanded hunter education certification program, which also became mandatory for all hunters in Wisconsin born or after Jan. 1, 1973. About 24,000 are trained every year - and more than a million since the program started.
In 1966 in Wisconsin, the hunting incident rate was 44 injuries for every 100,000 hunters. Now the rate, based on a 10-year-average, is 4.04 incidents per 100,000 hunters, a reduction of more than 90 percent. Wisconsin has experienced five gun-deer seasons free of fatalities - 1972, 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2016.
How does Wisconsin keep the safety trend alive?

King says more incidents can be prevented by following these four basic principles of firearm safety - known as TABK:
* Treat every firearm as if it is loaded.
* Always point the muzzle in a safe direction.
* Be certain of your target and what is beyond it.
* Keep your finger outside the trigger guard until ready to shoot.

For tree stand users, here are some easy tips to follow:
* Always use a full-body harness.
* Always unload your firearm while climbing into or out of the stand.
* Maintain three points of contact during the ascent or descent - two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand.
Each deer drive should be planned with safety as the top priority, King said. "Everyone involved in the drive should know and understand the plan."

If you plan to participate in a deer drive:
* Review the four firearm safety principles.
* Reconfirm you have positively identified your target.
* Reconfirm you have a safe backstop for your bullet.
* Review and stick to your hunting plan. Make sure all in the hunting party honor it.
Thanks Wisconsin hunters for serving as an example for ethical and safe hunting.
For more information regarding hunter education and tips for safe hunting in Wisconsin, search the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for keywords "safety tips."

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR


Warden Wire - Chapter 1

Welcome to the first chapter of Warden Wire's feature FAQs: Special Edition - 2017 Gun-Deer Season. These special edition FAQs were taken by the DNR Call Center, the Department of Natural Resources' conservation wardens and the Bureau of Wildlife Management.
Today's topics include tagging deer and harvest registration. The Call Center is staffed daily, 7 a.m.-10 p.m., and offers bilingual service in Spanish and Hmong. The DNR Call Center staff is happy to help you with any and all of your questions. The number is 1-888-936-7463.

Question 1: What has changed with deer tag requirements?
Answer: Deer tag rules no longer require the hunter to validate the tag in any way to indicate that it has been used, attach a tag to the deer, or keep a copy of the tag with the meat until consumed.

Question 2: Do I, as a hunter, still have to carry proof of a tag while hunting?
Answer: Yes. Requirements to carry proof of a deer license and tags while afield have not changed. Acceptable forms of proof include an original or reprinted paper tag, a Go Wild conservation card, a Go Wild-authenticated Wisconsin driver’s license, or a Go Wild digital PDF file displayed on a mobile device.
Hunters need to know the tag number to begin the registration process, which will not be visible if you opt to carry your authenticated Wisconsin driver’s license or a Conservation Card. You can obtain the tag number from the paper tag, the Go Wild PDF file or from the MyGameReg section of your Go Wild account at GoWild.WI.Gov.

Question 3: Can I leave my untagged deer with a friend or allow someone else to transport it?
Answer: Yes. However, the deer must be registered before someone else can transport it. You are strongly encouraged to leave a printed copy of the tag and registration confirmation number with the carcass if someone else will take possession of it.

Question 4: Since tagging is no longer required, what should I do if I leave my deer in the field while I get my truck?
Answer: No special action is required. As long as the deer is harvested under one of your unused deer tags, you can leave the carcass in the field without attaching a tag or registering the deer.

Question 5: How do the new deer tag rules apply to group hunting?
Answer: No changes have been made to group hunting rules. At least one member of the hunting party must have proof of an unfilled deer tag in the area where the hunt is taking place, and be willing to use that tag number to register a deer bagged by another member of the group.

Question 6: Is registration still required?
Answer: Yes. Registration is not an option! You must register your deer by 5 p.m., the day after harvest. Register online at gamereg.wi.gov, by phone at 1-844-426-3734 or at a participating in-person station (find a list at dnr.wi.gov, search “registration stations”). You will need the unique tag number to begin the registration process. Tag numbers are available on the paper tag, Go Wild PDF or in the MyGameReg section of your Go Wild account at GoWild.WI.Gov.

Question 7: How can I find my tag number in order to register my deer?
Answer: Your tag number is easily visible on your deer tag. You can also find a list of your current tags and tag numbers in the My GameReg section of your Go Wild account at GoWild.WI.Gov.

Question 8: What should I do if I don’t have my tag number when registering it?
Answer: Even though a hunter may provide one of the authorized forms of proof for their hunting license and tags, a hunter is still required to meet their registration requirements and have their unique tag number available to complete the registration process. You may document your unique tag number in any method you choose as long as you are able to identify which unique tag number corresponds to each tag. For example, you may only use your buck tag number to register a buck. If you do not have access to a computer or mobile device to look up your tag number, you are encouraged to carry a printed copy of your tag. You can look up your tag number in the My GameReg section of your Go Wild account.

Question 9: Are car-killed deer now exempt from keeping the registration confirmation number with the meat until consumed?
Answer: No. Because tags that authorize possession of the carcass/meat are not issued for car-killed deer, individuals who take possession of a car-killed deer will be required to keep the registration confirmation number with the meat until it is consumed.

Question 10: Can I use alternate forms of proof (Conservation Card, driver’s license, electronic file) for agricultural damage tags, Learn to Hunt tags and DMAP tags?
Answer: No. A hard copy is required. These are special tags associated with specific programs and are not necessarily issued through the hunter’s Go Wild account. You may also be required to write in your customer number and birth date to use these types of tags prior to use. You are not required to validate or attach these special tags, but registration of harvests through GameReg is still required.

Question 11: Where can I find more information on these tagging and harvest?
Answer: Visit dnr.wi.gov and search “hunting regulations” or “deer.”
If you have information regarding natural resource violations, you may confidentially report by calling or texting: VIOLATION HOTLINE: 1-800-TIP-WDNR or 1-800-847-9367. The hotline is in operation 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Trained staff relay report information to conservation wardens.

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR


Deer hunting season aging plan set in Iron County

MERCER, WI - In cooperation with local businesses, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources will collect deer heads for aging during the 2017 archery and gun hunting seasons.
If you harvest a deer, please consider submitting the head from any harvested deer for aging.
Cooperators in the area can be found at:
* Rat's Bear Bait,715-893-2266 - 9501 West Upper Rd., Saxon.
* Mercer Ranger Station, 715-476-7843 - 5291 N. State House Circle, Mercer.
* Stoffels Country Store, 715-561-3344 - 5496 W. U.S. Highway 2, Hurley.
* Heritage Meats LLC, 715-360-3427 - 109 South Main St., Butternut.
The DNR is offering $3 per head collected to businesses. Information collected by cooperators and the DNR will be used to help assess the age structure within the local deer herd. These data will be influential in helping the Iron County Deer Advisory Committee determine deer quotas in the future.
Wisconsin's citizens have played a key role in supplying aging information. DNR staff would like to thank all participants and collection cooperators for their continued efforts.
For more information regarding deer registration in Wisconsin, search keyword "Deer Registration."
All harvested deer will be registered electronically in 2017. Hunters will have three options for registering their deer: by phone at 1-844-426-3734 (1-844-GAME-REG), online at gamereg.wi.gov, or electronically at a participating in-person registration station (keyword "registration stations"). Online registration has proven the be the quickest and easiest option.
All deer must be registered by 5 p.m. the day after the deer is recovered.
For more information regarding electronic registration, search keywords "electronic registration."

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR


Deer hunters take to woods, fields, forests this weekend

Half a million hunters are expected to take part in Minnesota’s firearms deer season that begins a half-hour before sunrise on Saturday, Nov. 4.
“We have a great variety of hunting opportunities and deer populations have increased in recent years,” said Steve Merchant, wildlife populations and regulations manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
Deer numbers are up following three years of conservative harvest regulations designed to rebuild the population, coupled with three relatively mild winters. The DNR anticipates the 2017 deer harvest will be in the 200,000 range, similar to the most recent 20-year average of nearly 206,000.
The DNR collects data on deer harvest by requiring all hunters to register deer before processing, before antlers are removed and within 48 hours after taking the animal. Hunters can register deer via phone, internet or in person.
“Before each season we remind hunters to check this year’s regulations, especially details like when shooting hours are open, considering we set the clocks back when daylight saving time ends during opening weekend,” Merchant said.
Hunters in some areas will be required to have their harvested deer tested for chronic wasting disease Nov. 4 and Nov. 5. Precautionary testing will determine whether CWD may have spread from captive deer to wild deer in central and north-central Minnesota. Testing also is mandatory in southeastern Minnesota, the only location where CWD is known to be found in wild deer.
Central Minnesota deer permit areas with mandatory testing are 218, 219, 229, 277, 283 and 285. North-central permit areas with mandatory testing are 155, 171, 172, 242, 246, 247, 248 and 249. Southeast deer permit areas affected are 343, 345, 346, 347, 348, 349 and 603.
Hunters not in a mandatory testing area can collect their own lymph node sample and submit it for testing to the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at the University of Minnesota for a fee. A video showing how to collect a lymph node sample and a link to the lab’s website are at mndnr.gov/cwdcheck.
Deer hunting information can be found at mndnr.gov/hunting/deer and hunters can follow along on social media using #DeerCampMN. Hunting questions can be directed to the DNR Information Center at 651-296-6157 or 888-646-6367, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR


Late-season deer hunt called off in southeastern Minnesota

A late-season antlerless only deer hunt proposed for three southeastern Minnesota permit areas with deer populations significantly above goal levels will not be conducted in January 2018.
Public input collected at two meetings and online showed no clear consensus either for or against the hunt, said Paul Telander, wildlife section chief for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
“Deer populations remain chronically above goals in these areas, but there is more work to be done to engage hunters, recreational landowners and farmers ahead of any late season hunt,” Telander said.
The DNR had proposed the hunt be conducted from Saturday, Jan. 6, to Sunday, Jan. 14, in deer permit areas 346, 348 and 349. This special hunt would have run concurrently with the late-season chronic wasting disease hunt in deer permit area 603.
Deer populations in the three permit areas have been over the population goals established in 2014 for multiple seasons. The proposed hunt would have helped move deer populations closer to goal and provided additional hunting opportunity.
“There’s little room for additional hunting opportunities in the current season,” Telander said. “To prepare for next year, the DNR is committed to working with hunters, recreational landowners and farmers to formulate an approach that provides additional antlerless deer harvest and brings deer populations in line with goals in these three permit areas.”
After assessing this year’s deer hunting seasons in southeastern Minnesota, the DNR will organize and announce public input meetings and other input opportunities for area residents and hunters ahead of next year’s hunting season.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR


Higher deer harvest predicted in Minnesota

By Paul Telander, DNR wildlife chief

When Minnesota’s deer season ends Sunday, Dec. 31, it is quite likely the harvest will be in the 200,000 range.
This Minnesota Department of Natural Resources projection is above last year’s harvest of 173,213, below the 2003 record harvest of 290,525 and similar to the most recent 20-year average of 205,959. Prior to 2000, deer harvests in excess of 200,000 occurred only four times.
Deer harvest totals typically relate to the size of the deer population and to a lesser degree to weather conditions immediately before and during the hunting season.

On the 2017 season
This should be a good deer season barring any unforeseen unusual weather. Deer numbers are up following three years of conservative harvest regulations designed to rebuild the population, coupled with three relatively mild winters. As a result, more antlerless permits are available this year, and hunters in many parts of the state will have additional opportunities to harvest more deer because of other more liberal season framework changes.
Unfavorable weather, like heavy snowfall immediately before or during the hunting season, is the main factor that would prevent a harvest increase.

On putting 2017 in context
The highest deer harvests occurred during the early to mid-1990s and from 2000-2008. During this latter period, the harvest topped 200,000 each year.
The high harvests in the early 2000s occurred at a time when the over-riding harvest strategy was to reduce the deer population so it wouldn’t grow out of control as had happened in certain eastern states, and to address certain environmental, economic and social concerns.
Deer harvests in excess of 225,000 occurred only once in the 1990s. Going further back, the harvests in the 1970s never topped 100,000. The harvests in the 1980s were under 150,000. Today, there’s growing discussion in the hunting community as to what’s a reasonable harvest target, and that’s a good conversation to have.   

On managing toward population goals
Our aim is to keep deer numbers at population goals identified during DNR’s periodically occurring public goal-setting processes.
There are 130 different deer permit areas throughout the state, and nearly all permit areas have a numeric population goal range. Population goals range from as low as a handful of deer per square mile in intensively farmed areas to 20 to 25 deer per square mile in prime forested areas. A few permit areas are too small or have too low of a harvest to model the local population.
Deer numbers are at or have exceeded population goals over most of the state. Some northeast and southwest permit areas are slightly below goal. Parts of central Minnesota and southeastern Minnesota are above goal. From an overall, statewide perspective, we’re not far from where we believe Minnesota should be.  

On DNR transparency
Many hunters are curious as to how we make our decisions on antlerless permit numbers and season structure, and that’s something we are trying to more effectively communicate.
The process starts immediately after the deer season closes. That’s when area wildlife supervisors and staff monitor deer harvest results in their local areas and collect informal feedback from hunters, conservation officers, foresters and others.
In spring, after winter severity has been monitored and deer mortality losses have been estimated, research staff run population models for each permit area based on the last year’s harvest, winter mortality, anticipated fawn births, predation and other data. These calculations are the basis of research staff recommendations for season permit area designations (lottery, managed, intensive harvest, etc.) and the number of antlerless permits that should be made available to hunters in each lottery permit area in order to achieve population goals.
Research staff recommendations are sent to all area wildlife supervisors, who then have the option of agreeing with them or modifying them based on their own local observations and informal input.
Often, these recommendations agree with each other, but not always. When this happens, differences get resolved at the regional or St. Paul office level.
Ultimately, the agreed upon season structures and number of permits to be issued for each area are communicated to hunters through the multi-colored deer map that is part of the hunting regulations booklet and a new, more informative interactive deer map on the DNR website at mndnr.gov/deermap.

On managing expectations
That’s perhaps the hardest part of deer management, and it’s often a function of scope and scale. Our agency’s focus is on the big picture and a half million hunters. Conversely, the individual hunter is most interested in what’s happening within their immediate hunting area, which is often as little as 40 acres.
It’s not well-known but among 13 Midwestern states, only Missouri manages deer populations at a finer spatial scale than Minnesota. We are serious about managing expectations and deer numbers in small geographic areas. Still, it is common to have a wide variety of opinions in each area on whether there should be more, fewer or different sized deer. To that point, we recently conducted a hunter satisfaction survey and one of the findings is that today’s hunters have higher expectations than those who hunted just 10 years ago.

On communicating with hunters
When I began my career it was common to interact with hunters at deer registration stations and local field offices. Today with the ease, convenience and popularity of phone and internet game registration, the DNR no longer has staff at deer registration stations. And people don’t visit DNR offices like they once did because so much information is available on the DNR website.
Our challenge is finding new and efficient ways to have two-way conversations with hunters. This past winter we received more than 1,400 comments during a three-month long deer management plan public input effort. We were pleased with the response yet those 1,400 comments from an engaged and important audience represent only a minute fraction of the hunting public.
There’s an irony in the fact that even though it is easier to be connected to one another these days because of smartphones and other technology, many people feel less connected than they once did. Figuring out how to maintain strong relations with hunters and other stakeholders is something on which we need to keep working.
Minnesota’s first-ever deer plan will outline key concepts and crucial, ongoing work needed to manage deer, one of the state’s most popular and economically vibrant natural resources. An important aspect of the plan is how the DNR will reach out and communicate deer management needs, necessary actions and reasons for those actions.
A draft plan will be available in early 2018. I encourage everyone to read the draft plan, consider DNR’s suggested approach and give us your feedback and ideas through the public input opportunities we’ll make available.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR


Hunters looking forward to higher deer numbers this season

Hunters will have additional opportunities to harvest deer this season thanks to a series of mild winters and conservative hunting regulations, which have resulted in rebounding deer populations across Minnesota.
Firearms deer season opens Saturday, Nov. 4, and there are 130 permit areas in 2017. Information about each permit area can be found on the DNR’s interactive deer map at mndnr.gov/deermap, and includes wildlife manager reports, regulations, and statistics about deer harvest and populations on a local scale.

Northwest deer report
John Williams, northwest region wildlife manager
More deer on the landscape in the northwest region should help hunters better enjoy the season and have good prospects for a successful hunt.  
Another mild winter on top of the previous two mild winters has largely enabled deer populations to be at or near goal levels in most permit areas. Fawn production was also good this year, another indication of does coming through the winter in good health.
Recent rains have filled basins that were previously dry due to drought-like conditions in late summer, and water levels are up on many of the marshes and lakes in the region. Hunters should be prepared to deal with wetter than average conditions if they are hunting in or need to cross lowland areas.   
In general, hunters will be able to harvest more deer. In several permit areas the designations changed to allow more overall harvest. Some permit areas moved from a designation of lottery, which requires hunters to apply in advance to shoot an antlerless deer, to a hunters choice designation that allows a hunter to use one license to shoot either a buck or antlerless deer.
Other permit areas changed designations from hunters choice to managed. In permit areas designated as managed, hunters can harvest two deer through use of a regular license and a bonus antlerless permit. Permit areas that did stay in the lottery designation this year may have more permits available than in previous years.  

Northeast deer report
Dave Olfelt, northeast region wildlife manager
Three consecutive, relatively mild winters have contributed to good fawn production and high numbers of twin births.
Snow depth was moderate throughout much of the region and a relatively early green-up of forage has supported deer that appear to be in excellent physical condition.
Where good habitat exists, deer populations are approaching or are at established population goals. While deer are not evenly distributed within permit areas because of habitat differences and varying levels of hunting pressure, harvest regulations have relaxed in many northern Minnesota permit areas to allow more deer harvest. Duluth, several Iron Range cities and some state parks continue to hold special hunts to reduce deer numbers.
Rain and wet conditions have persisted throughout much of the fall season. Hunters may find water in areas that are typically dry this time of year and forest road access may be difficult or impassable in some locations.
Hunters in far northeastern Minnesota’s primary moose range should review the new deer permit area maps for boundary and numbering changes.

Central deer report
Jami Markle, assistant central region wildlife manager
“Deer are everywhere” is a common refrain across the central region this fall. Deer populations seem to have bounced back from a decline following the severe winter of 2013-2014.
In fact, many deer permit areas in the region have met or are above population goals, meaning more permits will be available this fall. With rebounding deer populations and ample hunter opportunities, wildlife managers are anticipating a strong harvest in 2017.
Deer look healthy as they shed their reddish summer coats for the more muted gray-brown tones that will carry them through the winter.
Summer habitat conditions were ideal with an excellent growing season and plentiful native forage and cover. Does with twin fawns seem to be the norm rather than the exception this year.  
Wildlife managers and landowners have noted an abundant acorn crop in the central and southeast portion of the region this fall which will keep deer feeding and browsing in the oak woods.  
Wet conditions in late September and early October have postponed agricultural harvest so hunters may see standing crops well into the firearms season. Fall leaf drop is reported to be later than normal in the southern part of the state, but by early November sightlines should be opened up and the forest floor will have a new layer of fallen leaves.
Buck scrapes and rubs are starting to appear and hunters can expect to see deer movement and patterns change as the rut approaches.  
Many permit areas in the central region are designated as managed this year, allowing harvest of two deer through the use of a regular license and a bonus antlerless permit.
Five permit areas are designated as intensive, which allows for harvest of three deer using additional bonus permits.
There are additional harvest opportunities in the 601 metro deer management area and the 603 chronic wasting disease management zone, both of which offer harvest of an unlimited number of antlerless deer.

Southwest deer report  
David Trauba, southwest region wildlife manager
Two consecutive mild winters coupled with past conservative harvest strategies have allowed deer numbers to increase throughout southwestern Minnesota.
In addition, wildlife managers reported good fawn production. As a result, more antlerless permits were provided for this fall’s hunting season. However, permits numbers continue to be low in select permit areas, mostly in extreme southwest, due to the loss of Conservation Reserve Program acres. Managers in these permit areas are having a difficult time increasing deer numbers due to limited habitat availability.
Conversely, hunters need to be aware that permit areas 281 and 290 moved to a hunters choice designation for the first time due to an abundance of deer along the Minnesota River corridor.
Two wild cards for hunters will be the amount of standing crops and river flooding. Historically, the amount of standing crops drives opening weekend hunter harvest along with weather conditions. Large rainfall amounts in mid-October have resulted in flooded fields and river flooding. Crop harvest is behind schedule, but this can change very quickly, so it is too early to predict what amount of crops will be in the field, if any, before opening day. However, hunters should prepare for high water in select river corridors. High water can influence deer use of these habitats. Many deer have been forced out of the river valleys into the surrounding uplands. As always, hunters need to scout and adapt to conditions.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR