River Currents

by Free Speech on December 4, 2009

Lodi, WI~

Lodi Valley News serving Lodi, WI & the Lake Wisconsin area with local information since Earth Day 2008.

Lodi, WI

The Tradition Continues

Tyler Ruhland of Sauk City with a 17 point deer with a 22 inch inside spread that will score very high.

Tyler Ruhland of Sauk City with a 17 point deer with a 22 inch inside spread that will score very high.

This past weekend, November 21 and 22 was the opening of the 158th Wisconsin Deer Gun Season. There have been many changes in all of these hunting seasons with some of the major and significant changes from the 1980’s and on being; the movement of large numbers of deer from the northern third of the state to the southern agricultural counties, the growth of the deer herd to over 1 million deer in the late 1980’s, the creation of antlerless deer permits, the allowed use of handguns for deer hunting, extended seasons, the beginning of hunter discontent over the “announced” DNR deer herd numbers in the 1990’s, the addition of the Earn-A-Buck (EAB) requirement in the mid 1990’s, the early antlerless deer hunts in October which began in 1998, record deer harvests in the late 1990’s and into the 2000’s, a record 528,494 deer harvested in 2000, the discovery of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in 2001, the millions of dollars spent on CWD testing and research, increased deer populations in many of the state’s deer management units (DMU), unlimited antlerless permits in 2005 for Zone T and CWD units, over 1 million antlerless permits issued in 2006, and this year a traditional buck only hunt in 13 northern units and the new Mentor Hunting Program allowing children over 10 years of age to hunt one on one with a ‘Mentor” even before taking Hunter Education. These are just a few of the many important changes and landmarks that have occurred in the last few decades which have impacted deer hunting and deer hunters.

After spending all of Saturday and Sunday registering deer in Sauk County, I got the opportunity to talk to hundreds of deer hunters of all ages and sexes. This year, there is a couple of questions on the registration forms that ask deer hunters how many deer were observed while hunting, how many hours were spent hunting, and how one would rate the weather while hunting. As with most questions, there are always a couple of different ways that hunter’s interpret the questions and answer them. Saturday, many hunters complained about the early morning fog which was intense depending on where you were, the above normal temperatures were welcomed by some and disliked by others, many hunters wished for a little snow as always, some hunters reporting seeing many deer while others saw few, many hunters reported seeing numerous “smaller’ bucks, and there was a continuation, from the bow hunt, of large trophy bucks being harvested. In talking to hunters, hearing their stories, and seeing the deer harvested showed me that people (hunters) can “see’ things differently. There are many varying and diverse opinions of the deer hunt, the rules and regulations, and the deer numbers among deer hunters.

It’s impossible to satisfy and keep all hunters happy, but I believe the DNR is trying to do its best for the 600,000 plus deer hunters in the state. With deer hunting being an economic boom to Wisconsin, the DNR is reaching out to hunters for suggestions and ideas in its never-ending search for the perfect deer hunting program. Hunters are now being asked to report their hunting experiences and the game that they see while in the woods and fields. Many Wisconsinites are taking advantage of this opportunity for online reporting where individuals can tell the DNR what they are actually seeing in the field.

The one question that seems to be very important to hunters is the real deer population. Many think that the numbers have been inflated over the years to sell licenses. Personally, I don’t think that state officials would do this. But, with the discovery of CWD and the millions of dollars spent on this disease has caused many to question some of the inner workings of this huge state department. The state employees that I have worked with over the years have been nothing but hard working, honest, and share a common love of the outdoors. All one has to do is go to other Midwestern states and see how good the outdoors person has it in Wisconsin. Earlier this fall, I wrote about some former Wisconsin residents who now live in other states and how difficult it is to find places to hunt and fish. We have thousands and thousands of acres of public land open to all for hunting, fishing, and outdoor related pursuits which is the envy of most states.

Jeff Blum (14 yrs. old) of Sauk City

Jeff Blum (14 yrs. old) of Sauk City

The one common bond that I found with many of the hunters that I talked to was their love for deer hunting and the outdoors. Despite the loss of many “baby-boomers” to hunting, there are still so many people that live for the tradition, camaraderie, and “good times’ that the deer season brings. I had hunters tell me that harvesting a deer wasn’t as important as getting together with friends and family during the deer season. There are few of the old deer camps left where friends and family would get together for the whole season while continuing the hunting tradition. But, most hunters are now happy to have the tradition of deer hunting continue if only for a day or a weekend during the gun season.

There were many young hunters out this past weekend who were hunting for the first time after passing hunter education and I also saw numerous young girls and boys who were out with a parent, grandparent, or relative and taking advantage of the new Mentor Hunting Program. This is a great program that really does something constructive to get children outside in the outdoors with parents and friends. We must remember that the young are the future hunters, fishers, and outdoors people and we must do all that we can to make their experiences enjoyable, meaningful, and safe.

The state has said that they expect deer numbers to be down statewide. At my registration station in Sauk City, registration numbers were down about 20% on Saturday from the 2008 numbers. The Sunday numbers were about the same as last season with about 350 deer registered over the entire weekend. About a third of the deer registered were bucks and the rest antlerless deer. There continued to be many large bucks registered as there was during the last few weeks of the bow season when the rut seemed to start and get the deer moving.

I’ll be working the entire deer season and I’ll keep you posted on the end results and anything out of the norm that occurs. Check my website at www.garyengbergoutdoors.com for many local deer photos of some magnificent bucks that have been harvested in this area of southern Wisconsin. If you send me photos, I’ll gladly post them. Stay safe and always make sure of your target and beyond.

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