Public can comment at April meeting
By Greg Seubert
Imagine not being able to harvest a buck this year in Waupaca County, one of Wisconsin’s top white-tailed deer hunting destinations.
Although the probability of that happening is remote, the county’s Deer Advisory Council voted 6-0 at its March 22 meeting in Manawa in favor of antlerless-only bow and gun seasons in 2016 as a way to control the local deer herd population.
The public will have an opportunity to comment on the recommendation at the council’s next meeting. The six-member panel had been meeting at the Manawa City Hall, but its next meeting will be held 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 19, in the Waupaca High School Performing Arts Center to accommodate an expected large crowd.
Waupaca County Conservationist Brian Haase, a member of the council, said the panel based its recommendation on information from the state Department of Natural Resources.
Other voting members of the council are Douglas Korth of Embarrass, Benjamin Knaack of Clintonville, Lance Penney of Waupaca, John Hedtke of Bear Creek and David Lindenstruth of Appleton.
Councils in each of Wisconsin’s 72 counties met in March to review deer herd information and develop preliminary recommendations regarding antlerless harvest quotas, antlerless permit levels and other season options for 2016.
Haase said the panel’s action isn’t set in stone.
“It’s a preliminary recommendation,” he said. “I don’t think any of us feel it’s the right decision.”
Haase said the county’s estimated deer population has increased from about 23,000 eight years ago to 40,000 this year.
Part of the problem is hunters’ unwillingness to harvest antlerless deer, according to Haase.
“We do not shoot enough antlerless deer in this county to maintain the population,” he said. “We have one of the largest numbers of hunters. It seems no matter what we do, we can’t encourage any more antlerless harvest.”
Waupaca County hunters harvested 5,295 bucks and 6,133 antlerless deer in 2015, according to the state Department of Natural Resources. That total harvest of 11,428 for all seasons was second only to Marathon County’s 12,224.
Waupaca County didn’t come close to last year’s antlerless harvest target of 12,300 deer. This year’s target is 14,200.
Haase said anywhere from 10 to 20 people have been attending the council’s meetings.
Arlyn Splitt, a Waupaca County delegate to the Wisconsin Conservation Congress, has been moderating the council’s meetings.
He said he asked those attending the March 22 meeting for their opinion and eight of the 14 people said they favored antlerless-only seasons this year.
“When we have these relatively low public turnouts, he opens it up to comments,” Haase said. “We’re OK with that as long as it doesn’t get out of hand.”
Jeff Pritzl is program manager for the DNR’s Northeast Region, which includes Waupaca, Waushara, Outagamie, Winnebago, Shawano, Brown, Calumet, Door, Fond du Lac, Green Lake, Kewaunee, Manitowoc, Marinette, Marquette, Menominee and Oconto counties.
“From the department’s perspective, the opportunities to declare an antlerless-only season was made available by the Natural Resources Board as a tool to maintain the deer population,” he said. “(The Waupaca County council) felt that’s the strategy to maintain the population.”
Haase hopes the council’s recommendation doesn’t take effect.
“We’re all hunters on the committee,” he said. “I don’t like the idea of not being able to harvest a buck.”