Gun deer season opens Nov. 19
By Jeff Pritzl
Deer harvest in the Northern Forest Zone portions of Marinette and Oconto counties did not show evidence of herd growth during the 2015 season, but after a second mild winter, we can expect more adult deer in the herd this fall.
Buck sightings should improve as fawns from 2015 will be sporting their first set of antlers. County Deer Advisory Councils in these counties recommended a conservative antlerless harvest approach, waiting to see harvest evidence that the herd is growing before making more aggressive recommendations in the coming years.
Antlerless quotas are reduced a bit in the Forest Zone portions of the counties and held steady in the Farmland Zone. Conditions appear favorable for a solid acorn crop, although this can quickly be impacted, like in 2015, when what looked like good acorn numbers did not turn into a good food source, as many acorns were attacked by insect larvae, which consumed the nuts. Hopefully this year, more will be full of meat.
Fawn production and survival is expected to be very good again this year in the Central Farmland Zone. Some Farmland Zone County Deer Advisory Councils are finding it challenging to meet their objective to stabilize their deer herd in the face of high fawn productivity. Antlerless quotas increased compared to 2015 in 10 counties in the Northeast District, but some counties held steady, acknowledging that the quota is already higher than historical harvests.
The call for increasing the antlerless portion of the harvest in an attempt to stabilize herd growth was led by the Waupaca County CDAC’s initial recommendation to have an antlerless-only season in 2016. Their final recommendation was to allow buck harvest, but the message from Waupaca and surrounding counties – as well as the Lake Michigan coast counties of Door, Kewaunee and Manitowoc – is that in order to demonstrate the ability to maintain a stable deer population, the antlerless harvest must increase.
Those counties have provided hunters generous opportunities to achieve that goal in the form of multiple antlerless permits and implementation of the Holiday Hunt in some counties.
Buck harvests are expected to be good throughout the district this year. Of course there are many variables that make hunting somewhat unpredictable, but that is also what makes hunting intriguing and an adventure every day.
This year is a great opportunity to explore some new areas and enjoy all the bounties that the autumn landscape provides.
• Jeff Pritzl is the wildlife supervisor for the state Department of Natural Resources’ Northeast District, which includes Waupaca, Waushara, Outagamie, Winnebago, Shawano, Brown, Kewaunee, Door, Oconto, Marinette, Menominee, Marquette, Green Lake, Fond du Lac, Sheboygan, Calumet and Manitowoc counties. He can be reached at 920-662-5127 or firstname.lastname@example.org.