Antlerless quota set at 11,380 for 2017
By Greg Seubert
What a difference a year makes.
Last March, Waupaca County’s County Deer Advisory Committee made headlines after voting 6-0 in favor of antlerless-only bow and gun deer hunting seasons in 2016 as a way to control the local deer herd population. The council overturned that recommendation a month later after more than 700 people showed up at its next meeting.
It was a different vote this time around.
The council, meeting March 21 at Little Wolf High School in Manawa, voted against an antlerless-only deer season this year and also voted in favor of an antlerless quota of 11,380 for the county.
Council members also voted in favor of making 7,200 private land and 300 public land antlerless-only bonus tags available this year and supported a holiday hunt set for Dec. 24 to Jan. 1.
The recommendations are not set in stone, according to Arlyn Splitt, a nonvoting member of the council.
“This is all preliminary,” he said.
The council will hold its final meeting of 2017 at 6 p.m. Monday, April 17, at Little Wolf High School. The state Natural Resources Board will receive quota proposals from the state’s CDACs in May and is scheduled to act on them at its May 23-24 meeting in Madison.
Waupaca County has ranked at or near the top in state white-tailed deer harvests the last several years.
Hunters harvested 13,075 deer – 5,183 bucks and 7,892 antlerless deer – in 2016, according to figures from the state Department of Natural Resources. That total includes 9,272 during the gun season, 2,135 during the bow season and 311 during the youth hunt, as well as 1,668 harvested with a crossbow.
Jake Fries, Waupaca County’s DNR wildlife biologist, reviewed Waupaca County’s numbers from 2016 and said the gun hunt total of 9,272 included 3,364 bucks and 5,908 antlerless deer.
“We did see a significant increase in the antlerless harvest in 2016 and other counties did not,” he said. “Waupaca County is right up there with buck harvest per square mile.”
The county’s deer are having a negative effect in some areas, local DNR forester Mike Schuessler said.
“The one thing deer love to do is eat small trees,” he said. “There are issues with getting seedlings to grow. If it takes 15, 20 years for an area to regenerate successfully, that’s 15 years of growth the forests are losing.”
The vast majority of suitable habitat is on private land, but 90 percent of the county’s 12,000 acres of public land open to hunting is considered suitable deer range, according to the DNR.
“We can make our recommendation for what we think is wrong or right,” council member Lance Penney said. “If you’re seeing a lot of browsing, you probably need to shoot some more. Waupaca County proved a point last year that yes, we can control our hunt. We put it out there to harvest some more antlerless deer and the hunters came through. I feel that we made progress last year.”
“You are the stewards of your own land, so make the right call,” Splitt said. “As a hunter, you don’t want to be told what you can and can’t shoot.”
Fries estimated the county’s prehunt deer population at 64,408 and suggested an antlerless quota of 11,380 for this year as a starting point. The council had recommended a quota of 14,200 for 2016.
Bob Peterson, one of more than 50 people attending the meeting, said public education can go a long way toward maintaining the local deer herd.
“I don’t think we have any public education out there encouraging people to shoot does,” he said. “I think you have to put some effort into that. We harvested 21 deer last year, but I can’t get my neighbors to shoot them.”
Council member Ben Knaack said he favored the holiday hunt. County hunters harvested 652 deer during last year’s special antlerless-only hunt.
“It definitely was a tool that appeared to work,” he said. “In my opinion, I’d like to keep it.”