MADISON A call-around count of deer registration stations across Wisconsin conducted by Department of Natural Resources staff has yielded a preliminary kill tally for the just-ended 9-day November gun deer hunt of 276,985.
While the call-in tally appears to be down in parts of the state, this number is preliminary and is expected to change before a final report is published in late winter. It does not include harvest information from the archery, October antlerless deer gun hunt, muzzleloader, December antlerless deer gun hunt or late archery seasons.
A table of county by county harvest broken down by DNR Region (pdf; 81 kb)
, with comparison to the 2007 preliminary harvest is available on the DNR Web site.
"Hunters have been doing a good job, and deer populations may be moving toward healthy goals," said Keith Warnke, DNR big game biologist. "Their commitment and involvement are having a positive effect and will help to ensure a healthy deer herd in the future for them and for a younger generation of hunters who are coming up through the ranks."
"We still need to look at all the numbers from all deer seasons before we can say anything for sure," said Warnke, "but it looks like our estimates of winter mortality and fawn production may be off, which if it proves true, would lead to over estimation of the pre-hunt population.
"Preliminary counts seem to indicate a lower than predicted deer population. That may indicate that deer populations could be moving toward healthy population goals."
Many factors could have impacted this year's hunt say wildlife managers including winter conditions lasting longer into spring than estimated and a late, cool spring which caused lower fawn production than average. Fawn production statewide was the lowest it has been in 15 years. The deer season was also quite late, past the rut in most parts of the state, meaning deer were not moving as much as hunters might have hoped.
Hunters across the state have commented that there appeared to be fewer deer in the woods than could be expected from prehunt population predictions. While this comment was common, registrations in the DNR's South Central Region actually increased 3 percent over last year and the Southeast region held pretty steady, dropping about 4 percent.
The DNR's West Central Region and Northeast Regions are coming off of several years of herd reduction and earn-a-buck season structures designed to lower numbers to healthy populations. The preliminary results would seem to indicate that the strategies are working, say wildlife managers.
"In the final analysis, once all the numbers are in, it is possible that there will be fewer herd control and earn-a-buck units in the coming season," Warnke said.
As happens every year, department wildlife managers and scientists will be closely analyzing this year's hunt data and making any necessary adjustments for 2009 seasons. Wildlife managers will be examining a number of factors including age and sex structure of the harvest, expected over winter mortality, and fawn production rates. A recent audit by national experts indicated Wisconsin's deer population prediction method is among the best in North America.
"It is our job to manage this icon of Wisconsin wildlife in a manner consistent with our responsibility to protect and sustain our wildlife resources and traditions and we take that responsibility very seriously," said Warnke. "We use the most accurate data available to manage deer. We constantly strive to balance a healthy and sustainable herd with public opportunities for a safe, productive and enjoyable hunt."