Tuesday, November 30, 2010

PostHeaderIcon 2010 Wisconsin Gun Deer Season In Review

The 2010 Wisconsin gun deer season has come and gone. Preliminary numbers have the total harvest at over 218,000 deer. That’s an 11 percent increase compared to last season. Considering last season was the worst in over a decade, that’s not saying much. However, an increase is better than the alternative. Good weather on opening day and harvested crop fields are being given the credit for much of hunter success. Warm and wet spring weather greened up forests early and aided fawn survival as well. Still, hunter reports were mixed. Some reported plentiful deer sightings while others were left shaking their heads and cursing the DNR.

Some units were below goal and restricted to buck only regulations. Obviously, antlerless harvest was way down in these counties. For example, Ashland County’s antlerless harvest was down 73% while it’s buck harvest was up 12%. This led to the total harvest being down 22%. That’s a lot, but when you consider most hunters didn’t have a doe tag at all, it’s not as bad as it could be. Overall, the state buck harvest was up 17%.

One can conclude that many of the bucks harvested were young deer that may have been passed up under normal conditions. While this has no real effects on the total population in these areas since surviving bucks will still breed all the does, trophy potential has to be greatly diminished. Yearling bucks that were harvested this year will never mature. You can’t blame the hunters who took them and you can’t blame wildlife officials for setting the buck only rules. It’s just something that will need to be worked through over the next five to ten years.

In contrast, the southern part of the state had a huge season. Only a handful of counties in the south saw small declines, while most were way up. The total harvest in the county I hunt in, Lafayette County, was up 45% compared to last year. Dane and Dodge counties also saw significant increases. This must be due to the crops being harvested and 2009’s opening day fog.

Here are our ProStaffer’s reports. You’ll find they are very different dependent upon location. Some hunted multiple units and have separate reports.

Chris Larsen
Lafayette County, Unit 75D

Opening day was incredible. Temperatures were in the 30s in Southern Wisconsin and deer were moving to stay warm. I saw around 35 deer, with seven confirmed buck sightings. One was a spiker/small fork, one was a year-and-a-half-old eight pointer, four were two-and-a-half year old eight pointers, and one was a gigantic trophy class buck. I tagged one of the two-and-a-half year olds. You can read more about my season here. I’m really excited about next season. If those two-and-a-half-year olds make it to next year, they will be very nice bucks next season.

I had a deer hanging and the pressure was off on day two. I set up in an area that has been incredibly productive the past few years. Unfortunately, it was virtually deerless on this morning. After lunch with the other two hunters in camp, the decision was made to do some drives. I personally saw 15 deer on the opening drive along with several turkeys and a coyote. My foot steps were the catalyst of the final and most productive drive of the day. Twenty deer were holed up in an area we call “The Cave.” They were tails up and headed toward the other hunters ten seconds before shots rang out.

This unit is under Earn A Buck regulations and we have all earned our buck and are ready for next season. The only complaint I have from this season is about the dates of the early antler less season. It was downright warm in mid-October and no one wanted to shoot a deer for fear of the meat spoiling. However, time was negotiated with work and spouses so we were going to camp regardless. The heat kept us from seriously pursuing deer and the required blaze orange gave us no shot at a fall turkey. The time in camp was fun, but the hunting was disappointing. I understand the DNR doesn’t want to get too close to rut, but perhaps one weekend later would be better.

Jon Ballard
Jackson County, Unit 55

If I could sum up my Black River Falls hunting experience into one word it would have to be "slow". Admittedly, I didn't get to spend the amount of time I usually do, or I would have liked to, in the woods in 2010. But I was lucky enough to hunt 4 days during the peak of the rut in Unit 55 as well as the opening day of gun season. We hunted both Black River State Forest and private land and I would say that the amount of sign we saw compared to the last years as well as the number of deer we saw was substantially down. I did see one nice buck at around 50 yards and one smaller buck during our 4 day adventure as well as several does on opening day of gun season but the numbers just don't seem to be there. One member of our party of four went all 4 days of bow season with out seeing a single deer. I'm not one of the "Wolves are to blame" crowd but one of our hunting party did see a wolf opening day of gun season at around 100 yards from his ground blind. He described the encounter as "majestic" and was happy to see something since the deer appeared to be long gone. Zone 55 was buck only this year with limited doe tags available for purchase.

Juneau County, Unit 54A
From bad to worse is how I felt about Unit 54A this year. In addition to 3 days of deerless bow hunts, our party of four spent three days of gun season in the woods of Juneau County near New Lisbon. The private acreage we hunt has always been productive in the past but this year the woods appeared to be empty. The activity in 54A was even slower then last year (The 2009 nine day gun season harvest of 3,009 deer compared to 4,714 harvest during the nine day season in 2008 -That's a 36% drop off and yet there are still doe tags for sale?). No one in our hunting party of four even saw a deer in Juneau county. Not even driving home at night. I heard similar stories of despair from neighboring property owners. Unit 54A was buck only this year, which combined with a mild winter may help keep the numbers from getting even worse. But I think the damage was already done several years ago with the liberal harvest quotes and unlimited doe tags. It will take this area several years to recover in my opinion. It is my understanding that doe tags for 54A were available for purchase right up to opening day. Which tells me that either no one is hunting in this unit this year or hunters are fed up with the mismanagement and have decided to do something about it on their own.

Tyler Hinner
Clark County, Unit 58

I took a nice buck with my bow the weekend before gun season and decided to run a camera for FOTV’s Chris Larsen in Lafayette County over opening weekend. During the week, I split time in Clark and Vilas counties. Very few shots were heard during the week. I did kill a doe on Thursday on an 80 acre farm that did not see pressure all week. Walking with the wind in my face from the far side of the property, I started a slow sneak through the dense, young pine cover mixed in with scattered mature oak and maple trees. To my surprise(and theirs), I came within 40 yards of four feeding does. As I waited to see which doe was the most mature, I noticed one of the does was limping and that she had taken a bullet to one of her front legs. I did the ethical thing and harvested that deer… meat in the freezer. Friday we noticed an increased amount of hunters out in the woods, but almost everyone was driving. This trend continued through the final weekend.

Jason Oswald
Lafayette County, Unit 75D

The 2010 9 day gun deer season in Wisconsin again displayed symptoms of a split personality. In my case, I was fortunate to have the chance to return to a friend's camp in Lafayette county, in the southernmost tier of counties in our state. This property holds a lot of deer, and we arrived at camp with a much improved game plan after a year's worth of outings for both deer and turkey. I selected a stand site overlooking a narrow draw that serves as an entry/exit point for deer from neighboring properties, thinking that I would certainly get a good look at any and all deer moving in and out of the property on that side.

My homework paid off with over 30 deer seen on opening day. The downside was that no big bucks happened by my stand. Most of the deer I saw opening weekend on this property were does, with only a young fork buck and small 8 pointer revealing themselves. I was fortunate to take a nice mature doe during a series of drives on Sunday afternoon. Monday found us in the garage butchering venison and in the cabin for a quick clean up before heading home.

Clark County, Unit 58
The snow and ice storm on Thanksgiving eve kept my family at home and off the roads. I found myself behind the wheel heading over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house and my Clark county treestand on Thanksgiving morning. I finally reached my stand at 2pm, and promptly watched 2 does amble through a thick tag alder swamp. Another doe trotted across the food plot just before the end of legal shooting time, and I watched her disappear into the fading light as the last deer I would see this season. Dawn broke a frigid 9 degrees and windy over the same stand on Friday, with nothing moving all morning. Another stand that afternoon proved no better. Our crew spent Saturday cutting firewood and filling the woodshed for the winter. My father-in-law saw no deer at all during the firearm deer season in Clark County.

For Southern Wisconsin deer, the good times continue to roll. In my experience, the opportunity to hunt both Southern and Central Wisconsin and listen to hunters in both regions seeminly confirms the state herd's split personality.

Jeff Bredemus
Burnett County

Wisconsin opener was average for my two brothers, father and myself. Many does and yearling bucks were seen on day one. Day two's rain didn't help much but my one brother was able to harvest a young buck. Reports from others in the Burnett County area also reported fair results with a lack of "shooter" bucks being seen. With time this should hopefully change.


Muzzleloader season and more antlerless seasons are still on the way. If you don’t have a deer yet, there’s time. If you’re looking for other outdoor pursuits, the ice is getting thicker. Tyler Hinner reports ice on his favorite Vilas County lake is just getting thick enough to walk on. He pulled five walleyes through two inches of ice Sunday. Ice is spotty and isn’t thick enough to run ATV’s or snowmobiles yet.

Jeff Bredemus was out last week looking for a late fall musky to slime the net. With overcast and stable conditions, he fished a smaller 400 acre lake in hopes to locate schools of suspended bait fish. For this lake the main forage is panfish/perch and with water in the upper 30 degree range they were already setting up in their wintering holes. Using a trolling motor and graph he was able to locate large schools of panfish suspended in 10-14 feet over 30 feet of water. From there, he circled the area casting large rubber swimbaits retrieved in a slow matter. He didn’t hook anything but had a few follows and a couple fish seen always makes the day this time of year. With the temperatures dipping, open water fishing is pretty much done for the year.


Jon Ballard said...

On a positive note it's great to see that the Wisconsin DNR seems to be hearing the hunters and although the buck only zones across the state are not popular with all hunters they are necessary to get the population numbers back up.

Fred Gill said...

Interesting blog. This is one of my favorite blog about hunting and I also want you to update more post like this. Thanks for sharing this article.

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Jade Graham said...

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, stopping on the road to look at us.

Black Panther said...

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