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Quota may drop by 4,400 deer

CDAC recommends lower antlerless quota

By Greg Seubert

Waupaca County deer hunters could have a lower antlerless quota this year.

On a 3-2 vote, the county’s Deer Advisory Council recommended a quota of 7,000 antlerless deer for the 2018 gun and archery seasons.

The council held its first meeting of the year March 19 in Manawa and will meet again at 6 p.m. Monday, April 19, following a public comment period that runs from April 2-12.

The recommended 2018 quota is a drop of nearly 4,400 deer from last year’s quota of 11,380.

According to figures from the state Department of Natural Resources, Waupaca County hunters harvested 6,654 antlerless deer in 2017, including 3,829 during the nine-day gun hunt in November, 802 during the archery season, 885 during the crossbow season, 186 during the muzzleloader season, 135 during the youth hunt, 376 during an antlerless-only hunt in December and 441 during a holiday hunt.

Scott Bestul, one of the county’s delegates on the Wisconsin Conservation Congress, cast one of the three votes in favor of the lower quota, along with Bill Krostue and Brian Haase. Lance Penney and Ben Knaack voted no.

“A lot of the public comments we got from people were that they were seeing a few less (deer),” Bestul said. “We have taken the deer herd down somewhat already. We don’t have to be quite as aggressive anymore.”

Haase, Penney and Knaack also voted to issue three farmland tags per license – the same as 2017 – while Krostue and Bestul voted no.

The council also voted 5-0 to make 5,000 private and 300 public bonus tags available this year, voted 5-0 to not extend the archery season to Jan. 31 and voted 4-1 to offer a holiday hunt this year.

“Our main goal is a healthy deer herd,” said Jim Binder, the council’s chairman and a nonvoting member. “What we’re trying to do is set the permit levels and quota levels to do that. Several months back, we voted to decrease the deer herd. We heard from the foresters and the wildlife biologists that our deer herd is actually very populated here in Waupaca County. The tools we have to work with are bonus antlerless tags, the doe harvest, the number of permits issued and the length of seasons.

“It’s going to be very similar to last year,” he said. “We set some quotas a little bit lower, but based on the sales from last year, nothing is going to change. Hopefully, people are happy with the results.”

The public now has an opportunity to comment on the council’s actions. Twelve people showed up at the March 19 meeting and Binder encouraged hunters to share their opinions.

“The public gets to comment before they’re set in stone,” he said. “They can go on the DNR website (dnr.wi.gov) and if they type in ‘CDAC,’ there’s room for public input. We read them and that’s what we’re going to be discussing at the next meeting: how the public is perceiving what we enacted tonight.”

Waupaca County is among the state’s leaders in deer harvest each year. Last year, county hunters harvested 6,657 deer during the nine-day gun hunt in November. Only Marathon and Shawano counties, at 7,587 and 6,885 deer, respectively, had higher totals.

“With the ag and forested areas that we do have, it’s conducive to a good-sized deer herd,” Bestul said. “Plus, the age of our bucks that people are harvesting has gone up, so the number of trophy-sized deer is also out there.”

Bestul has heard from some hunters that are convinced the county’s deer herd is not what it used to be.

“Deer are pretty opportunistic on where they’re feeding,” he said. “Some places at the right time are going to have what they’re looking for and the deer are going to be there.

“If you don’t have exactly what they’re looking for, they’re going to travel quite a ways,” he added. “There are areas at different times of the year that just aren’t seeing the deer because they aren’t there. They’re where they want to be for a food source or whatever. If you’re hunting a certain property, there are times of the year when they’re not going to be there. That’s the unfortunate part.”

Two years ago, the council made headlines around the state by recommending an antlerless-only hunt for Waupaca County. More than 700 people attended the council’s first meeting after that recommendation and the panel eventually reversed its decision.

“The public convinced the committee to not have antlerless-only seasons,” Binder said. “Tonight, there were 23 people here. That’s not as many as I’d like, but compared to some counties, it’s more than most of them have. We’ve been pretty good at getting the information out. It’s pretty important and I’d like people to be involved.”

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