Wisconsin’s Green Fire Wildlife Work Group has reviewed the department’s recommendation for 2018 which also included a summary of the CDAC input received. We offered three comments to the NRB. First, we supported the department’s recommendation to establish antlerless deer quotas for the privately owned land in Ashland and Price County. The deer herds in both counties have grown significantly over the past three years and have privately owned portions where agricultural and forest land is interspersed. This type of landscape has higher deer densities and higher annual productivity. Winter 2017-18 weather and the March-April 2018 snows were not severe enough to warrant the CDAC recommendation to return to a zero quota.
Our second recommendation concerns Wisconsin’s farmland deer management units. Farmland deer units have very productive deer herds and herds have grown significantly since 2014. In response, many CDACs have recommended large antlerless quotas and permit levels. Many have also recommended holiday hunts as well. There is a growing recognition that additional harvest tools are needed for these units. In order for new harvest tools to be implemented, the NRB must complete a rule-making process which can take 18 months to complete. WGF recommended the NRB take action quickly in hopes of having new harvest tools available for the 2019 deer seasons.
Finally, we recommended the NRB review the CDAC recommendations in SW Wisconsin Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) endemic area where disease occurrence and prevalence is highest. Our review found that while some of these county CDACs recommended a holiday hunt and extended bow seasons others did not. Of particular concern is Iowa County where CWD prevalence is very high. The extra seasons would help remove additional CWD positive deer from the landscape. CWD is the greatest threat to Wisconsin’s deer herd and hunting heritage. We need to use every tool we have in responding to this disease.
Each year in May, the Department of Natural Resources Board (NRB) establishes the antlerless deer harvest quotas for the fall deer hunting seasons. Since 2014, the NRB has also used this meeting to decide whether an extra “holiday hunt” is warranted for counties within Wisconsin’s farmland deer management zones. A recent change for this year would also allow the NRB to extend the archery and crossbow seasons to the end of January within any county that has a holiday hunt. Within each Wisconsin County, the department has established a County Deer Advisory Council (CDAC) to provide a mechanism for local input to these decisions. Each CDAC meets twice each spring, including a public comment period, to form a recommendation to the NRB. CDAC members are unpaid volunteers selected to represent the major deer management stakeholder groups. Since their formation in 2014, the NRB and department has overwhelmingly concurred with their recommendations for antlerless deer quotas and establishing holiday hunts. This is the case for 2018 as well.
Contributed by Tom Hauge, co-chair, Wisconsin’s Green Fire wildlife work group.