2006 Gun Deer Hunting Season Set

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Wisconsin deer hunting seasons will look dramatically different this fall under a trial season structure that, among other changes, eliminates an antlerless-only October gun deer hunt and replaces it with a statewide four-day antlerless-only gun hunt in the second week of December.

Under the new season structure approved by the state Natural Resources Board April 26, hunters will also receive one free antlerless tag for use in herd control (formerly called Zone T) and Earn-a-Buck Deer Management Units (DMUs) with the purchase of their deer hunting licenses and can purchase unlimited additional herd control antlerless tags for $2 each.

Other provisions of the 2006 deer season framework that will go into effect this fall include:

* the Hunter’s Choice permit program will be eliminated and antlerless tags in DMUs with a regular deer season structure will be sold over the counter until they are sold out;

* Earn-a-Buck regulations (EAB) will be in place in 21 DMUs and hunters who registered an antlerless deer in these units in 2005 will be pre-qualified for a buck this fall for EAB units;

* archers will receive an additional archery antlerless deer carcass tag valid statewide; and

* there will be an opportunity for young hunters to participate in a youth hunt Oct. 7 and 8.

Also, hunters should note that hunting seasons for the chronic wasting disease (CWD) management zones have not been set for 2006 and are still under consideration.

Additional information on deer hunting can be found on the Department of Natural Resources Web site. The 2006 Deer Hunting Regulations pamphlet is expected to be available in early August.

“There has been a lot of changing information in the news regarding the 2006 deer season,” said Keith Warnke, DNR big game specialist. “After working for more than a year with stakeholder groups from all across the state we finally have a new herd control tool to try out. We believe that this season structure will be popular with hunters – it’s what they told us they wanted.”

Two major changes in herd control efforts will be implemented on a trial basis. They are: A statewide antlerless gun deer hunt Dec. 7-10 in non-CWD units and a moratorium on gun deer seasons in October in non-CWD units (except for the youth hunt). For units north of U.S. Highway 8, the December gun deer hunt will be on a one-year trial basis with legislative approval required to extend beyond this year.

The moratorium on October gun deer hunting will be implemented on a two-year trial basis with an option to reinstate October gun deer hunting after one year if deer harvests in Herd Control units drops below a 1.4 to 1 antlerless to buck ratio. Earn-a-Buck (EAB) rules will be in effect in 21 deer management units for 2006.

The October herd control hunt, referred to in past years as Zone T, was effective at reducing deer populations, Warnke says, but unpopular with hunters who felt that it interfered with the very best time for archery deer hunting and caused behavioral changes in deer that made hunting more difficult.

“Key to success of this herd control tool is that hunters must harvest adequate numbers of antlerless deer to keep populations under control.” said Warnke.

The new youth gun deer hunt Oct. 7-8 will allow young hunters ages 12 to 15 an opportunity to experience deer hunting in a closely mentored situation. Participating youth must be accompanied by an adult and must purchase a gun deer hunting license and successfully complete a hunter safety class to participate. All hunters statewide, except waterfowl hunters will be required to wear blaze orange clothing if hunting on the weekend of the two-day October youth gun deer hunt.

“Hunters will see changes in deer carcass tags this year. Tags will clearly identify what type of deer that tag is valid for and where that tag may be used,” explains Warnke. “Anything that makes regulations simpler for hunters is a positive.”

The Hunter’s Choice program has been eliminated, and has been replaced by the sale of all antlerless deer carcass tags in DMUs with a regular season structure. These tags will be sold starting Aug. 26 ($12 for residents, $20 for nonresidents). Selling antlerless deer carcass tags over the counter will remove one layer of confusion and will help clarify tagging options.

To encourage antlerless deer harvest in Herd Control (formerly Zone T) and EAB units, tags valid for those units will be available in unlimited numbers. All deer hunters will get a free Herd Control/EAB antlerless deer carcass tag with the purchase of a gun and archery license. Beginning in mid-May, additional Herd Control/EAB antlerless deer carcass tags will be available for $2 to all hunters. If purchased on-line or over the phone a standard processing fee of $3 will be applied in addition to the $2.

Archery hunters will receive an additional archery antlerless deer carcass tag that is valid statewide. The department will mail the additional archery antlerless deer carcass tag to hunters who have already purchased their archery license. State park access permits previously issued through the Hunter’s Choice drawing will be sold over the counter for a $3 fee.

This will also be the first year that hunters will be able to use their Earn-a-Buck prequalification, Warnke says. Hunters who registered an antlerless deer last fall in a unit designated as Earn-a-Buck this year will be receiving their buck harvest authorization in the mail later in the summer.

“The 70,000 hunters who took advantage of prequalification last year will hit the woods with a buck authorization in their pocket,” says Warnke. “If you have pre-qualified for Earn-a-Buck, you won’t have to pass up a buck this fall. But if there’s an opportunity to harvest an antlerless deer, hunters in EAB units are advised to take it.”

“There are a lot of changes to this year’s deer seasons,” says Warnke. “Hunters will be hearing and reading a lot more about the seasons and changes in the weeks and months ahead. I think this new herd control tool has the potential to resolve some of the conflict in deer management. It’s up to hunters to make it work. I believe that if they have a mind-set of two antlerless deer for each buck in every camp, this trial can be successful.”