Deer Seasons Set in CWD Management Zones

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Bow hunters will be able to harvest a deer of either sex during the early archery season in chronic wasting disease (CWD) management zones, under rules approved April 27 by the state Natural Resources Board.

The bow season was included in a number of CWD hunting rule modifications the board considered during its regular monthly meeting, which was held at Prairie du Chien.

The decision to allow either sex hunting resulted from a compromise measure offered by the Wisconsin Conservation Congress. Congress Chair Steve Oestreicher, Harshaw, said the “compromise modification” to the CWD rule “provides for both bow and gun hunters alike and gives both an either sex option equally.”

Under the department’s initial proposal, bow hunters in CWD zones would have needed to meet earn-a-buck (EAB) requirements during the early season, with the season framework switching to either sex beginning on the Saturday before Thanksgiving.

Bill VanderZouwen, Chief of the Wildlife and Landscape Ecology Section, also described the agency’s proposals as a compromise in light of the agency’s philosophy that “CWD control is more important than short-term recreational issues.”

Nevertheless, VanderZouwen told the board that the agency was not opposed to the Congress’ bow hunting season alternative and would incorporate it in the Department’s CWD deer season package. That package now includes either-sex bow hunting in the zones from Sept. 17 through Oct. 26; either sex hunting for both gun and bow from Nov. 19 through Jan. 3; and a short five-day season split of the gun season in the two Disease Eradication Zones (DEZ) prior to the Nov. 19 traditional gun deer season opening day.

Earlier, CWD project leader Alan Crossley, Fitchburg, gave the Board an update on CWD management in Wisconsin. Among the “challenges” facing wildlife biologists are carcass disposal costs, keeping hunters afield in the CWD zones, and deer “refuges” in the DEZs.

“Statewide surveys continue to show that 70 to 80 percent of Wisconsin hunters think CWD should be eliminated from the wild deer herd, but that doesn’t mean that 70 to 80 percent are in lock step with how we are going about it. We have to continue to learn and adapt,” Crossley told the Board.

Crossley said it is important to stay the management course towards eradicating CWD from Wisconsin’s wild deer herd because:

* There is no scientific evidence that CWD will burn itself out if left alone.

* Virtually all white-tailed deer in Wisconsin are genetically susceptible to CWD.

* A simulation model suggest that if left unmanaged over the next 10-30 years, CWD will spread throughout Wisconsin and disease prevalence will increase to more than 40 percent of adult deer.

* Deer hunter surveys suggest nearly half would stop hunting if prevalence increases to 50 percent.

The Board unanimously approved DNR’s proposed changes in the CWD hunting rules, incorporating the Conservation Congress bow season alternative. Among the approved changes are:

* Expanding the two DEZs in southwest and southeast Wisconsin around newly identified CWD positive deer.

* Removing most of the Richland County portion from the western DEZ.

* Expanding the CWD Herd Reduction Zone (HRZ) to include all of Deer Management Unit 76A.

* Creating a five day split in both DEZ gun seasons so that there is no gun deer hunting five days prior to the Saturday before Thanksgiving, the ‘traditional’ deer season opener.

* Allowing an antlerless deer harvested in any EAB unit be used to earn an antlered buck hunting authority in any EAB unit.

* Establishing a deer hunting season for Belmont Mound State Park, which is located in the HRZ.

The bow and gun seasons for the DEZs and HRZ this fall are:

Gun Disease Eradication Zone

* Oct. 27 – Nov. 13 EAB
* Nov. 19 – Jan. 3 Either Sex

Gun Herd Reduction Zone

* Oct. 27 – Oct. 30 EAB
* Nov. 19 – Jan. 3 Either Sex

Archery Disease Eradication Zone and Herd Reduction Zone

* Sept. 17 – Oct. 26 Either Sex
* Oct. 27 – Nov. 18 EAB
* Nov. 19 – Jan. 3 Either Sex

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Bill Vander Zouwen, Section Chief, Wildlife & Landscape Ecology, Madison - (608) 266-8840 or Alan Crossley, CWD Project Chief, Fitchburg - (608) 275-3242