Earn-a-buck Likely in 2004

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Deer hunters in many areas of Northeast and East Central Wisconsin can expect to see earn-a-buck hunting regulations in their deer management unit (DMU) in 2004 unless antlerless deer harvest increases dramatically this fall.

Tom Bahti, Regional Wildlife Supervisor for the Department of Natural Resources Northeast Region, notes that many DMUs remain far above prescribed population management goals, even after several years of Zone T hunting seasons. "We've provided all the opportunity in the world for hunters and landowners to lower deer population densities in these primarily private land units over the last 5 years" says Bahti. "Some of these units have had Zone T season frameworks, including free antlerless tags and extended antlerless deer hunting opportunity in October and December, for five consecutive years. However, landowners and hunters seem unable or unwilling to kill enough antlerless deer to significantly reduce the population."

Bahti further notes that agricultural deer damage claims continue to increase, car killed deer numbers have reached record highs, and damage to native vegetation is approaching alarming levels.

"1996 showed us the power of earn-a-buck seasons. Recent authority now allows the DNR to consider the use of earn-a-buck season frameworks if, after two consecutive years of Zone T seasons, it is unlikely that less intensive harvest measures will reduce the deer population to within 20% of management goals. Based on preliminary discussions with wildlife management staff from around the Region, it is likely that a dozen or more units in our Region will be considered for earn-a-buck seasons in 2004."

Bahti feels that a significant increase in antlerless harvest this fall, by both bow and gun hunters, has the potential of reducing the number of units that will move into consideration for earn-a-buck next fall. "We've got 19 DMUs in Zone T this year in the Northeast Region, and ample opportunity for hunters to take on the role of deer manager. It's in their hands…sort of like the old oil filter advertisement: You can pay me now, or pay me later. It's up to landowners and hunters to step up to the plate and help control these deer numbers."

Zone T antlerless hunts in 2003 are Oct. 30 - Nov. 2 and Dec. 11 - 14 in the Northeast Region. Free Zone T antlerless tags can be filled by bow or gun hunters (with the appropriate license) in any Zone T unit, and unlimited additional bonus antlerless deer permits are available for these units for $12 each ($20 for non-residents). Zone T antlerless tags may also be used during the Nov. 22 - 30 gun deer season and the Dec. 1 - 10 muzzleloader hunt.

Information on Zone T and other deer management zones can be found on the DNR website at www.dnr.state.wi.us/org/land/wildlife/hunt/deer/deermanunit.htm.