Zone T Deer Hunt Underway

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An early, four-day hunt for antlerless deer only will begin Thursday, Oct. 30 and run through Nov. 2 in 47 deer management units across Wisconsin. The special “Zone T hunt” is part of a continuing effort to reduce the white-tailed deer herd in those deer management units (DMUs) that state wildlife managers have determined are well above population goals.

In addition, a late Zone T hunt will be held in 33 DMUs south of Hwy. 8 from Dec. 11 to 14. A map of the 2003 Zone T units can be found in the 2003 Wisconsin Deer Hunting Regulations Pamphlet as well as on the Department of Natural Resources Web site.

Each hunter received one free Zone T antlerless permit with each type of deer hunting license they purchased (gun or archery). The Zone T permits can be used in any Zone T DMU and can be used in any hunting season, the archery, Zone T, muzzleloader or regular gun deer season.

“Zone T hunts are an important tool for reducing deer populations in units that are above established population goals,” said Brad Koele, assistant deer ecologist for the Department of Natural Resources. “To be designated as Zone T the estimated deer population in a deer management unit must be 20 percent or more over the unit’s over-wintering goal and, based on historic harvest records, determined that the harvest under a traditional deer season framework would not reduce the deer population in that unit to within 20 percent of goal.”

The number and distribution of Zone T units varies from year to year depending upon deer population estimates.

Hunters should also note that some deer management units may have an earn-a-buck requirement for the 2004 season. Currently there are 31 Zone T units that could potentially be designated as earn-a-buck next season. By Wisconsin Administrative Code, in order for a unit to be designated as earn-a-buck, it must first have two consecutive years of Zone T and if a third consecutive year of Zone T is still not capable of being brought to within 20 percent of goal, the unit could become earn-a-buck. Whether or not those units become earn-a-buck depends on this seasons harvest, Koele said.

“Earn-a-buck has proven to be very effective at reducing deer populations,” he said. “In 1996 Earn-a-buck was first used in select deer management units. In that year many of those units experienced record harvests.”

Oct. 30 is also the opening of the gun season in the Herd Reduction and Intensive Harvest Zones, where state officials are trying to contain and eradicate chronic wasting disease (CWD). Hunters are reminded that these zones are under earn-a-buck format and they must shoot an antlerless deer prior to harvesting an antlered buck. Unlike Zone T hunts, in the CWD zones, hunters may harvest antlered deer from Oct. 30 through Nov. 2 if they have previously harvested an antlerless deer. The gun season in the Intensive Harvest and Eradication Zone runs from Oct. 30 through Jan. 3, 2004. The gun season in the Herd Reduction Zone runs from Oct. 30 through Nov. 2 and Nov. 22 through Jan. 3.