- By Brandon Wikman
The blaze orange army of 600,000-plus raided the woods in search of a trophy last weekend. Wisconsin’s opening weekend of firearm season didn’t begin with a big bang like previous years. It sounded more like a dud.
Many reasons for the lack of deer sightings were passed among hunting families over the dinner table. Many high hopes and big anticipations evolved into despair. Wisconsin’s opening weekend deer count was down 33,000 for several reasons.
As the dawn of gun season shadowed and the hungry hunters began drooling for daylight, a blanket of fog choked the forest. A cloud of white concealed any sort of life that stretched passed twenty yards! I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Many hunters complained of hearing footsteps, grunts, and crunches in the leaves, but couldn’t identify the source.
Many giant whitetails bearing a set of massive antlers escaped the gun down phase of the morning. The fog didn’t lift until around noon. The gunshot count was as low as it would be in muzzleloader season. A faint crackle ignited the woods every now and again, but not nearly to the typical standards of opening weekend’s firework show.
The overwhelmingly strange weather also infringed on the deer sightings. The muggy weather tempted many hunters to remove several layers of clothing articles by around eleven! The temperatures rose to nearly sixty-degrees in some parts of Wisconsin, which flat-lined the deer movement considerably. Many deer hugged shady areas and bluff ledges to cool off and hide from hunters. As many of you know, weather affects every bit of animal activity.
Lastly, the most credible reason hunters from across the state spotted far less deer than usual was because of the Wisconsin DNR’s faulty deer estimation. The DNR reported that there was an overabundance of whitetail in Wisconsin. They proceeded to condense the population of deer by implementing programs that focused on culling doe; in fact, a lot of doe. Nearly half of the state has been in “Earn-a-Buck,” for the last handful of years. The “Earn-a-Buck” program challenges hunters to harvest a doe before pulling the trigger on a buck. The herd reduction program didn’t stop there. Many parts of the state that were not included in “Earn-a-Buck” sported a “T-Zone,” which is an all out doe hunting blitz with a rifle during archery season. Free doe tags were given out when you made your license purchase, which could be used for units of Wisconsin that were designated to “T-Zone.”
Both programs have effectively reduced the once thriving deer herd in Wisconsin, but some say it’s gone too far. We cannot forget that the bottom of the entire state is still locked in a “CWD Zone.” The zone gives hunters an opportunity to harvest an endless amount of deer. For every one doe that you shoot, a buck tag is handed to you. It has been another extremely controversial program setup by the Wisconsin DNR.
It isn’t often that hunter’s criticize the DNR, considering they are the protectors and stewards of our environment. The feelings soon turn raw once hunters feel cheated. The DNR has admitted to overestimating the deer herd. Now it’s time for the DNR to go back to the statistics, estimations, and records and begin a new phase of duty, which is helping the whitetail population of Wisconsin increase.