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In the outdoors: Plenty of deer in farm country but not up north

By Kevin Naze
Correspondent


BROWN COUNTY – Thousands of Brown County hunters will be heading north for the annual gun deer season, which opens Nov. 20.

While the anticipation is still there, many have expressed frustration in the growing numbers of wolves and other predators in the Northwoods.

As of late October, the Central Farmland Zone’s Marathon County had already produced more bow and crossbow deer this season than a combined eight counties in the Northern Forest Region, including Langlade, Forest, Florence, Vilas and Oneida, all popular with Packers-country hunters.

Adding to the aggravation, a Dane County judge last week blocked what would have been the state’s second wolf season in 2021.

A total of 218 wolves were killed in February (from a pre-hunt population estimated at more than 1,000).

Adult females in the state’s 250-plus packs have since given birth, with litters averaging four to six pups.

Animal activists cheered the ruling, but pro-hunting groups said state law calls for a harvest season when wolves are off the endangered list.
Wisconsin Ojibwe Tribes were scheduled to appear before a federal judge asking him to also block the season.

Earlier this month, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) ignored the natural resources board’s 5-2 vote for a 300-wolf quota – instead, it set at 130 wolves.

The DNR then said it would honor the tribes’ treaty right to take half of the tags within the ceded territory — even though they don’t plan to use any — lowering the quota for state-licensed hunters and trappers to 74.

Working with a diverse mix of stakeholders, the agency is updating the state’s wolf management plan.

Many pro-wolf members want the minimum number of wolves greatly increased from the current goal of 350.

Meanwhile, dozens of county boards up north have passed resolutions seeking 350 or fewer, with some seeking 100 or fewer.

The Wisconsin Farm Bureau, Bowhunters Association, Wildlife Federation, Trappers Association, Bear Hunters Association and Conservation Congress all support goals of 350 or fewer.

The federal wolf recovery plan said wolves would be considered recovered when there were at least 100 in Wisconsin and Upper Michigan combined.

Estimates are Wisconsin and the U.P. combined for at least 1,700-1,800 wolves last winter before this year’s pups were born.
Wisconsin’s minimum was set at 250 early on.

The goalposts were moved to 350 in 1999.

Even after harvest seasons and depredation trapping from 2012-2014 killed 670 wolves, the winter wolf population estimate dropped by only 69 between 2012 and 2015.

Wolves have caused more than $3 million in livestock and dog losses since the mid-1980s.

They also kill deer, elk, snowshoe hare and other wildlife that — when sustainably hunted — bring in millions of dollars to the DNR and state businesses.

Wolves have already killed at least 70 dogs and livestock this year, including 15 hunting hounds, four pet dogs and four horses.
Calves, cows, sheep and a bull have also been attacked.

In addition, there’s been verified wolf harassment on more than 750 animals, and another 700-plus unconfirmed wolf depredations or complaints on livestock, pets and human safety.

Water levels are falling

As of Oct. 22, Lake Michigan was down 14 inches from last year and a full two feet below the October record, set in 1986.

Unusually warm water temperatures this late in the fall — especially if a predicted mostly-mild winter come true — could mean an even bigger drop if Lake Superior ice cover stays well below normal, as it did last winter.

While below-normal precipitation plays the largest role in declining water levels, increased evaporation is also a key factor.

Beat line, buy online

With the opening weekend of the 2021 nine-day gun deer hunt weeks away, the DNR is encouraging hunters to purchase licenses soon to avoid what can be long lines before the opener.

In addition to in-person purchases at your favorite sports shop, convenience store or watering hole, you can buy online and print your licenses and permits 24/7 at gowild.wi.gov.

Sports editor’s note: To read another In the Outdoors column by Kevin Naze, CLICK HERE

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