A first peek at Wisconsin’s deer management regulations for 2014 is available online.
Besides crossbows being legal for all during the same times as the archery deer season, probably the biggest change is that county committees will be formed and are expected to have input into the season structures by 2015.
The Department of Natural Resources will also begin to introduce DMAP — Deer Management Assistance Program — in hopes of fostering more communication between wildlife managers, foresters and hunters/landowners.
Also new, most Deer Management Units have been eliminated, replaced by county boundaries. It is expected that as many as nine counties will have split units due to differing habitat.
All metro sub-units have been maintained, and state park units have been eliminated.
Rules for most state parks allow for a month of gun hunting and trapping from mid-November to mid-December, as well as a month of spring wild turkey hunting. Some parks also offer limited late-season bow hunts. Peninsula State Park will be archery-only except for a long-established nine-day muzzleloader deer season.
There will no longer be a free statewide antlerless permit issued with archery hunting licenses. That “extra” tag dated back to days long gone when archers got both a buck and an antlerless tag, and continued even after an additional free tag was added for herd control zones.
However, each deer hunting license will still include a free antlerless tag for use in the Central Farmland and Southern Farmland zones. Those tags are not weapon specific, meaning they could be used in the archery, crossbow or gun deer season, but only in the farmland zones.
Each deer hunting license (archery, crossbow, gun) will be valid for one buck statewide. Hunters who purchase both archery and crossbow licenses will be issued one buck tag for the two licenses.
Bonus buck — the ability to earn one extra buck tag by shooting an antlerless deer — will only take place in the Southern Farm Zone. The same is true for the Holiday Gun Hunt. It was shortened by three days, and switched to antlerless-only for this year (Dec. 24-Jan.1).
Our area is now included in the Central Farmland Zone.
Though it is yet to be determined, it’s very likely — considering the current winter could break all-time Winter Severity Index records — that there will be very few antlerless tags available for Northern and Central Forest zones. In fact, it’s very possible we’ll more buck-only units than we’ve seen in decades.
Where additional bonus antlerless tags are available, they will be unit- and land type- (public or private) specific. The number of public and private lands tags available will be based on harvest objectives within each unit.
Bonus antlerless tags may be purchased for $12 (residents) or $20 (non-residents) and will be sold first-come, first-serve until all are sold. Sales begin August 16.
Deer will still be registered in-person this year at the more than 600 stations spread out across the state.
However, other registration methods will also be tested and hunters will be randomly selected to participate using various automated registration methods.
Starting In 2015, all hunters will choose from a variety of methods to register deer that may include telephone, internet and in-person registration.
Some deer registration stations may be maintained throughout the state to collect age and sex data, and CWD samples.
The four-day, antlerless-only gun deer hunt in December will be held in the Central Farmland and Central Forest Zone units only.
For the complete summary of 2014 deer hunting season changes, including maps, see http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/hunt/documents/dtrrulechanges.pdf. An expanded print version will be out sometime in August.
There’s still time to tweak the emergency rule package before the permanent rule comes out later this year.
I’d propose two major changes, both involving some rest time before and after the gun deer hunt.
The first would be to eliminate bow/crossbow hunting the five days prior to the gun deer hunting opener except in areas where no gun hunting is allowed.
The second would be four or five days off after the gun hunt, and then a 9- or 10-day muzzleloader deer hunt that includes two weekends. I’d recommend dropping the four-day December antlerless season, since does could still be targeted with muzzleloaders.
Kevin Naze is a freelance outdoor writer. Call him at (920) 883-9792 or e-mail email@example.com.