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Oneida CDAC sets antlerless quota lower than biologist recommends

Beckie Gaskill/lakeland times

The Oneida County Deer Advisory Committee, pictured above, recently set its initial recommendations for antlerless deer tags for the 2018 season.

Vilas takes recommendation

Over the last few weeks, County Deer Advisory Committees (CDACs) have met across the state to discuss the 2018 deer hunt and set antlerless quotas for their management units. The recommendations that came out of these meetings are the preliminary recommendations for each county. The public comment period for these recommendations begins on April 2 and runs through April 12. The CDACs will meet again between April 16-19 to review the public comments and make their final recommendations. Those recommendations will then go to the Natural Resources Board for final approval. From there the recommendations will be used to set the deer season structure for each county for the 2018 season.

The Oneida County CDAC met in Sugar Camp at the town hall. There were approximately 20 people in attendance. While these meetings are working meetings of the CDAC, the public is invited and encouraged to provide input.

The meeting started with an overview of the deer population, as well as recommendations for the upcoming hunting season, from county deer biologist Jeremy Holtz. Holtz also went over last year's hunt and the success numbers on both public and private land.

There is 54 percent private land and 46 percent public land in Oneida County. There is a long-term success rate for deer hunters of about 35 percent, he added. In 2017, 30 percent of hunters on public land were successful in harvesting a deer, compared to 40 percent on private land. Holtz also discussed winter severity. 2013 was the worst winter on record, he noted. In a severe winter, it is expected that one in every five deer will not make it through the winter. The more mild the winter, the better the chance deer will survive.

"But there will always be deer that die," he told the group. "They're living animals, not hard candy. And that's the way nature is. So we expect some of them to die no matter what the winter is like. But winter severity is the single biggest factor in deer mortality."

For every day that is below zero the winter severity index gets one point. For every day there is more than 18 inches of snow, the index gets one point. If both conditions exist on a given day, the index receives two points. Through Feb. 18, Rhinelander's index was 42, Woodruff's was 66, Eagle River's was 37 and Trout Lake was 47. A mild winter is considered to be one where the winter severity index is less than 50. Moderate is 50-80 points. Severe is 80-100 points and a very severe winter would be over 100 points.

According to Holtz, this winter was along the moderate line. This means deer had fairly good odds of coming through the winter and doing well. With that said, he told the CDAC he expects the deer herd numbers to continue to rise.

The estimated pre-hunt numbers this year were close to 28,000, he said. With that being said, and with the deer herd rebounding in many areas of the county, he recommended a higher antlerless harvest than last year. He knew not everyone would be happy with that, because there are two pockets in the county, one near the Willow and one in Monico, where there were simply "no" deer.

Several of the CDAC members said they had been approached by hunters in different areas asking for more antlerless tags. Holtz said he would like to see the CDAC attempt to allow hunters to harvest more antlerless deer in 2018. He put forth two scenarios. In the first scenario, he would set the quota at 1,200 animals, in the other 1,700. Even at 1,700 the deer herd would still maintained, which is the objective for Oneida County, he explained.

With about one in three people with a tag shooting a deer, three times as many tags would need to be issued as the CDAC would like to see harvested, he added. This came up to approximately 4,850 tags to be split 54 percent to private land and 46 percent to public land, as those are the amount of each land-type within the county.

Holtz said he arrived at the 1,200 quota by subtracting the 400-500 antlerless deer that would be harvested by youth, disabled and veterans who have those tags available to them as well. That would set the number of tags at about 3,450 to harvest 1,200 antlerless deer.

As the discussion continues, however, none of the board members were comfortable setting the preliminary numbers so high.

Chairman Ed Choinski reminded the committee its initial recommendations would go out for public comment. Should the public feel vastly different the recommendations would have to be revised, he said.

There was some input as far as increasing the number of tags, but none of the committee members wanted to go too high. In the end, the recommendation of 1,900 tags on private land and 800 on public land passed by a 3-2 vote. That is the initial recommendation from Oneida County.

According to alternate chair Steve Budnik, Vilas County deer biologist Michelle Woodford attended the Vilas CDAD meeting and told the group the herd there could maintain with the harvest of 1,400 to 1,500 antlerless animals.

From that number, she would subtract the 400-500 likely to be harvested by tribal members, putting the hunter harvest at approximately 1,000 antlerless deer. With the same 35 percent success rate, that would leave a total of 2,800 antlerless tags. The Vilas CDAC took her recommendation.

Its initial recommendation, which will also go out for public comment starting April 2, was for 1,900 tags on private land and 900 on public land.

Holtz also told the Oneida County group two more deer in the Three Lakes game farm were found to have been CWD-positive in December of last year.

This will push the feeding and baiting ban out until December of 2020 in Oneida County. He also spoke about the surveillance hunt that is going on in Lincoln County after the positive CWD finding near the Wisconsin River. He said the DNR is hoping landowners in the sampling area can shoot 75 deer in order to get an idea of the extent of the disease there. While few deer had been shot and tested as of the CDAC meeting, no further positives had been found.

Beckie Gaskill may be reached via email at bgaskill@lakelandtimes.com.


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