The Vilas County CDAC set a 200 antlerless deer quota for the 2019 hunting season. It will recommend 500 tags to be offered to achieve that quota.
4/20/2019 7:27:00 AM Vilas county CDAC sets a 200 antlerless deer quota for 2019 deer season Council will recommend offering 500 antlerless tags
Jacob Friede of the Lakeland Times
In March, the Vilas County Deer Advisory Council, which is overseeing a three-year plan to maintain the population of the county's deer herd, set a preliminary antlerless deer quota of 200 deer to meet its 2019 population goal. To achieve that quota, the council recommended offering 500 antlerless quota tags to be issued this fall; 350 for private land and 150 for public land.
After weeks of gathering public input, the Vilas CDAC voted 4-0 to keep those preliminary numbers as its final recommendation to the Natural Resources Board for management of the 2019 deer season in the county.
Over 200 completed public input questionnaires were returned to the council. The majority of the respondents hunted in Vilas County during the gun season and averaged 27.6 years doing so. They were almost evenly split between private and public land hunters and most observed that the herd had maintained its population since the fall of 2018.
Thirty-six percent of the questionnaire respondents thought the 200 deer quota was too low, 31 percent thought the number was about right, and another 31 percent thought the quota was too high.
As far as the amount of antlerless quota tags for public land, 31 percent of respondents thought the 150 tag recommendation was too low, 28 percent thought that it was right on, and 36 percent thought 150 was too many.
Concerning private land quota tags, 33 percent of respondents thought 350 was too low, 29 percent thought it was about right, and 34 percent thought 350 was too many.
Laurel Anderson, who represents conservation and hunting clubs on the council, thought the 200 deer quota and 500 tags were too low and made a motion for a 400 deer quota and 1,000 tags to be split between private and public land by 700 and 300. On her travels across the county she said she has observed a healthy population despite the severe winter the herd had to endure.
"I'm all over creation, and what I'm seeing is really good deer, which is surprising considering all this crap they went through, but they went into that crap pretty healthy because we didn't have the snow early and they could get out and feed," Anderson said.
Joe Hovel, representing the Deer Management Assistance Program on the council, also wanted to see a higher quota.
Bill Reynolds, the forestry representative on the council, did not, citing the differences in habitat and deer population throughout the county. He said it's difficult to establish a one-size-fits-all quota in such a varied county and therefore the council should be conservative.
"The deer are not evenly distributed. They're just not," Reynolds said. "They go where they can eat. They go where they are safe and where they can bed down and that's not everywhere. I'm not seeing the deer that some people are seeing."
Reynolds would like to see Vilas County split into more than one management zone to account for it's diversified environment.
Adam Hickson, who represents agricultural producers on the council, said increasing the quota to 400 deer would lead to a loss of public support. He thought the council should keep the quota at 200 and maintain the 31 percent public support that the 200 deer quota generated.
"Going right off the public comments here, 65 people thought it was just right," he said.
The vote on a 400 deer quota and 1,000 quota tags was a 2-2 tie. Council chairman Kurt Justice, who only votes in a tie breaking situation, voted the higher numbers down. The council then came to a consensus on their original recommendation of a 200 antlerless deer quota and 500 quota tags.
The Department of Natural Resources wildlife management liaison to the council is Michele Woodford. She serves as advisor to the council and does not vote on recommendations, however she offers scientific and biological data and deer metrics for the council to consider.
Woodford said an antlerless harvest was warranted, despite the severe winter, partly because it will help keep the famished herd's numbers in control and prevent future food reserves from being devoured too quickly by too many hungry deer. An antlerless harvest, she explained, will also help control severe forest regeneration damage which occurs when a herd is severely stressed.
"We expect to see the population decrease but I'm comfortable with antlerless tags overall," Woodford said. "We're still meeting the objective of maintain. We do have that window of plus or minus 20 percent to still sort of fit into that criteria of maintain for that three year period."
Vilas County is currently in year two of its three-year plan to maintain the herd's population.
Public comments and survey results can be viewed on the Wisconsin DNR's website a www.dnr.wi.gov and keyword search "CDAC."
Jacob Friede may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
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