In April, all County Deer Advisory Committees (CDACs) held preliminary meetings to make recommendations regarding antlerless deer quotas for their counties in the 2020 deer season. After those meetings were held, public comments were requested through April 29. All public comments were reviewed by the CDAC members in the county.
With that input in mind, and with the limitations of the toolbox offered to the CDACs, the May meetings were set to finalize the recommendations to be sent to the Natural Resources Board (NRB).
CDACs are made up of volunteers from a number of stakeholder groups including agriculture, forestry, sportsman groups, tourism, local government, transportation and the Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP). Each CDAC received the county deer biologist's annual presentation via a Power Point presentation. In years past, that presentation was made live at the in-person meeting, but with social distancing regulations in place this year, the meetings were done by phone and the presentations were made available on the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) website prior to the April meeting date.
At the preliminary meeting in April, the Oneida County CDAC learned about statistics with an early season versus a late season, as was the case from the 2018 to 2019 season. Historically, when a year with the latest possible opening deer season, such as was the case in 2019, followed a year with the earliest possible deer season, such as in 2018, the harvest was down by approximately 12.9%.
In 2019, the harvest was down 13.9%, with some other factors, such as weather, also impacting the harvest.
Based on the recommendations of DNR deer biologist Jeremy Holtz, a preliminary recommendation was made that there would be 1,000 public land tags in Oneida County, and 2,000 tags on private lands.
This would be a quota of 260 public harvests and 660 harvests on private land, based on historical success rates for both land types The success rate on private land, according to Oneida County CDAC chairman Ed Choinski, was a bit higher, which made the numbers a bit different from public to private land.
There were 263 comments sent in to the CDAC of Oneida County in reaction to the preliminary recommendation, all of which reviewed by each CDAC member.
Members were excited to see so many responses and to hear from so many people in the public.
In total, committee member Krystal Westfahl said, there were 737 forms submitted for the Oneida Northern Forest region.
Many of the comments centered around predators, specifically wolves. Choinski urged the public to contact their legislators to express their concerns about wolf management issues. While the committee understands the concerns, that particular matter is out of their hands, he noted.
Many committee members spoke about various public comments they had received and reviewed.
Committee member Dave Dhaseleer broke the comments down by number for the group.
He said 179 respondents said they felt the quota was either "too low," or "much to low." The number who said the quota was "too high," or "much too high," was 379.
Two hundred and thirty-one respondents felt the quota was "about right," according to the online forms received. Dhaseleer said he would not mind scaling back a bit in light of those responses.
He suggested 700 public tags and 1,500 private if the committee wanted to lower the quota.
Other committee members, such as Lee Bastian and Denny Nitzel, said they were comfortable staying with their original recommendation, Westfahl, too, felt the original recommendation was solid.
"What gets missed here is we are not shooting 1,000 deer here or 1,000 deer there. We aren't shooting 1,000 deer off the landscape," she said, noting that some people did not understand the difference between the number of tags set and the harvest quota. She felt that, humans, as a predator, were doing a good job of figuring out what we can shoot off the landscape.
In looking over the forms sent in, she said, the biggest concerns of hunters were opportunities to harvest an animal and being able to see deer while in the woods.
"Where we have deer, we have too many," Nitzel said. "And where we don't have deer, we can't do enough to fill it up."
He said this was his reasoning for not wanting to lower the number of antlerless tags available for this fall's hunt.
There was limited discussion regarding taking a look at antler restrictions in the future.
At some point, Choinski said, the committee might take a look at an antler restriction to possibly eliminate harvest of spike deer or forks. At this time, however, the panel did not take up any discussion on that. It was tabled until next year.
Choinski also mentioned that some hunters still wish to split the county along Highway 51. The Oneida CDAC previously asked the state to be allowed to do that, but the state wanted to wait to see if management of the entire county could be a good solution. Choinski asked that the discussion be reflected in the minutes so the state is aware the CDAC is still interested in pursuing the county split.
"We know there's a problem," he said, before asking the committee to vote to send that request on to the DNR for approval. Splitting the county would allow the CDAC to set two separate quotas for antlerless tags, it was noted.
Holtz said he felt the CDACs recommendation was very good.
He said it would equate to a harvest of less than one antlerless deer per square mile in the county. He cautioned the committee that if they were to go any lower than 260 deer on public land, that it would be somewhat pointless.
There was also some talk about hunters interest in resuming back tags and in-person registration.
Choinski said many people missed the in-person registration because of the social aspect of it.
At a time when the state is looking to get more people interested in hunting, and encourage existing hunters to keep going out, he said in-person registration brings a camaraderie that hunters enjoy and may help bring more people to, or back to, the sport.
There was also some discussion of a CWD management zone and what that might look like.
Holtz said he was unsure what tools would be used, should a zone like that be set up.
In the end, the committee decided to stay with its original recommendation of 1,000 antlerless tags for public land and 2,000 antlerless tags for private land.
That recommendation will now be sent on to the NRB for approval at its next meeting.
Beckie Gaskill may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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