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This magnificent whitetail buck was scent-checking does and fawns in a field south of Sturgeon Bay earlier this week. / Photo by Kevin Naze

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It’s a great year to be a bow deer hunter.

Not only are whitetail populations high across much of the county, the latest possible gun deer season opener under the current format — Nov. 23 — means nearly three more weeks of exclusive opportunity for archers.

Despite a fall that has seen more rain and wind than usual, bow hunters are putting up some impressive numbers. Not all those registering deer sign the book at Q-Mart in Sturgeon Bay, but at least 218 archers and 50 youth gun deer hunters have so far this fall.

The early bow deer season ends Nov. 21, then resumes the same day as the gun opener. Few archers actually bow hunt during the gun seasons, however, with most of those with unfilled tags either calling it a year or waiting for deer to settle down again come mid-December or so.

The late archery deer hunt runs through Jan. 5.

Share, browse big buck photos

View 2013-2014 trophy shots | Share your deer hunting photos

This could be the last year of the December antlerless hunt. It’s looking likely that instead, the current 10-day muzzleloader deer season — which begins the day after the nine-day gun hunt ends — will instead become a 14-day hunt.

Depending on what happens in the legislature, this could also be the last year of mandatory in-person deer registration. There’s talk of allowing phone and online reporting, at least for the bow season and perhaps for all deer hunts.

You might want to hang onto your 2013 back tag, too: there’s been talk of dropping that requirement in the future as well.

Rut heating up

Reduced daylight, thought to be one of the main triggers of the annual whitetail mating season, has bucks on the hunt for does in heat.

The rut, as it’s called, typically peaks between the first and third weeks of November, but not all does cycle at the same time.

Colder air and light to moderate winds — along with a “no moon” new moon phase starting next week — should really increase daytime movement.

Motorists should use extra caution in rural areas as well as on the edges of cities and villages, as whitetails may be chasing at any hour.

Those of you who can’t sneak away from work or school to bow hunt during the week can still steal a glimpse by legally shining the fields adjacent to your hunting area, as long as you don’t have any hunting equipment along and shine before 10 p.m.

Like hunting, shining is a privilege, and it could be taken away in the future if abused. Be careful not to shine homes, barns, livestock and roadways, and don’t harass wildlife. A quick look — and maybe a photo, or video of a giant — should be enough.

Pull off the side of the road when shining, and be aware of oncoming and trailing traffic.

Finally, if you see shining after hours, hear shots or suspect illegal behavior, call it in.

Poachers steal from all of us. Phone 1-800-TIP-WDNR (800-847-9367), text TIP 411 (847411), then TIPWDNR (space) followed by the tip, or email le.hotline@wisconsin.gov. You can request to remain anonymous.

Last call on deer

There’s only one more week to comment on the Deer Trustee Report’s proposed rule package.

Attendance at most of the 35 public hearings around the state was poor, with some of them failing to even hit double digits in hunters showing up. Hopefully, far more are filling out the online survey.

This is your last chance to speak up on the proposals, which include a very controversial plan for a two-week gun deer hunt — bucks and antlerless — in late December and early January.

See all the recommendations and weigh in at http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/wildlifehabitat/trustee.html.

More on hunting: Hunting headlines | 2013-2014 trophy shots | More hunting photos | Watch a rebroadcast of Deer Camp Live | Registration station map | Hunting blogs

Hunt-fish-trap

Almost all hunting and fishing seasons are open right now. One of the few exceptions is lake trout, which closed Oct. 31. All other salmon and trout seasons remain open, and rain late in the week may have attracted some fresh-run cohos, steelhead and browns into major lakeside tributaries.

When the wind isn’t blowing too hard — and that has been a big problem in the past week — those who haven’t yet stored their boats for winter have continued to score perch, bass, walleyes and pike from the bay and steelhead and younger salmon from the lake.

Northern Door harbors are producing a few brown trout and chinooks for shore anglers casting spawn, glow spoons and stickbaits, with both sides of the Peninsula seeing activity.

The woodcock season ends Monday, and mourning dove hunting closes Nov. 9.

Trappers and hunters are finding raccoons to be abundant, along with occasional success on fox and coyotes. Due to the drought and increased pressure last year, muskrat populations are down in some areas but good in others.

Short shots

Like walleyes? Wisconsin is investing $13 million into boosting the number of larger fingerlings stocked, and fisheries staff wants to know what you think are the most important considerations for how to manage walleye fisheries and for where the fish should be put.

The survey and more information is available at http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/Fishing/Outreach/walleyeInitiative.html.

• Haberli’s Deer Processing and Door County Custom Meats and Venison Processing are the local participants in the Hunt for the Hungry program, the Northeastern Wisconsin partner of Wisconsin’s statewide Venison Donation Program. Learn more at www.huntforthehungry.com.

• Through midday Friday, three of the six wolf zones were already closed because of full quotas, and the harvest was closing in on 200 in a combined 30 counties. Check the totals at http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/hunt/wolf.html.

— Kevin Naze is a freelance outdoors writer. Call him at (920) 883-9792 or email wildtimes@wizunwired.net.

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