A long, difficult winter for wildlife is over, but they're not completely out of the woods until things begin to green up. Hungry deer and wild turkeys can be seen foraging at all hours of the day in fields, forests and even backyards in some areas. Wildlife biologists expect below-normal fawn recruitment and antler development from the stressful winter. / Special to the Advocate
Deer hunters and others with an interest in whitetails can take part in the first county-specific survey on deer management here.
The DNR has eliminated former unit boundaries (such as 80A, 80B, 80C and 81) and instead will set goals — increase, decrease or stabilize — at the county level beginning this fall.
Currently, the DNR believes that stabilizing the herd is best. Next year, they’ll be working with a local committee of stakeholders to decide.
Anyone can comment in person or on paper at the spring fish and game hearings and Conservation Congress meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, April 14 at Sturgeon Bay High School.
If you won’t be attending, you can still see some historic Door deer harvest numbers and population estimates and share your thoughts at http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/hunt/forum.html.
There’s also a link there to comment on the Deer Trustee Review and new hunting rules for 2014.
Door County has an estimated 272 square miles of deer range, about 55 percent of its total land area. That range varies from nearly 100 percent forested habitat on some of the islands to less than 30 percent in the southern agricultural areas.
DNR wildlife biologist Jeff Pritzl said habitat quality also varies greatly, creating a tremendous disparity in the distribution of the deer herd from north to south.
It’s important to maintain an adequate antlerless harvest to avoid excessive browse and agricultural damage, Pritzl said.
Winter browse in the southern portion and on islands is very limited and winter impacts on the herd can occur fairly quickly compared with cedar swamp habitats of the northern portion.
Door deer hunter densities on opening day of the gun season over the past 10 years average about 28 per square mile of deer range, or about 1.75 hunters per 40 acres.
The top Door deer kills took place in 1996, 2000 and 2004, with just under 5,000 deer each of those years. Annual harvests approaching 4,000 have been more common since, though the buck kill was near record levels the past two years.
Meanwhile, Kewaunee County has 98 miles of estimated deer range, about 28 percent of its total land area. Hunter densities average about 35 per square mile of deer range on the gun opener, or just over two per 40 acres.
KC’s record combined bow and gun harvest of 3,487 whitetails was set in 2007, but hunters there set an antlered buck kill record of 1,310 in 2012.
Wisconsin will get more than $34 million in excise tax revenues paid by hunters, shooters, anglers and boaters as its share of wildlife and sport fish restoration funds in fiscal year 2014.
The totals include more than $23 million in wildlife restoration funds and nearly $11 million in sport fish restoration funds. The money is distributed based on license sales and a formula that takes into consideration land and water area.
Those dollars help fund fish and wildlife conservation and recreation projects across the state.
Revenues come from excise taxes generated by the sale of sporting firearms, ammunition, archery equipment, fishing equipment and tackle, and electric outboard motors. Recreational boaters also contribute to the program through fuel taxes on motorboats and small engines.
“Anyone who enjoys our nation’s outdoor heritage should thank hunters, anglers, recreational boaters and target shooters,” said Dan Ashe, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Through the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program, these individuals have created a 75-year legacy for conservation of critical wildlife habitat and improved access to the outdoors for everyone.”
The programs have generated a total of more than $15 billion since their inception — in 1937 in the case of the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Program and 1950 for the Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration Program — to conserve fish and wildlife resources.
The recipient fish and wildlife agencies have matched these program funds with more than $5 billion. This funding is critical to sustaining healthy fish and wildlife populations and providing opportunities for all to connect with nature.
Some anglers who attended last weekend’s yellow perch summit in Chicago were frustrated by what they said appeared to be a lack of interest in states trying something — anything — to revive the Lake Michigan perch fishery.
Many would at least like to see pilot perch stocking and habitat projects to see if it would help.
Lake Michigan’s yellow perch population declined rapidly in the early 1990s. Despite a ban on commercial fishing in the lake (there is a limited commercial fishery on Green Bay), a closed season during spawning and a small daily bag limit for sport anglers the rest of the year, perch numbers have not recovered.
Quagga mussel-cleared water often gets some of the blame, taking out food needed by young perch and making it easier for predators to eat them. Alewives prey on larval perch, too, but even with alewife numbers well down from historic levels for more than a decade, perch haven’t made a comeback.
The state Natural Resources Board will accept two donations at its April 9 meeting in Madison that’ll benefit Peninsula State Park visitors.
The first, a $25,000 gift from the Alan Rheinschmidt Memorial Fund, will allow an accessible fishing pier to be built near the Nicolet Bay boat launch area. There is also the potential for a kayak to be available for public use.
The second is a $16,500 donation from the Friends of Peninsula State Park to fund a limited term employee park naturalist and invasive species coordinator for the 2014 season.
— Kevin Naze is a freelance outdoor writer. Email him at email@example.com.