Plentiful food, habitat means substantial deer population

Wisconsin’s nine-day gun-deer season opens Saturday. Deer population numbers are strong in La Crosse, Vernon and Crawford counties.

Jerry Davis photo

“There are very good numbers of deer and plenty of opportunities to hunt deer in a variety of settings with a variety of implements over a long period of time. It should be a very favorable season.”

That statement is according to Dave Matheys, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources West Central district wildlife biologist in Viroqua. “Our upcoming seasons are very promising,” Matheys said.

Matheys doesn’t remember a nut crop — acorns, walnuts and hickory nuts — like the trees have put on this year. Not ever. That should help hunters zero in on some very good hunting locations and give deer, turkeys and squirrels plenty to feed on and fatten up on through November and into December.

There is great diversity of deer population in the district but great diversity of opinions, even among the member of the local County Deer Advisory Councils (CDACs) as to where the deer are located.

One CDAC member says the deer population is high on this side of the county and another person says the opposite. Those differences have always been present, and probably always will be, because of the varied habitats even within small regions.

Some landowners have spoken of very favorable deer populations and the high frequency of triplet fawns this spring and summer.

Hunters need to be cognizant of field and forest trails that may have been or are being impacted by weather conditions, washouts and impassible conditions.

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Plentiful food, habitat means substantial deer population

Wisconsin gun-deer hunters harvested 228,726 deer during the 2016 season. Hunters should encounter strong deer populations in La Crosse area counties when the season opens Saturday.

There is an additional chronic wasting disease (CWD) testing effort in La Crosse and Monroe counties, too, according to Mathey. “Also, sampling will continue in Vernon and Crawford counties.

“We’re adding some meat processors, taxidermists and sporting shops to our list of locations where deer heads or lymph glands can be collected,” Matheys said. “Most of these do not show up on the in-person registration stations list on the DNR web site, but there will be more information on locations in the near future.”

Locations and opportunities for deer donations continues to fall off with the potential of mixing venison and beef processing without extra effort in cleaning and sanitizing.

The extremely late rule change in carcass tag validation and attachment should be noted, but Matheys said this is a change in lessening the requirements, not stiffening them.

“Hunters can’t go wrong if they go too far by actually applying a tag and validating it, he said.

The 19-county, West Central district encompasses parts of three management zones — Southern Farmland Zone, Central Farmland Zone and Central Forest Zone. The three-year objectives in each zone vary as to increasing, decreasing or stabilizing the deer population.

The current objectives in all WCD farmland units, except Buffalo, Chippewa and Trempealeau counties, are to stabilize deer populations, but in the Central Farmland units the objective is to increase deer numbers.

While Buffalo calls for a decrease in numbers, Chippewa and Trempealeau counties hope for increases in population.

Throughout the district, food is an exceptional, due in part to the hard mast crops. This should put the animals in prime condition for the later seasons and going into winter.

Buffalo and Trempealeau counties are known for large-racked deer, and continue to have a strong population. But hunting regulations do not match exactly in these areas.

Where deer numbers are high, hunters can assist in reducing local deer damage by taking more antlerless deer, where it is allowed.

Deer numbers in Crawford, Vernon, La Crosse and the farmland portions of Monroe, Adams, and Juneau counties are strong.

Rugged habitat in Vernon County and small amounts of public land makes deer hunting more challenging than in some other areas. These differences play vital roles in populations being strong in number of large deer with large antlers.

The subunits around La Crosse and Hudson have extended archery and gun seasons.

For the first time in four years, deer numbers in the Jackson County Central Forest zone have rebounded to a level that will support a limited taking of antlerless deer.

Hunters should be aware of the elk reintroduction in Jackson County, adding this protected deer-like animal to the habitat.

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