Wisconsin and Fort McCoy’s 2017 nine-day gun-deer season will be held Nov. 18-26.

In 2016, 1,487 hunters took to the woods at Fort McCoy, harvesting 500 deer, said wildlife program manager and biologist Dave Beckmann with the Directorate of Public Works Environmental Division Natural Resources Branch. For 2017, approximately 2,000 regular tags were made available as well as 350 additional bonus tags.

“Our goal again this year is to have a deer harvest of around 500,” Beckmann said. “It also looks like we have plenty of deer. We expect it to be a good hunt for all involved this year.”

To participate in the gun-deer hunt at the installation, hunters must apply for a Fort McCoy permit through the Fort McCoy i-Sportsman site, Beckmann said. The applications for the gun-deer hunt generally become available in late June every year. “Everyone who applied for a tag for this year has already been notified through i-Sportsman,” he said.

In addition to the requirement to have a Fort McCoy gun-deer permit, hunters coming to the installation must also have an annual Wisconsin deer license. Both the Wisconsin license and the Fort McCoy permit are sold through the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Go Wild system.

On Fort McCoy, licenses can be purchased at the Pine View Campground office. Military ID card holders can purchase licenses at the exchange service desk. The cost of a Fort McCoy gun-deer permit is $21, and a resident Wisconsin gun-deer license is $24.

Beckmann said the 2017 doe-fawn surveys showed a healthy deer population. Deer are monitored year-round at the installation with an especially close look during each winter.

“Our over-winter deer population goal is to have 20 to 25 deer per square mile of winter habitat, which includes approximately 73 square miles of forested habitat at Fort McCoy,” Beckmann said. “We use the winter population goal because winter conditions have the biggest impact on deer survival and reproduction. Populations over winter can deplete food and cover and impact forest regeneration and production, which could affect other wildlife species. Higher populations also can be more susceptible to disease if there is an outbreak.”

Throughout each winter, NRB staff and contractors go in the field to see how the deer look and observe habitat fluctuations.

“Winter observation includes documenting areas with heavy deer use and areas that may be getting heavily browsed by deer,” Beckmann said. “These are indications of areas where we may need to do habitat-improvement projects. They also document any dead or sick deer, again, to see what areas may need habitat work or if there are any indications of disease.”

The health of the deer population after the winter also determines how many deer tags will be available for hunters later in the year, Beckmann said. That’s why much work goes into making sure estimates on the overall population are accurate.

“We use a population model based on the (Wisconsin) Department of Natural Resources’ Sex-Age-Kill model used until the early 2000s,” Beckmann said. “Our calculations, however, included adjustments based on more than 30 years of harvest and population data at Fort McCoy. These adjustments are developed to provide a more property-specific model to evaluate population levels and trends.”

For the 2017 gun-deer hunt, Beckmann said the biological data collection station will be set up on South Post in the same location as previous years.

“These used to be deer-registration stations, but they are now biological data collection stations where hunters can bring their harvested deer so we can collect important age and health data,” Beckmann said. “This year, we’re also testing for chronic wasting disease as part of a larger information-gathering effort by the DNR.”

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Steve Rundio is editor of the Tomah Journal. Contact him at 608-374-7785.

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