Wisconsin deer season results are in and it would appear that both the number of hunters and the deer harvest are up. So much for the massive wolf over population decimating the deer herd it would appear. The state sold roughly 650,000 licenses, including some $5 bargain licenses for first time buyers. The KingOfIronwoodIsland and I got the 'bargain' $160 non-resident licenses but that's beside the point. Hunters took about 115,000 bucks and 130,000 antlerless deer, roughly 8% more than last year. That's a success rate of around 35%. Our hunting crew up in western Bayfield County fared better, with a 60% success rate. I suspect that one of the reasons is that most of us spent the better part of the week in the woods. Not many deer walk past the camp or bar stools
One of the deer theories that has gained popularity in recent years is Quality Deer Management. The theory is that if you take the larger bucks and anterless deer, and leave the younger bucks that not only will hunters start seeing larger bucks but the herd will be healthier. Instead of one dominant buck breeding multiple does, more younger bucks have the opportunity to breed which tends to prevent the deer family tree from becoming circular due to inbreeding. This was a concept that many of us embraced intellectually but we still saw horns and shot. The real breakthrough came when Pod declared our new porch/barroom to be the "Eight or Better Lounge". In order to have a rack put up on the porch it needed to have 8 points or better. Suddenly most of the camp was enthusiastically behind the QDM concept. Plus there is competition at camp in everything from who stokes the sauna, pumps water, or does the dishes so the big buck competition is a logical outcome. The other reason to wait for the larger buck is because many of us don't want the hunt to be over.
In our area there are usually more anterless permits available than there are purchasers. It used to be that the old timers told us, 'when you shoot a doe you kill lots of deer'. These were the same characters that had the 'camp meat' doe hanging on their pole the Friday night before the season but it was still a pervasive idea up north. In our area we see perhaps a dozen antlerless deer for every buck. If you fill your tag on opening day with a smaller deer the hunt is pretty much over. For those of us that only hunt opening weekend and then dutifully head into work Monday that's what needs to be done. The majority of us that are at camp for the duration of the nine day season can be more selective. In my case this year, too selective. By the time I had decided on the last Saturday to shoot the first deer that came by, all I saw were two little bucks and I couldn't bring myself to do it. Still, it was a good week of hunting. We name our stands and I spent quality time in the Buckhole, Wounded Knee, White Pine, Ian's Blind, Twin Towers, and Buckskins NW. I saw lots of deer and a number of other creatures over the week. We got our 15" snow dump on Thanksgiving evening but until then it was relatively bluebird weather and it made being up in a tree a very pleasant experience.
By this time in the season all the older and larger bucks seem to have gone nocturnal. The only time they are seen is on the game camera. All of the bucks except the small one were seen chasing does. We males tend to get single minded in our pursuit of female companionship and these guys paid for that and wound up in the freezer.
All is not lost for me however. Muzzleloading season continues through 5 December for my continued pursuit of that hormone and antibiotic free, natural diet, lean Wisconsin venison. No feedlots, no water pollution, no disease, just clean red meat for the year. Congratulations to all my fellow hunters that filled their tags. I hope to join you before the year is over.