WELCOME HUNTERS the blaze orange signs say.
It’s that time of year again when hundreds of thousands of hunters descend on the state’s forests for the annual nine-day gun deer season. Are you ready for some venison?
Local DNR officials, hunters and the folks registering deer agree that it should be a pretty good season for hunters in Crawford County this year.
Jay Greene, owner of Greener’s Corner in Seneca and an avid hunter himself, noted that sales of licenses are a bit slow, but attributed that to the poor economy.
“People hold onto their money until the last minute,” Greene said. He expects a lot of license sales late in the week.
There have been plenty of nice bucks already registered during the archery season at Greener’s Corner. Of the more than 100 registered, quite a few are fine trophy bucks, according to Greene. The local convenience store owner believes registration is probably up at his store, because the popular registration station at the Gays Mills Amoco is closed.
The new Marketplace in Gays Mills just started registering deer, according to manager Marcia Swiggum. As of Monday, the Marketplace had registered a couple of deer, but they were expecting many more as the word got out about the store becoming a registration station.
DNR Wildlife Manager Dave Matheys, stationed in Viroqua, also believes it will be a good season for hunters in Crawford County’s Unit 74B.
“Overall, it’s not a night and day difference, but the population is up a little over 2010,” Matheys said.
The experienced wildlife manager has seen his fair share of deer hunts and knows weather has as much to do with successful hunts as anything else. He noted that last year, fog held down the harvest on Sunday and in 2009 fog on opening day really suppressed the success rate of hunters.
Then, there’s Unit 71 CWD, a small part of eastern Crawford County east of Highway 61. The nearest deer with CWD (Chronic Wasting Disease) to Crawford County ever found in the unit was somewhere north of the Wisconsin River near Muscoda or Blue River.
Because of the CWD status, hunters in Unit 71 have had to hunt under Earn-a-Buck (EAB) regulations for the past couple of seasons. This meant they had to shoot an antlerless deer before they could shoot a buck. The measure was designed to reduce the deer population as a response to CWD.
This year, hunters in Unit 71 can shoot a buck or a antlerless deer for the first deer. If they pursue more deer, they must shoot an antlerless deer before they shoot the second buck.
While EAB hasn’t reduced the population much in the eastern part of the unit near the Cazenovia and Rockbridge areas, it has significantly lowered populations in the Boaz, Rolling Ground and Mt. Zion areas, according to Matheys.
Ron Murphy, owner of the Rolling Ground Tavern off Highway 61, is almost on the dividing line between the two units and he sees deer from both.
“As of Sunday, Nov. 13, we have registered 49 deer for the bow hunt with 32 of them being bucks,” Murphy said. “This year, there seems to be an abundance of bigger bucks being registered. This should make for a very interesting upcoming gun season.”
Another thing that might make for an interesting season is changes to legally carrying guns in the field. The state legislature just passed the law in the latest special session.
Crawford County Game Warden Cody Adams referred questions about the new law to Tim Lawhern, a DNR Safety Expert.
Adams said the department was requesting all staff to refer questions to Lawhern.
Matheys said he received a multiple page e-mail on the law and referred people to the DNR website for a better understanding of the law that will allow the transport of uncased firearms in vehicles under certain conditions and will also allow placing a loaded firearm on a vehicle under certain conditions.
The website for help understanding the newly passed law is www.dnr.wi.gov/org/es/enforcement/act51
Adams said the new law will be confusing for a few years until it’s better understood. He noted the law overturns years of tradition in firearms handling in Wisconsin.
This year will mark another first. Not everyone wearing orange will be hunting deer with a gun during the nine-day gun season. For the first time, bow hunters will be allowed to be in the field during the gun season.
There’s also a change for young hunters, aged 10 to 17, who will get a free antlerless deer tag with the purchase of their youth hutting license. Any hunter may purchase additional antlerless tags for $12 each.
Adams said that archery hunters were reporting seeing lot of deer in the county.
While it is Adams first year as a game warden in the county, he grew up in the Boscobel area and did a lot of hunting in Crawford County on land of relatives and friends.
Adams pointed out that the almost completed corn harvest should lead to some additional hunting success in Crawford County this year.
If hunters believe they see someone violating hunting laws, Adams urged them to call the DNR Hotline 1-800-TIP-WDNR. A dispatcher in Madison will then contact Adams or the closest available warden to answer the complaint.
Anyone having trouble with trespassing is urged to call the Crawford County Sheriff’s Department, as DNR Wardens don’t have authority to deal with trespassing violations.
Hunters seeking information on laws, can call the DNR information call center at 1-888-WDNR-INFO. Matheys urged hunters to enjoy the opportunity, while being as safe as possible.
“No deer is worth an accident,” Matheys said. “I hope hunters can enjoy the camaraderie of their family and friends, as well as enjoying the fruits of their labor.”