Changes coming for upcoming deer season

A deer scrounges for food in a Marinette County farm field.

GREEN BAY - Change is on the way for the upcoming deer hunting season.

In an effort to increase the herd, many hunters in the Northwoods will be allowed to shoot only bucks.

This impacts areas in 19 counties in roughly the northern third of the state.

It will be in effect for this fall's bow and gun hunting seasons.

"We're looking at an entire quota across the north of I believe 500 deer in the entire north. We've never done that before. So it's rock bottom, every place else is zero," said Kevin Wallenfang, DNR big game ecologist.

Wallenfang told Natural Resources Board members two harsh winters took a toll on Northwoods deer.

"For the most part, the fawns take the biggest hit. We have research going on with radio telemetry and we track deer all year long. About 40 percent of the fawns in our northern study area were lost this winter due to malnutrition," said Wallenfang.

Ralph Fritsch saw it first-hand in Oconto County.

"The deer that did make it through were very scrawny, and they were just lucky they made it through," said Fritsch, wildlife committee chairman of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation.

Hunters in northern Marinette County will still be able to bag a doe. But a quota has been set at 500 tags.

"They will start on Aug. 18, and it's on a first come, first served basis," said Wallenfang.

The board passed the measure with little discussion.

"I think it's setting realistic expectations to a public that we serve which is, 'we heard you, we're responding, we're implementing some of your suggestions. We're trying this and we're going to work through this together,'" said DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp.

Hunters we talked to say the ban could be expanded even more.

"We're down pretty low. We need at least a minimum of three years to get through this and build that herd back up with the population," said Fritsch.

"When the herd was diminished to the point where there are almost no deer, you can double the population, and then you still don't have many deer," said Mike Brust, Wisconsin Bow Hunters Association president.

Whether the plan works remains to be seen.

"We could have another winter just like this one next year. And we could be looking at the same situation again," said Wallenfang.