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Operation Deer Watch tracks white-tailed population across state

Deer in Florence County, August 4, 2022 (WLUK/Eric Peterson)
Deer in Florence County, August 4, 2022 (WLUK/Eric Peterson)
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OUTAGAMIE COUNTY (WLUK) -- A citizen-science project to help track the white-tailed deer population is underway across Wisconsin.

The Department of Natural Resources started Operation Deer Watch about a dozen years ago.

With tell-tale spots still visible, a group of young deer took to a farm field near Shiocton just one month ago.

"They tend to be out a little bit more often. A little bit later in the summer, eating with mom," said Bryan Woodbury, DNR Wildlife Biologist.

Woodbury says Operation Deer Watch begins Aug. 1 when deer families are relatively young. During a two-month window, people are asked to help by looking for bucks, does and fawns and sharing the information online with the department.

"The fawn-to-doe ratios are what they're collecting with this Operation Deer Watch. It helps us with the recruitment," said Woodbury. "So, once all the data comes back, we'll kind of know how the population is growing."

Woodbury says the average statewide ratio is one doe to one fawn.

"Bucks, does and fawns. The numbers I've seen so far have been pretty good," said Mike Williams, The Reel Shot Hunting Manager.

Williams says he observes deer on his way to work at The Reel Shot Store in Appleton.

"Obviously, this time of year, you're going to see more does and fawns together still yet than you will a lot of bucks, see some bachelor groups so to speak so far," he said.

A group of deer was active in an Outagamie County field Tuesday morning. Williams says the bucks in the area are growing up, and velvet-coated antlers will soon have a different look.

"They can get that off in a matter of days. It all depends on what they've been rubbing on and stuff. Once you start seeing them shed, a couple of days, and it's all gone," he said.

Meanwhile Bryan Woodbury expects to see plenty of deer on the landscape.

"We've had a really good summer. Not super cool in the springtime, so it should be a good year for the fall," he said.

The DNR says a typical Operation Deer Watch can gather about 10,000 observations from about 1,000 people.

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They say those numbers are growing.

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