Deer Hunt 2017: Door County plans to manage its herd

Deer run through Door County farm field, November 3, 2017 (WLUK/Eric Peterson)

DOOR COUNTY (WLUK) -- The countdown continues to Deer Hunt 2017. The 9-day gun opener is four days away, Throughout the season, about 600,000 hunters are expected to take to the field.

Experts say three relatively mild winters mean, there are plenty of deer on the landscape, and that includes Door County, where hunters will be able to take part in an unprecedented effort to help reduce part of the herd.

Leaves on trees nibbled away. Trunks exposed. Damage from deer has left its mark around Door County.

"There's areas where that aren't as many, and in some cases are few deer, but for the most part, all the way north to south in the county, we got too many deer," said Dick Baudhuin, Door County Deer Advisory Council Chair.

Baudhuin says in some areas deer densities are two to three times too high.

"We're probably running somewhere in the area of 40 or more per square mile of deer range, and for any kind of decent re-generation in the forest, you really should be down to 15 or less," he said.

Baudhuin says the deer council explored the idea of recommending an antlerless-only season for Door County, but settled on something new. For the first time, each hunting license comes with the option of five additional antlerless permits.

"Most all hunters seek those adult bucks with big antlers. And it's difficult to get people to take antlerless deer and the adult does, because those are the ones that are reproducing," said Baudhuin.

But it's a different story in other parts of Northeast Wisconsin. Wildlife biologists say in places like northern Oconto County, the deer population is in recovery, and antlerless permits are limited.

"We have the forest land. They really took the brunt of the tough winters, with the predator situation. If it's wolves, or coyotes, and bears. Predators. They are starting to come back but on a slower pace, so that area, we're going for an increase yet," said Wade Jeske, Lena Swamp Archery Owner.

And that's not all. Deer management leaders say in many areas of the forest zone, deer habitat needs to improve.

"In the last 15 years, many of the timber sales were stopped up, or tied up in court for a long time. And many of these sales that are being cut now, have been marked, and re-marked, and been just sitting there growing for years, and years, and years. That's very disheartenting and kind of lets things get out of control when you're not able to be able to provide the kind of environment that it takes to keep a healthy deer herd going," said Bob Ellingson, Oconto County Deer Advisory Council.

Meanwhile, Department of Natural Resources numbers indicate the 2017 Door County antlerless harvest is ahead of last year's pace.

"When everything is said and done, at the end of the hunting season, when we add up the harvest. For every buck that's been harvested, we'd like to see at least two antlerless deer harvested," said Jeff Pritzl, DNR District Wildlife Supervisor.

"It shows that the opportunity is there, and the fact is we need the hunters to control the population. That's really the only effective tool to manage whitetail deer in this part of the world," said Baudhuin.

The season begins at daybreak on Saturday morning.

If you get a trophy buck, we'd love to see it! Share your photos and videos here:

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