Tomahawk Leader Publisher Larry Tobin's Ups-and-Downs column Nov. 27, 2007:
I heard of a few successful deer hunts last week but a lot more grumbling. Even many of those who got their buck complain of seeing fewer and fewer deer each year.
Personally, I saw the flash of a tail in the brush of one deer this year. That doubles the number of deer I’ve seen in the past three gun deer seasons. The one I saw last year was 10 minutes before legal shooting time opening morning. The first shot I heard this year, by the way, was a full 30 minutes before legal shooting. It was taken under someone’s yard light to be sure.
I did see three separate sets of bear tracks – one set within 25 yards of the cabin – and 23 turkeys.
DNR says that if you don’t see deer where you’re hunting, move to another spot. That’s a gentler way of saying “you’re sitting on the wrong stump,” as one DNR leader said a couple of years ago, and just as stupid.
If you have a lot of money invested in your own land, as well as time and effort, as many of us do, it’s hard to pack up and move someplace else. I’ve owned my 80 acres for 15 years, have a cabin on it, and have invested a lot more in trying to make it good wildlife habitat. I have virtually every type of tree native to northern Wisconsin on the land, water, and have added two small food plots in the last couple of years. Yet with a trail camera set on the property since late July, I haven’t picked up half a dozen different deer.
Let me explain a little of how drastically things have changed since the DNR instituted the T-Zone slaughters of does and fawns. In 2001, on opening day of the gun season, I shot a 10-point buck. In 2002 I passed up six different bucks during the gun season. The biggest was a six-pointer. I have not shot a deer in the gun season since. As I said, in the last three seasons I’ve seen a total of two deer.
In fact, the last deer I shot of any kind on my property was a doe during the 2005 archery season. In 22 sittings on my property this year between archery and gun seasons, I’ve seen deer just seven times. I used to see that many and more virtually every time I went out. And still, with all the T-Zone slaughter that’s gone one in recent years, my unit is a herd control unit once again. That means that if hunters don’t kill enough deer there this year, there will be more T-Zones and the like next year. It appears the DNR’s deer eradication zone has been moved from the CWD area of southern Wisconsin to Brantwood.
While many hunters complain about the wolf predation on the deer herd, I don’t have that problem in my area. As I’ve said before, wolves would starve to death in my area.
But we do have bears and they get a lot of fawns in the spring. A year ago I got a bear kill tag after eight years of trying (it took only four years the first time). In eight sittings on the same stand I saw 10 identifiably different bears. It seems to me that is a lot for one stand on just 80 acres.
This year while hunting deer during the archery season I saw five bears. In 14 previous seasons I’ve seen a total of two while hunting deer! Tell me things haven’t gotten out of proportion.
A number of my friends and I are looking for deer hunting opportunities in other states for next year. Yes, there are areas of the state that have large deer herds. I just don’t happen to live there or own land in those pockets. Until the DNR starts managing the deer herd more realistically, I’ll be looking to hunt elsewhere.