“There is nothing out there that I have seen, or that DNR has touted, that more bucks survive in areas where baiting is banned.”
I just did a little ciphering. From 2015 (baseline last baiting year) to 2017, the three non bait counties combined saw the total buck (gun, xbow, vertical) harvest increase by 26% (3,925 in 15 to 4,926 in 17). The vertical bow buck harvest dropped -24% (624 to 473) while the xbow harvest increased 8% (795 to 858) over this time. Gun harvest was up 45%.
I then added up four adjacent counties as a control. Florence and Price were directly adjacent and I also used Sawyer and Ashland to even things out because Price and Florence have had some doe harvest for at least 2 of the three years while Sawyer had doe harvest in 17 and Ashland did not. I didn’t include Iron county because so few deer are harvested and I considered it an outlier.
These four counties saw a total (all weapons) antlered harvest increase of 59% (4860 to 7715) while crossbow harvest went up by 66% (900 to 1490) and vertical bow harvest went up 14% (752 to 856). Gun harvest was up 67%.
All seven counties have somewhat similar habitats, similar winters, similar predator populations, and somewhat similarly sized (as a percentage) areas of public land. Combining the experimental and control counties into one group gives a larger dataset.
As a percentage, the baiting counties total antlered harvests increased 33% more than the total buck harvest in the three non baiting counties from 2015 to 2017. With this in mind, all things being equal, you could reasonably assume that if Oneida, Forest, and Vilas counties had not had a baiting ban, their harvests would have increased at a similar rate (50-60%). If this was indeed the case, at a 50% (5,888 bucks in 2017) harvest increase for instance, there would have been 928 more bucks harvested over 2016 and 2017. 928 more bucks in these three counties that are now (not counting other mortality like predation, I know cars and wolves will get some) that are now 2.5-3.5 years old or older on the landscape going into 2018. How is this a bad thing? Even if some hunters gave up and didn’t buy a license, you weren’t concerned about losing hunters over the inability to shoot two bucks, if they quit they quit who cares why? Better for all of us going forward.