Still waiting on the final 9 day harvest numbers but it is interesting to compare opening weekend from this year to last year. Overall harvest is up 2.3% from 2019, but 2019 harvest was down 25% from 2018 so not much of an improvement. A disturbing trend in my opinion. Makes me sick to see how many doe tags are still available for purchase.
2019 vs 2020 Opening Weekend Harvest Comparison
me filling my buck tag with a small buck leaves more big bucks for the guys who are looking for that monster. Everyone wants a chance at that monster, but the monster may be a 4 on one side and a huge spike on the other side, or it may be a unicorn. If someone is proud of the deer they shot, be happy for them it is their trophy, and their story for that hunting season. Some of the areas that I hunt more bucks are hit on the road than I even get a chance to see.
Last night to tell the CDAC what you want done with your county deer herd for the next three years. Increase, Maintain, or Decrease. These three option will tell how many doe tags you will see for the next three years. There are online meetings are starting December 7th.
2020 gun deer season was rough, I hunt heavily harvested areas, with my family. Opening weekend was really good for many people that I have talked to and I know that there are some really happy hunters out there who harvested some dandy bucks opening weekend and through out the season congrats.
Congrats to the hunters who were able to contribute to the 2% increase in the statewide opening day harvest. And to those who are eating that tag soup hopefully the winter is easy and the fawn production is threw the roof next year and we all get a chance in 2021 to decide venison or soup this year.
Yes I have observed wolf deer kills first hand. I know they eat ribs, crush long bones like the femur for the marrow as well as skulls. Antlers have no nutritional value to a wolf, which is why I questioned if dead heads were ever found. I have hunted both Bayfield and Forest counties, but neither of them in the past 10-15 years. I understand the expansiveness of the landscape in those areas. I also know deer will migrate and yard up for thermal cover all winter long. Concentrated deer yards are easy pickings for wolves, but they are also areas shed hunters will target in the spring when the snow gets low enough, so you would think more mature dead heads would be found. We are having wolves show up in the central forest but not in numbers yet to cause a problem. Many of the area counties are 2-3 doe tags per deer license so the food source is here. I think logging practices have changed to more select harvest encouraging regeneration vs clear cuts which has an effect on deer (and grouse) preferred foods/habitat. Deer numbers are estimated per square mile of habitat, not a physical square mile of land. If you are in a forested area of 10-15 deer per sq/mile of preferred habitat, there are a lot of hunters trying to get eyes on not very many animals. For the sake of the conversation, assume a 5:1 doe to buck ratio and you are looking at 2-3 male deer per sq mile of habitat. You can bet at least one, if not all of the bucks in this hypothetical scenario are yearlings. Run the numbers and realize just how difficult it is to see, not even harvest a mature buck from areas of marginal habitat.
Slug , Farnorth is correct a wolf kill has hardly nothing left but hair scattered about. Maybe a few small pieces of bone but that is about all l have ever seen. Also the vast majority of the wooded areas in Northern Wisconsin never have a hunter walk through so most wolf kills are never seen. I walk many miles during gun season and years with snow I see very very few people tracks more than a couple hundred yards off the road. We used to have pictures of lots of big bucks up in Forest County, now most of the few nice bucks left are close to town or cabins.
Hard to find the big buck kills up north unless you are a shed hunter - which is more than looking for a needle in a haystack. Very few people in the woods during December-February, and with such a small percentage of large bucks in these areas to begin with I would have better luck winning the lottery. I have seen pics of dead big bucks from friends of wolf kills, including a giant the day before rifle season this year. Mice and squirrels also remove bone from the landscape quickly here. Bayfield and Ashland counties used to lead the state in B&C entries 30 or so years ago. How many B&C bucks do you hear about coming from those parts now - thick with wolves. I have a gut feeling bucks that run the hardest during the rut are easy pickings by end of December. The most mature bucks seem to roam the most, and immature bucks tend to focus on their home areas more - at least my observations.
How many big bucks do you find dead of CWD?
Slug have you ever seen a fresh wolf kill ? The last one I saw was X country skiing and a wolfpack got a mother and two fawns that I had seen every day using the trail to nip at cedars . Bloodstains and hair along with a few bone shards from what I assumed were legs . They ate the heads like they were potato chips. Solitary bucks are the easiest prey as they dont have multiple eyes and also don’t tend to live in backyards yards and fields very close to humans as does have done up here in recent years .
Good points JC but I believe you can get a terrific indicator of how many deer are on the landscape from that 9 day snapshot of gun buck kill. If it’s down so is the deer population along with some thought into string harvest also. One thing we can both agree on is that if it takes 16 40s per buck harvested in the Northwoods deer hunting sucks and there should be zero antlerless harvest until that harvest number doubles.
Just an observation, but if wolves do indeed kill mature bucks disproportionately due to being weak and run down, wouldn’t people be finding a good number of dead heads while tromping around in the woods? I don’t know the answer, but I think that would be the case. I don’t recall hearing about hunters in the northern forest stumbling onto a bone pile with a mature rack while they are hunting. Typically rodents don’t eat dead head antlers like they do shed antlers, so I’d think they would be out there?
Farnorth: couple things. First, I am not a bright man and continue to pass up 1.5 year old bucks...so I rarely even set eyes on a nice buck anymore in the Northern Forest and my freezer is generally empty most years. But, if I shoot them it is a pretty good chance they won't be around next year . I think wolves have more to do than anything with deer not reaching maturity (3.5 years plus). Many hunters in my area swear that mature bucks get predated by wolves more than other deer since they run themselves down so much during the rut....and I am starting to agree.
Secondly, buck numbers as a total harvest are generally up from 2019 as expected - archery and crossbow kills are generally up in most northern counties. You can no longer just look at rifle season kill as an indicator of population since the early season deer/buck kill has significantly trended upward due primarily to crossbows since 2014. I agree that adult buck kill is trending downward over the past few decades, but there is a huge shift to buck kill occurring before rifle season even starts.
JC passing on bucks in the Northern Forest is a thing of the past . What are we saving that tasty 1-1/2 old for? If winter doesn’t get them the wolves almost certainly will. I had a great season with my wife shooting a very nice 8 on her first hunt . I hunt at home and was pleased to harvest a young buck but was even more pleased to see the 4-5 different does after years of seeing nothing. I’m thankful for private land and luckily having neighbors basically having a refuge to see those handful of does. Many public land hunters didn’t see a deer up here and more than a few not a track. Historical long term camps packed up and quit Monday or Tuesday and are not able to keep kids involved to continue the tradition. There should be zero does harvested north of highway 64 until rifle buck harvests double from the 1 bucks per square mile the deer herd is currently managed for. The same depressed Northwoods rifle kill year after year proves that beyond a doubt . Last years low Northwoods rifle kill was blamed on terrible weather , what will this years excuse be with perfect conditions? Keep in mind the ONLY reason we didn’t harvest every last doe seen throughout the Northern forest was our NRB wisely stepping in and banning those asinine antlerless quotas set by a completely out of touch CDAC. Unless we get conservative competent deer management in Wisconsin gun season will just fade away .
Yes, don't get me wrong that I wouldn't shoot a big buck if one came to me. But since I don't know of any recipes for deer rack soup yet I'd rather have the 2 and 3 year olds around me and harvest one of them. I love the back loins, but my favorite cut on the deer is a top round roast wrapped in bacon and cooked for about a half an hour on the grill. There's no better meal than that along with an ear of corn and a potato, in my opinion!