[EDITOR’S ADVISORY: Preliminary harvest totals are based on calls to registration stations and are strictly preliminary. DNR wildlife biologists have revised the preliminary total issued Tuesday, Nov. 2, after several additional registration stations reported some significant totals. The preliminary harvest of 64,589 reported Tuesday has been revised to 67,167. Final registration numbers for all deer hunts will not be issued until all seasons have been completed and all registration tags have been collected and compiled, which generally takes until February or March of the following year.]

MADISON – A preliminary count of deer registered in the Oct. 28-31 Zone T gun deer hunt showed Wisconsin hunters registering 67,167 deer in mixed weather conditions across the state. Oct. 28 also marked the start of the extended gun deer hunting season in the chronic wasting disease (CWD) disease eradication zone.

The four-day weekend total includes harvest from 74 of the state’s 135 deer management units, designated as either Zone T or Earn-a-Buck and 18 CWD units. A second antlerless only deer hunt will take place Dec. 9-12 in Zone T and Earn-a-Buck. units south of Hwy. 8. The regular nine-day gun deer season runs Nov. 20-28 while the extended gun deer hunting season in the chronic wasting disease-disease eradication zone (DEZ) runs Oct 28 – Jan 3.

The focus of the four-day hunt was antlerless deer but landowners in the CWD disease eradication zone who applied for a landowner permit were issued a buck tag with the permit and hunters in the CWD zones who shot an antlerless deer first were able to harvest bucks also.

“I saw and spoke many hunters who took to the woods this weekend,” said DNR Secretary Scott Hassett, who worked at registration stations in the CWD zones on Thursday and Saturday. “Of the folks I talked to the vast majority of successful hunters were keeping their venison with a few donating the animal to the food pantry program. The food pantry program is being very well received by hunters and gives them peace of mind knowing the resource is not going to waste as they go about the job of lowering deer populations. They were aware that their efforts were helping manage the deer herd in the CWD zones and elsewhere, and we truly thank them for those efforts.”

Keith Warnke, DNR state deer ecologist cautioned that it is difficult to compare Zone T harvest numbers to previous years, and comparing a statewide Zone T harvest is meaningless. The number of deer management units included under the Zone T framework changes from year to year, as it is based on reducing herd size in units that surveys show are over population goals. This is unlike the November season when hunting is open statewide every year.

Final registration for the 4-day 2003 October Zone T hunt was 40,556. Hunters registered another 17,236 deer in the four-day December 2003 Zone T season. There were 47 units open for the Zone T hunt in 2003. The preliminary 2004 October Zone T numbers to not include two counties where registration results were not available by Tuesday afternoon.

“Preliminary results don’t really tell us much in regard to how much progress was made in reducing the herd numbers across the state,” said Warnke. “We do know that Zone T and EAB are very effective population reduction tools. We’ll also need to wait until the end of all seasons before we can determine if any units will drop out of Zone T or EAB in 2005.”

A deer management unit is designated as Zone T if it is more than 20 percent over its designated population goal and biologists determine that a regular hunting season won’t bring it under that level. If a unit remains more than 20 percent over goal after two consecutive Zone T seasons, the unit is eligible for an Earn-a-Buck season in the third year. Earn-a-Buck means that hunters must first kill an antlerless deer before killing a buck. This is the first year since 1996 when there were EAB units outside of a CWD management zone. Officials say there are 15 units in their second consecutive Zone T season this fall meaning that depending on this year’s harvest, the units may be designated as EAB in 2005.

Biologists were collecting deer heads for CWD testing at registration stations across the western and eastern disease eradication zones and in a buffer area around the DEZ.

Six stations in the western DEZ and four in the eastern DEZ will remain open for registration and head collection through the Jan 3, 2005 close of hunting in the DEZ. Additional stations will collect heads for disease testing again on Nov 20 and 21. The six western DEZ stations open for the remainder of the season are located at Black Earth, Barneveld, Lone Rock, Hollandale, Muscoda and Arena. In the eastern DEZ, which is located in Rock and Walworth counties, stations that will remain open for CWD head collection are Big Foot Beach State Park, Chad’s Taxidermy (by appointment), Corners Inn Bar & Grill and Fontana Public Works. Hunters are advised to call ahead for hours of operation.

Hunting pressure was estimated at moderate to heavy on public lands across the state with no reported hunting-related gunshot injuries reported as of noon Monday according to chief conservation warden, Randy Stark.

“As we track the conditions and circumstances under which hunting accidents occur, we find that one-third to one-half of all hunting accidents are self inflicted,” said Stark. “The fact that this was a safe hunt is in no small part a product of positive hunter behavior and attitudes and the dedicated efforts of our volunteer hunter education instructors that encourage safe hunting.”

All regions reported less than ideal hunting conditions over the four days, according to wildlife officials. The range of weather went from warm to rainy to windy with overcast skies. Still, many hunters hunting in EAB units took the opportunity to harvest an antlerless deer in order to have a buck permit in their pocket for opening day in November. Others said they were participating for the hunting experience and to do their part in controlling herd numbers.

“Considering the poor hunting conditions it was a successful Zone T hunt,” said Bob Michelson, DNR regional wildlife biologist out of Eau Claire. “Thursday, Friday and Saturday were too warm, wet and windy. The weather reduced natural deer movement and in some cases, hunter participation. The EAB units received much higher hunting pressure and harvest than would have been expected with a normal T zone framework.”

“Successful hunters were very upbeat about the hunt in spite of fog the first day and strong winds on Saturday,” said Jim McNelly, DNR regional wildlife biologist in Milwaukee.

As in years past, hunters can donate venison to the food pantry program. Hunters in the CWD zones also have the option of donating a deer to a pantry program specific to the CWD zones. Meat processors in the CWD zones will hold the venison until test results are back and then process those testing not positive for CWD for the pantry program.

A second Zone T hunt will be held Dec. 9 through 12. That hunt is only held in deer management units located south of Highway 8. Hunters may also use their Zone T tags to shoot antlerless deer in Zone T units during any other hunting season, including the archery, or regular gun season, which runs Nov. 20 – 28, or the muzzleloader season Nov 29 – Dec 8.

“The white-tailed deer is the most popular animal in Wisconsin,” says Warnke, “popular for the hunting opportunity it provides and as a wildlife viewing opportunity. However, high deer populations lead directly to crop and ornamental plant damage and high deer densities contribute to the spread of diseases, like CWD. Zone T hunts make a significant contribution to reducing the deer herd toward a goal that is a balance of competing stakeholder interests around the state.”

Preliminary October 2004 Zone T Registration Totals by DNR Region

DNR Northeast Region County Total Brown 209 Calumet 131 Door 1,053 Fond du Lac 416 Green Lake 1,495 Kewaunee 669 Manitowoc 306 Marinette 1,571 Marquette 2,246 Oconto 1,853 Outagamie 1,415 Shawano 2,554 Waupaca 3,828 Waushara 1,502 Winnebago 687 Total 19,935 DNR Northern Region County Total Ashland 1,550 Barron 886 Bayfield 2,490 Burnett 493 Douglas 1,187 Florence 0 Forest 14 Iron 242 Langlade 980 Lincoln 78 Oneida 34 Polk 677 Price 1,648 Rusk 1,275 Sawyer 1,578 Taylor 551 Vilas 122 Washburn 922 Total 14,727 DNR South Central Region County Total Columbia 3037 Dane 714 Dodge 502 Grant 1748 Green NA Iowa 1685 Jefferson 482 Lafayette 441 Richland 2485 Rock 624 Sauk 2718 Total 14,436 DNR West Central Region County Total Adams 1,354 Buffalo 1,237 Chippewa 847 Clark 728 Crawford 412 Dunn 471 Eau Claire 351 Jackson 704 Juneau 1,036 La Crosse 964 Marathon 1,530 Monroe 1,416 Pepin 383 Pierce 200 Portage 1,244 St. Croix 238 Trempealeau 1,313 Vernon 1,500 Wood 1,185 Total 17,113 DNR Southeast Region County Total Kenosha 80 Milwaukee 0 Ozaukee 40 Racine 114 Sheboygan 40 Walworth 249 Washington 177 Waukesha 256 Total 956

Statewide Preliminary Total 67,167