Gas Pains

Tom grew up in Milwaukee, bartended in Wauwatosa in the '70s and moved here in 1984.

Commentary, observations and musings about the outdoors, life in general and maybe Tosa politics and personalities will be the order of the day. He savors a lively debate as much as terrific cooking.

Scott Walker, Deer Management and Hunting

Critters, Deer Camp, Hunt'n, Governor Walker

The opening day of the 2000 gun season our camp shot eight deer.  As the Dutchman noted in the camp diary that was the year we hung a stringer of deer from the meat pole.  A group photo of this extraordinary occurrence has been prominently hung in the stairwell.

Other years we hunted for days on-end and never saw a deer.  Some years brought wind and violent lashings of rain.  Sometimes there was snow.  Last year it was an almost impenetrable fog.

The opening day of the 2002 season Wise Guy and I both dropped a couple of ten-point bucks.  In the first fifteen minutes of the season.  It doesn't get much better than that.  It was another extraordinary year.

The unpredictable nature of the hunt is among any number of reasons I enjoy pursuing whitetails.  It sure can surprise you from time-to-time.

The week before last I published some deer biology factoids - including some tidbits about an active scrape.  Girlfriend and I positioned the trail camera near that scrape to see if we might find out who made it.

Here's the bad boy himself.  A nice eight-point buck. 

If he slips-up and finds himself in the sights of my bow I'm not going hesitate if I have a decent shot solution.

What he's doing is peeing on himself and refreshing his scrape.  Think of it as a deer message board.   It's one of the ways that deer communicate with one another.

This little guy and a number of other deer have been stopping by to give the scrape a sniff or two.  I've been watching this fork horn all season - both on the trail camera and when bow hunting. 

He's probably a two and a half year-old and if he's lucky enough to not get himself killed by a hunter or a vehicle he can aspire to grow into something like the deer working the scrape.

We have too many deer in our neck of the woods.  Correction.  We now have fewer deer in our woods.  This season we've taken seven deer - one buck and six does.   I have observed more deer this year than any time in recent memory.  We've even had a doe with twin fawns in the yard - in broad daylight - an altogether very unusual occurrence.

One of the camp rules has been to let all the little bucks walk.  Please take a doe instead.  I'm not a biologist but I pride myself in knowing more than the average person about deer biology, wildlife habitat and the carrying capacity of the land.  I'd like to see smaller deer numbers, a better buck to doe ratio and bigger bucks.  But the truth of the matter is I'm only one property owner and can only exert my influence on the herd on my own turf.  I can speak to my neighbors but cannot control what they do.

If you were to visit a hunting discussion board or talk to the people advising the Governor-elect on deer policy you would get the impression that Wisconsin's deer herd has been hunted to the edge of extinction.  That the DNR has conspired with the insurance lobby and the forest products industry to decimate the deer herd.  The agency has allowed populations of bear and wolves to soar - further reducing deer numbers.  The bottom line is that Wisconsin's big game managers have singlehandedly destroyed deer hunting as we know it.

Therefore, anyone with a hand in the annihilation of the species should be fired and sent into exile.

The body count is simply too low.

Sigh.  Just like managing deer on my own turf I'm probably not going to have much influence on Wisconsin deer policy going forward.  I can speak to elected officials but cannot control what they do.  The result of which is I've steeled myself for plenty of frustration-inspired emails and phone calls.  Plus a job application.

I'm old enough to know that (politically-speaking) a focus on body counts can get you into trouble.  I'm also old enough to be amused at how the notion of instant-gratification has now lorded its influence on hunting tradition.

This year my deer hunting experience has been very satisfying.  And I have yet to kill a deer.  But that has been a matter of choice - not for lack of opportunity.  Besides, I try to keep my glass half-full knowing that there's plenty of hunting left in the season.

I'm also blessed to be a private landowner who is surrounded by private landowners who enjoy some primo deer habitat.

Sure, some parts of the state have fewer deer.  Food and cover resources vary.  Winters might have been more severe in another location.  Maybe too many doe permits were issued for some DMUs.  I'm sure predator populations are higher in some locations. 

If anybody reading this has Scott Walker's ear tell him that I said that deer are not distributed uniformly across Wisconsin's landscape.  Where you have farmland and excellent deer cover you are going to have humongous deer populations.  Explain to him that it is complicated.

See this doe here...


And the two additional doe you see here...

I'd bet you a fish fry that they're probably going to give birth to twins next spring because the population will have been kept in balance with what the local environment can support.

I sent-in my application last week to the transition office of the Governor-elect.

Ha!  We bet you want to be the Deer Trustee.  We just knew it!

Nope.  I have no desire to be the czar of the deer kingdom.  I would rather hunt deer than count deer.  Nevertheless, I'd be happy to serve on a committee or board where a knowledgeable citizen volunteer is needed to assist with any wildlife management matters.

I'll let you know what comes of it. 

Stay tuned.

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