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On Outdoors: Where are the deer?
Posted By Staff On December 9, 2009 @ 12:00 am In Outdoors | No Comments
Some Midwestern hunters skunked in 2009
By Jim Hagerty
Many of this year’s deer hunting tales, flow much differently than those spewed over celebratory beer toasts and raucous camp card games in years past. Thousands of Great Lakes-area hunters are still enjoying days off, a few beers and a hand or two of euchre. Most are doing so, but with empty tags. This year’s stories are littered with vivid explanations of hunts that eventually turned into bird- and squirrel-watching sessions, all begging the question why 2009 has been, for some, as fruitless as a quest to bag a fictional “jackalope.”
While hunters in some states are harvesting deer as usual, scores of blaze-orange soldiers in Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin have seen better days. The old saying, “a bad day of fishing is better than a good day at work,” may work on the water. In the woods come November, most hunters don’t enjoy being skunked.
Preliminary Wisconsin harvest totals are about more than 81,000 short of last year’s count. According to preliminary registration stats, 86,251 bucks and 109,396 antlerless deer were taken this year. In 2008, early marks (not including archery, antlerless gun and muzzleloader numbers) totaled 276,895.
According to Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) officials, the low numbers don’t take into account the alleged significant number of successful camps. In short, representatives are urging hunters to gauge prosperity based on local activity. The absence of deer in one hunting area doesn’t mean others aren’t producing kills. Still, the 81,000 disparity is tough to disregard. Officials in Michigan are preaching the same sermon.
Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (U.P.), with an estimated deer population of 300,000, produced an estimated 30 percent harvest plunge from 2008 in its 16-day gun season. The Lower Peninsula, down 25 percent in some areas, according to early reports, also has hunters scratching their heads. Some Michigan reports indicate fewer hunters, mostly in the U.P., which, according to the DNR, would result in fewer deer.
Much like Illinois, Lower Michigan was left to deal with a late corn harvest, which provided deer with more cover. When the second leg of the 2009 Illinois firearm season began last Thursday (Dec. 3), the outlook was predicted to produce some solid results. Some, however, questioned whether the harvest would even break 100,000, something the season last failed to accomplish in 1999.
As of press time, preliminary totals from Illinois’ 2009 hunting weekends were not in. The first stint (Nov. 20-22) harvested 66,126 deer, about 5,700 fewer than last year.
“Standing corn was a significant factor affecting hunter success for the first weekend of firearm deer hunting this year,” Illinois DNR Forest Wildlife Program Manager Paul Shelton said in an earlier report.
When comparing Illinois’ harvest numbers with those in Wisconsin and Michigan, some hunters here feel the problem reaches farther than just in their immediate hunting areas.
“I usually take at least two deer where I hunt,” Boone County hunter Richard Tassoni said. “This year, I only saw a total of five. Apple trees are untouched, I didn’t see droppings, and some trails are completely dried up.”
Tassoni has been hunting the same Illinois farmland for 19 years.
Some feel a DNR sharpshooter program could be to blame for the absence of deer in some Illinois areas, and the program has been extended beyond the time it was needed. The IDNR, to help control the spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD), has commissioned sharpshooters to take deer at night in certain areas. This may fail to explain, however, how hunters in neighboring states have experienced a similar whitetail exodus this year.
Typically, urban development, changes in forestry management and illegal hunting tend to drive down populations. In some areas, whitetail deer are considered pests, especially in the agricultural sector.
Outdoors news and photos can be sent directly to Jim Hagerty at email@example.com. Glossies and hard-copy press kits can be mailed or delivered to The Rock River Times’ office at 128 N. Church St., Rockford, IL 61101. Jim can be reached at (815) 964-9767.
From the December 9-15, 2009 issue
Article printed from The Rock River Times: http://rockrivertimes.com
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