MADISON -- Hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites and visiting non-residents eagerly await the arrival of the 2012 9-day gun deer season, which kicks off Nov. 17.
Approximately 10 percent of Wisconsin residents will take to the field for the annual hunt, and thousands more will participate by providing food, hotels, and other services that make deer hunting such an important part of the Wisconsin culture and economy.
Kevin Wallenfang, big game ecologist for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, says the 2012 gun season is one that he hopes will be exciting and satisfying for all involved. "It's a tradition that many hunters and businesses look forward to all year long. It will also have more of a traditional feel to it this year due to the elimination of most early season gun hunts."
Wallenfang says that getting back to a more normal season framework seems to have many people very enthusiastic this year. "Add to that the fact that deer populations across the north have increased in many units thanks to a very mild winter and reduced antlerless permits, and hunters could be in for a very satisfying year," Wallenfang says. He adds, however, that some northern units are still below goal, so hunters should not expect to see a lot of deer in some areas.
Deer populations throughout most of the farmland region of the state are strong, says Wallenfang, especially on private lands. Still, despite comparatively high deer numbers, farmland units can be difficult to hunt, especially for those spending their season on public lands where hunting pressure is often much higher than surrounding private properties. The good news is that Wisconsin has more than 1 million acres of private lands open for public hunting, including Voluntary Public Access program and Managed Forest Law program lands.
Even with increasing deer populations in many units, hunter success during the gun season can vary based on a wide range of factors. Hunter effort, weather events, rut activity, hunting pressure, and stand site locations in addition to deer numbers can all play influential roles in whether or not individual hunters see and harvest deer.
For more information on deer in different areas of the state, see the 2012 Wisconsin Fall Hunting Forecast [PDF].
"Deer are not distributed evenly across the landscape and their movements vary greatly from one day to the next," says Wallenfang. "Some hunters simply have access to better hunting and more deer."
Another step hunters can take to increase their opportunities and enjoy their season is to take advantage of more days in the field. "There has been an increasing trend of hunters spending fewer days in the woods than in years past, often hunting just the opening weekend," Wallenfang says. "Although deer sightings can be fewer after opening weekend, there are still deer to be hunted and the later part of the season can be more relaxing than the high pressure of opening weekend."
Hopefully we'll have some comfortable hunting conditions that will allow people to stay in the woods and enjoy the hunt longer," Wallenfang says. "Best of luck for a very safe and enjoyable hunt."
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Kevin Wallenfang, DNR Big Game Ecologist, 608-261-7589
EDITOR'S ADVISORY: A version of this news release was previously issued through regional DNR offices.
MADISON -- It's no accident that hunting in Wisconsin is a safe, fun activity for the entire family, according to Conservation Warden Jon King, who heads the Department of Natural Resources Hunter Education Program.
"And it is getting safer with each year," he says.
Wisconsin has a fatality rate per 100,000 of 0.28 percent when considering a 10-year period. Going hunting is now safer than driving to work.
In 1985, Wisconsin's hunter education certification program became mandatory for all hunters born on or after Jan. 1, 1973. That meant any hunter age 12, the youngest legal hunter, beginning in 1985 had to complete the hunter education program. Individuals applying for a hunter's license this year would have to be at least 39 years old to be exempt and with each passing year the age goes up. Still, many older hunters take the course voluntarily because it is so well designed and useful.
King doesn't stop with the expanded course and outstanding instructors as the sole factors behind Wisconsin's safety record.
"There has been the creation of reasonable opening and closing hours for hunting, mandatory blaze orange clothing requirements for hunters, the growing use of full safety harnesses for tree stand use, global positioning satellite devices, smart phones and more," King says.
Firearm hunting incidents in 2011 also followed the downward trend and came in below the 10-year average of 32 incidents annually. King is confident more can be prevented by following these four basic principles of firearm safety - also known as TABK:
Tree stands and harnesses, and the popular group hunting method involving "deer drives," also pose challenges unless done with safety in mind.
King suggests each deer drive be planned in advance, with safety the top priority.
"Everyone involved in the drive should know and understand the plan - and follow the plan. Always be sure of your target and beyond," he says.
King's easy tree stand tips to follow:
King's deer drive tips:
"By keeping these tips in mind and being dedicated to using them, it will become second nature and safety becomes a reflex," King says. "And that's the goal - to have a safe, fun and successful hunt in Wisconsin where it's all part of our heritage and tradition."
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Jon King - 608-575-2294
EDITOR'S ADVISORY: A version of this news release was previously issued through regional DNR offices.
New rule does not apply to archery deer hunting seasons
EAU CLAIRE - Any hunter now can use a crossbow during any Wisconsin gun deer season, including muzzleloader, under the authority of their gun deer license and gun deer carcass tags, under new rules approved this year that apply to gun seasons only.
An archery license still allows hunting only with a bow and arrow, except that a person age 65 or older and certain qualified disabled hunters may use a crossbow to fill their archery deer carcass tags. Under a 2011 rule change, archers can hunt with bow and arrow during the nine-day gun deer season as long as they comply with the same blaze orange clothing requirements that apply to gun hunters.
The crossbow cannot be used in group hunting, which is limited to the gun deer season and to hunters with a gun license using firearms. In group hunting, one hunter can shoot a deer and another can tag it as long as both have gun deer licenses and the gun deer tag is valid for that unit. The two hunters must be within voice contact without the use of electronic devices such as cell phones or walkie talkies.
Just prior to deer season last year, the regulations changed regarding the transportation of firearms and bows. Highlights are as follows:
DNR conservation wardens are encouraging hunters to review the 2012 hunting regulations pamphlet available at any DNR office or license vendor and also available online at dnr.wi.gov. Just type "deer" into the search box and scroll down for the regulations link. Reviewing the regulations will help ensure a fun, safe and successful hunt.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Ed Culhane, DNR public affairs manager, Eau Claire, 715-781-1683
MADISON - Whitetails aren't the only members of the deer family wandering Wisconsin's Northwoods. Both elk and moose call Wisconsin home and could be mistaken for a deer if hunters don't take the time to be sure of their target and what's beyond. Elk and moose are both protected species in Wisconsin.
"With an increasing population of elk and moose in the state, hunters should be aware that there is a potential to see these animals while hunting this fall," said Kevin Wallenfang, DNR big game ecologist. "Being sure of your target not only ensures the safety of other people, but it is necessary to avoid the accidental shooting of non-target animals."
Since the reintroduction of elk into Wisconsin in 1995, three elk have been accidentally shot by deer hunters. Elk now occupy portions of Ashland, Bayfield, Price, and Sawyer Counties. Both elk and moose are protected species in Wisconsin.
Although Wisconsin has not reintroduced moose, animals do wander into the state and even take up permanent residency as a result of a successful reintroduction in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and a native population of moose in Minnesota. According to Wallenfang, sightings of moose have been most frequent in Wisconsin's northernmost counties this fall, but also as far south as Taylor and Langlade counties.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT; Kevin Wallenfang, DNR big game ecologist, at 608-261-7589
MADISON - A $5 first-time buyer's license for Wisconsin residents makes it easier than ever for family and friends to join in Wisconsin's hunting, fishing and trapping traditions.
Under a 2012 law, certain hunting, trapping and fishing approvals are sold at a reduced fee to people who have not been issued that same type of license, or a conservation patron license, or a sports license, in any of the previous 10 years, according to Penny Kanable, Department of Natural Resources licensing.
For Wisconsin residents, $5 will buy you an annual license for fishing or trapping, or many hunting seasons. Nonresidents also get a price break too, Kanable says. Get more details on DNR's web site by typing in the key words, "first-time buyer."
First-time buyers also can recognize that special person who introduced them to the sport. Wisconsin residents who have been designated as a recruiter 3 or more times within one license year are eligible for discount on the license of their choice the next year, Kanable says.
To recognize that special person, first-time buyers can call 1-888-WDNR Info (1-888-936-7463), and be ready to give their customer number and the recruiter's customer number. Recruiter points are available only for Wisconsin residents.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Penny Kanable (608) 264-8985
Eight counties with confirmed test results
MADISON - With the recent onset of hard frosts across southern Wisconsin, state Department of Natural Resources officials are declaring that the 2012 Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) outbreak is over. The disease has been confirmed in samples submitted from deer found dead in Waukesha, Columbia, Iowa, Rock, Sauk, Dane, Jefferson and Marquette counties.
"Hunters, landowners, and outdoor recreationists have been very helpful in the documentation of this outbreak," said Eric Lobner, DNR Wildlife Supervisor. "We greatly appreciate the extra eyes and ears on the landscape and the subsequent efforts folks made to help us determine the numbers of deer impacted and the geographic extent of the outbreak."
In total, nearly 350 deer were suspected to have died from the disease in southern Wisconsin with Dane and Columbia counties having the highest numbers. As a result there may be pockets on the landscape where deer numbers are down, Lobner said.
"Though the outbreak is over, the DNR still wants to hear from people who identify groups of dead deer on the landscape," Lobner said. "We will continue to assess the impacts and adjust management strategies if determined necessary going into next year."
Wisconsin was not unique in experiencing an EHD outbreak this year. Other Midwestern states, including Michigan, Iowa and Illinois also had EHD outbreaks in 2012. According to Lobner, it was also quite pervasive in several other states across the nation with Michigan and Nebraska being some of the hardest hit.
There was a previous EHD observation in Wisconsin in 2002 in Iowa County where 14 deer died from the virus. EHD is common across southern states and occasionally shows up as far north as the upper Midwest.
Additional information on EHD in Wisconsin and how to report a sick deer can be found at dnr.wi.gov, search keyword "sick deer."
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Eric Lobner, DNR Wildlife Supervisor, 608-235-0860 or Bill Cosh, DNR spokesperson, 608-267-2773
BUTTERNUT, Wis. -- Tucked in the forests of north central Wisconsin, Butternut - population 375 -and its k-12 school district share the state's rich timber history. Now thanks to the work of a teacher, her school and her students the connection to forestry and timber will continue into the future.
Joined by local state elected officials, school staff, and donors, Department of Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp dedicated a new outdoor classroom and student forest, Friday, Nov. 2, before members of the community and nearly half of the 200, K-12 student body.
"This is wonderful. There are so many unique aspects of this," Stepp said, noting that not only are students "learning aspects of the forest," but they are also learning from the team work it took and the other opportunities that were created in opening the classroom, including for building trades students.
"It allows students to have more outdoor education experiences right out here in our forest," said Dawn Ertl, who has taught science at Butternut for 13 years and applied for the Wisconsin Environmental Education Board (exit DNR) grant for the project.
Nearly $30,000 was provided by WEEB to the school to create the indoor/outdoor classrooms and an additional $20,000 of time, labor and materials was provided by the local community.
School forests are unique to Wisconsin having started in 1928 near Crandon, Laona and Wabeno.
Of the state's 424 public school districts, 210 of them have school forests, and of these 210, Butternut was one of six to be awarded a WEEB School Forestry grant in 2011.
In 2011, WEEB awarded about $472,000 in environmental education grants.
School lands total about 25,000 acres and are located in 68 of the 72 counties within Wisconsin. In addition to the forest adjoining the classroom, Butternut has a "working" 40-acre forest.
The 18-feet by 38-feet environmental education classroom will also be used teach across the curriculum, including English and creative writing and art. Built by the school's building trades class, its green features include solar panels and a composting toilet.
A trail begins a few feet from the building and is lined with signs that identify trees by their common and Latin names, along with what they are used for.
Some of these students may one day walk out of the classroom and out of the school's forests for a job in the industry.
According to a 2011 report by The American Forest and Paper Association: Wisconsin is number one among states with forestry jobs employing 56,533 workers and in economic value of wood and paper products shipped at a combined to of more than $16 billion dollars.
"Wisconsin and the forest products industry have been linked since the days of settlement when Wisconsin forests supplied lumber that built the great cities of the upper Midwest. The paper industry also grew along with Wisconsin and today, more than 100 years later, we remain a leader in forest based jobs and forest products," Stepp has noted. "Productive, well managed forests also provide abundant wildlife populations, clean air, clean water and a variety of recreational opportunities,
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Kevin Harter, DNR Northern Region public affairs manager - 715-635-4242
EAGLE, Wis. -- The public will be able to begin using the entire Mukwonago River Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest - the former Rainbow Springs Golf Course property -- when the Department of Natural Resources opens the northern half, or Waukesha County portion, on Saturday, Nov. 10. The south half of the 970-acre parcel located in Walworth Country has been open to the public since the fall of 2008.
Opening the north half provides an additional 550 acres of state land for a range of outdoor recreational activities including hunting, trapping, fishing, hiking, wildlife viewing and cross-country skiing/snowshoeing in close proximity to the large population of southeastern Wisconsin.
"Many people are eager to get on the property to explore and enjoy it," says Paul Sandgren, southern Kettle Moraine State Forest superintendent, who has received a number of questions over the last couple of years about opening the remainder of the parcel.
Access to the parcel will be by pedestrian means only. There are currently parking lots located on Highway E near the Walworth/Waukesha county line and Highway J near Stringers Bridge Road. Visitors will also be allowed to park at the entrance to the former golf course off of Highway LO. The gates at these access points will remain closed and no motor vehicle use will be permitted on the interior of the property.
In addition to the Mukwonago Unit, outdoor enthusiasts have many other opportunities in the vicinity. Just across Highway E to the west is the Lulu Lake State Natural Area, which is more than 800 acres, and the 21,000-acre Kettle Moraine State Forest - Southern Unit, most of which is open to hunting and other outdoor activities, is only a few miles to the west, Sandgren said.
Hunters should be aware of the fact that local town ordinances prohibit the use of rifles larger than .22 caliber in the Waukesha portion of the property. The Walworth County portion does not have a similar ordinance in place.
The Rainbow Spring property was purchased using funds from the state's Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund. The northern portion of the property was initially leased to the previous owner for two years and has recently remained closed while a number of buildings that were safety hazards were demolished and other site restoration work was completed.
The entire 970 acres of the Rainbow Springs property will become part of the Mukwonago River Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest and the Department of Natural Resources will begin work on developing a master plan for the unit in December 2012. The master plan will determine the eventual uses that will be permitted and what facilities will be developed on the property.
Additional information can be obtained by calling the Kettle Moraine State Forest Headquarters at 262-594-6200.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Paul Sandgren, 262-594-6204
MADISON - Seventy-five years ago, deer and other wildlife were still a rare sight in many parts of Wisconsin and the United States. Despite being in the midst of the Great Depression, U.S. Congress members came together to lay the financial foundation for conserving and restoring wildlife.
They approved legislation commonly known as the Pittman-Robertson Act in 1937, which established an excise tax on the sale of hunting and archery equipment. That cooperation, and the investments of sportsmen and women, created a key revenue source for conservation nationally and in Wisconsin.
A special web feature, "75 years of investments in conservation: Pittman-Robertson Act yields natural dividends," uses videos, a slide show and other media to tell the story behind this important conservation foundation and what Wisconsin has accomplished with the investments made by sportsmen and women since, Department of Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp says.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service video
"We owe a big thanks to the foresight of those legislative and conservation leaders 75 years ago, and to the investments that sportsmen and women have made since," she says. "Wisconsin's received nearly $200 million and the results of that investment can be seen in the great, safe hunting enjoyed today as well as in the recovery of bald eagles, trumpeter swans, and other wildlife."
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Randy Stark, 608-266-1115
MADISON - Recycling has long been a daily habit and a state law for Wisconsinites and for good reason - recycling works! Every can, bottle and newspaper we recycle saves resources and energy, reduces the amount of waste in landfills, supplies raw materials to industry and creates jobs.
To celebrate all the great benefits of recycling, the Department of Natural Resources is encouraging people across the state to participate in America Recycles Day on November 15.
"This annual event encourages Americans to waste less, recycle more and purchase recycled products," said Ann Coakley, DNR Waste and Materials Management Program Director. "There are lots of ways you can make a difference!"
In honor of America Recycles Day, here are 10 ways to boost the amount you and your family recycle. Try one, try several or try them all!
Recycling is easy, and with 5 million Wisconsinites taking part, it makes a big difference to the economy and the environment. For more information on America Recycles Day, including a listing of events or to list your own local event, see americarecyclesday.org (exit DNR).
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Elisabeth Olson, 608-264-9258
The Weekly News is updated every Tuesday at noon.
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