MADISON - Either sex harvest for bow and gun hunting, shorter seasons and a longer break between them highlight changes to deer hunting rules for southern Wisconsin's chronic wasting disease (CWD) zones this fall.
The rules, approved earlier this year by the Natural Resources Board, the Department of Natural Resources' policy-making body, and later reviewed by the state legislature, "were formulated in response to what we have been hearing from many hunters over the past four years," said Alan Crossley, CWD project leader for the DNR.
Hunters have said that shorter seasons and a more concentrated effort will get deer moving and result in the greater harvest that's necessary to manage the disease. There is, however, some disagreement among hunters on how best to achieve herd reduction in the zone; some who attended more recent forums believed that Earn-a-buck, which requires the registration of an antlerless deer to earn a buck tag, should remain in place to reduce deer numbers.
"There are no easy answers in meeting herd reduction and hunter satisfaction needs," he said. "We know Earn a buck is effective in lowering deer density by removing does and therefore cutting fawn production, but either-sex gives hunters a chance to harvest a large buck early in the season and removes older bucks, which have twice the disease prevalence as does.
"The important thing this fall is for hunters to step to the plate and shoot enough deer of both sexes as we continue toward our long-term goal of eradicating the disease."
Options remain in place to extend the season and reinstate earn-a-buck if it appears that management goals are not being met.
Hunters can harvest as many deer as they choose under the either-sex regulation in both of southern Wisconsin's Eastern and Western Disease Eradication Zones (DEZ) and much larger Herd Reduction Zone (HRZ) during bow and gun seasons. Either sex tags will be available in early September at all registration stations in the DEZs, some licensed vendors and DNR offices. More information will soon be available on the DNR chronic wasting disease Web page.
DEZ and HRZ boundaries were not changed and remain the same as last year. A map of the CWD zone boundaries can be viewed on the DNR Web site.
The bow and gun seasons for the Eastern and Western DEZs and the HRZ this fall are:
Gun Hunting in the Disease Eradication Zones
Nov. 18- Dec. 10
Gun Hunting in the Herd Reduction Zone
Nov. 18-Dec. 10
Archery Hunting in the Disease Eradication and Herd Reduction Zones
Sept. 16-Jan. 7
Youth Gun Hunt
Hunters are reminded that all hunters, except waterfowl hunters, must wear blaze orange clothing for any type of hunting during any open gun deer season.
Hunters who shot and registered an antlerless deer in a CWD unit last year in the belief that they were pre-qualifying for earn-a-buck (EAB) in 2006 will be extended EAB prequalification statewide. They can contact the DNR through the department's earn-a-buck prequalification Web page or by stopping at a DNR Service Center and requesting they be added to the prequalification list.
CWD was discovered in Wisconsin in February 2002 through routine testing of deer harvested during the November 2001 season. Since then, 100,106 wild deer have been tested across the state, and a total of 652 of those deer have tested CWD-positive. All infected wild deer were harvested in the current CWD zones of Southern Wisconsin.
CWD is an always fatal nervous system disease affecting deer, elk and moose. It is a member of the transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) family of diseases which also includes mad cow disease in cattle, scrapie in sheep, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans.
Though the exact mode of transmission remains unknown, CWD is believed to spread through deer to deer contact as well as through a contaminated environment. No known cure exists, and reducing deer populations remains the best approach to managing the disease, according to Crossley.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Alan Crossley, CWD project leader, (608) 275-3242 or Keith Warnke, big game ecologist, (608) 264-6023