October 2009 Issue
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Once again, I take exception to the DNR's lack of accountability for low deer numbers and for seeming to place responsibility on hunters (Sizing up the herd October 2009). I realize that we are a vital component of the herd estimates, but it seems more than ever that the onus is being placed on our shoulders, not the agency's.
In terms of the SAK [sex/ age/kill calculation], the DNR says, "This data is combined with information gathered during field studies... "What "studies?" Hunters – especially in northern Wisconsin – have been saying that deer sightings during the gun season have decreased for at least six years. Historically, SAK has not taken into account what the hunters actually see in the woods as part of their herd estimate. Granted, the agency plans to implement this into the 2009 season at registration stations, but why has it taken so long for hunters' voices to be heard? "Our deer management program is also exploring opportunities to take full advantage of field observations by hunters, landowners and other citizens to better monitor the herd." Finally! We are the eyes and ears about what is actually going on in the woods. But don't expect much input from landowners who seem more interested in keeping the deer on their property than having concerns about the overall size of the deer herd.
On a final note, the DNR needs to stand up and ban baiting once and for all. No one can dispute that baiting has altered deer movement, and in the end, deer harvest. Your story states "encourage other hunters to stop baiting in the area you are hunting. "Why doesn't the DNR finally take a stand on this issue and ban it, instead of once again, placing the responsibility on hunters?
I read Sizing up the herd as well as the various links that were available. I would submit that if the estimates and data used to come to the conclusions held by the DNR are accurate, then we need to reassess what is an appropriate size herd. If what I have seen in the woods for the last couple years is a sign of the state of Wisconsin's deer hunting future, then my hunting career will be cut short. I can find alternate, more productive and gratifying ways to spend my money than throwing it away watching squirrels. I know that I am not alone having read a letter to the editor tonight in my local paper expressing similar sentiment.
After reading the October issue (Sizing up the herd), I was a little surprised that author Keith Warnke did not mention forest habitat damage in his detailed article about estimating deer herd numbers. DNR used to take that factor very seriously. Writing in 1946 Ernie Swift observed, "too many deer will over-browse valuable species of forest growth so that they will be mutilated, stunted, deformed or even killed." The problem has not gotten any better since. I have seen almost all the pine and balsam regeneration on my forest land halted in the past 30 years by ever increasing deer numbers.
I would love to see an article about deer damage to forest ecosystems in your fine magazine. This summer I tried but could not find a single instance of American yew growing wild in northern Wisconsin, although it was abundant here historically. High deer numbers have just about wiped it out on the mainland, and I hear deer have now reached the outermost reaches of the Apostle Islands and it's in danger of extirpation there too. Thanks and keep up the good work.
WNR magazine replies...
We published a story in our October 2007 issue (Appetite for trouble) on the effects that browsing deer have on forests, croplands and around our homes. The story documented research showing an 18 percent decline in native species over 50 years of deer browsing, and the estimated $115 million impact on crops, property and personal injury.
If enough hunters express their viewpoint on baiting, maybe the powers that be will put an end to the practice. Deer baiting, legally or illegally, is getting out of hand. I live in Deer Management Unit 16 and it seems everyone I know is baiting deer for hunting purposes. My family is about to quit hunting altogether because of the practice. It has become a game as to which landowner has the best attractant to his land. We are teaching a whole generation of hunters not how to hunt, but how to bait. Time has come to make a change. I'm in favor of a complete stop to this practice statewide.
Thanks for the article about Aztalan State Park in your October issue (Who were they and why did they leave?), written by Natasha Kassulke. We visited the park in early September and were just blown away by its historical significance.
I recently read the article Who were they and why did they leave? The article is well researched, well written and very informative. It is an example of what those of us with interests that include hunting and fishing but go well beyond are looking for. Kudos to Ms. Kassulke.
I recently read your December article about Patterson Hemlocks State Natural Area. I own a woodlot in Marathon County that contains six groves of hemlocks mixed with maple, birch, red oak, white pine and cherry. There is very little undergrowth as little light gets through and the smaller trees are topped off. We call one grove "the island" because it is isolated by two streams. On cold hunting days we can sit on "the island," eat our turkey sandwiches and be as warm as if we were sitting in front of a fireplace. I should cut the mature hemlocks, but for now I let my wood cutter harvest them when they fall. Our hemlock "island" is worth seeing.
I just finished reading a reader's comments, "Bull Snake Tales," where he referenced a previous WNR article about bull snakes that I somehow missed (April 2007, More bluff than bite). For years, I've been trying to locate a book or a short story I remember that was narrated by a bull snake about the events in his everyday life. I read it many years ago and would like to see it again as it was so fascinating. Perhaps another reader recalls it. Thanks.
The magazine's October response to a letter asking about sandbar use on the Wisconsin River near the Dells of the Wisconsin River State Natural Area needs clarification. The Department of Natural Resources does not prohibit use of the beaches/sandbars on DNR-owned land in the stretch of the river within the Dells of the Wisconsin River State Natural Area, roughly from Stand Rock downstream to the dam in Wisconsin Dells. The master plan specifically states that "sandbars will be open for public use with restrictions." Those restrictions include no overnight mooring of boats, no camping, no glass containers, no charcoal grills (per NR 45). However, the cliffs adjacent to the sandbars ARE off-limits to the public, as are the lands "behind" (landward of) the sandbars. These areas are posted as "closed areas." The DNR recognized the long history of the public's beach/sandbar use at the Dells, and worked to craft a reasonable solution to accommodate it. The University of Wisconsin has its own regulations for public use of its sandbars and beaches at Blackhawk Island and Camp Upham Woods and is certainly within its legal rights to prohibit public use or impose restrictions.