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ARCHIVED Weekly News Published February 14, 2012

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Wisconsin leads nation in trophy whitetail bucks

MADISON -- The number of trophy bucks taken in Wisconsin has risen by 857 percent in 30 years, with a record-breaking 383 entries during the five years ending in 2010, according to historical records kept by the venerable Boone and Crockett Club.

Marlin buck
Wisconsin Buck & Bear Club measurer Marlin Laidlaw of Marshfield with a large buck he shot a few years ago. While impressive, it falls short of record book standards.
Contributed photo

That makes Wisconsin the number one state or Canadian province in North America for trophy whitetail production, muscling up from its earlier position of third.

The records show the number of trophy white-tailed deer in North America shot up by 400 percent during the past 30 years. During the period from 1980 to 1985, North American hunters entered 617 trophy whitetails, every one of those antlers scored by a certified Boone and Crocket "measurer," a designation that can take years to earn.

For the period 2005-2010, that number jumped to 3,090 trophy deer, dramatic evidence that North America's whitetail deer herd has grown by leaps and bounds.

One long-time, certified measurer is Marlin Laidlaw of the Wisconsin Buck & Bear Club, also a member of the Wisconsin Conservation Congress big game committee. Laidlaw says Wisconsin's number one ranking is about a lot more than numbers.

Laidlaw said while there is good deer range throughout the state, there are more unofficial refuges now - private lands where deer are not hunted or are hunted lightly - where bucks have a chance to grow older.

"Plus, you have people who just don't care to shoot small bucks anymore," Laidlaw said.

The last half century has seen a remarkable shift in hunter attitudes, Laidlaw said. He recalls the story of the third largest buck ever shot in Wisconsin, taken by Joe Haske in Wood County in 1945.

Haske was surprised when a big buck flushed right in front of him. He instinctively fired, hitting the deer in the rear, an unfortunate shot placement from the standpoint of a butcher.

As Haske's son, Roger, told the story, other hunters gathered to admire the magnificent antlers. Even then, when hunters didn't think much in terms of trophies, they recognized there was something special about this deer.

"But I remember my dad just being so mad about all the meat he'd ruined," the younger Haske told Laidlaw. "When the others remarked on the antlers, he shot back, 'You can't eat the horns.'"

Back then, and even into the 1980s, Laidlaw said, hunters were primarily interested in trading their buck tag for a freezer full of venison. Then as now, a young deer became a legal buck, for hunting purposes, when its fork horns reached a length of just 3 inches.

"About 85 percent of the harvest was legal bucks," Laidlaw said, "so there wasn't much carry over. Meat was meat. If it had 3-inch horns, it was dead."

But it's a fact that big bucks excite hunters; research has shown that just seeing a big buck can cause a hunter's heart rates to skyrocket. That's one reason big game hunter Teddy Roosevelt founded the Boone and Crockett Club in 1887 and why he and others developed a system in 1906 for scoring trophy game animals - whether deer, elk, bighorn sheep, caribou, antelope or bear.

"He (Roosevelt) felt they deserved recognition for what they had accomplished in the wild," Laidlaw said. "We don't measure people. We measure their trophies."

In the case of deer, antlers are scored with a series of precise measurements to include the circumference of the beams at four locations on each side, the length of each of the tines reaching skyward and the widest inside spread between the upward curving beams. Measuring the separate class of "non-typical" antlers is more complex.

In the 1960s, there were only a handful of Boone and Crockett measurers in Wisconsin. One of them was Pete Haupt, a colorful hunting guide in Hayward who believed Wisconsin wasn't getting recognition for its trophy hunting opportunities. In 1965 he and others - including Bob Hults, Arnie Krueger and Gerald Younk - founded the Wisconsin Buck and Bear Club with the mission of training measurers and "keeping Wisconsin No.1 in the record books."

In 1961, the national Pope and Young Club was formed to recognize trophies taken by bow hunters.

Both national clubs are ardent supporters of fair chase ethics and sound conservation practices as is the Wisconsin club.

In 1965, Wisconsin had five deer listed in the Boone and Crocket record book. There are now more than 300. There are more than 1,500 Wisconsin entries in the Pope and Young book and more than 5,000 deer have qualified for Wisconsin state records maintained by the Wisconsin Buck & Bear Club, which was sanctioned by the Wisconsin Legislature in 1996 as the as the state's official big game records keepers. The minimum standard for state trophy deer is marginally less stringent for gun hunting, 150 points vs. 170 points for the Boone and Crocket records.

Just as the number of certified trophy scorers has grown in Wisconsin, Laidlaw said, so has the information available to hunters. In the 1960s they were lucky to find a single book on deer hunting in a school library. Those same libraries are now well stocked, and the Internet - along with the emergence of cell phones, global positioning devices and motion-activated trail cameras - has changed the game completely.

"I'm wondering if there is a deer in Wisconsin that hasn't been photographed," Laidlaw said.

In recent decades, Laidlaw said, the "quality deer" movement emerged with landowners banding together and establishing hunting guidelines under which young bucks were more likely to survive. "Let 'em go, let 'em grow" has become a mantra among some hunters, even being adopted as a trademarked slogan by the Wisconsin Bear & Buck Club.

Not everything is rosy, Laidlaw said. He and others, while often fond of their local deer biologists, have been critical of state Department of Natural Resources deer management policies. A common complaint is that the DNR has not found a way to manage for quality deer hunting on public lands where hunters with little or no access to private property congregate with little incentive to "let 'em go."

Laidlaw said many hunters believe predator populations, primarily wolf and bear, have been allowed to grow too large. A great deal of research and public debate is being directed at these issues.

But in the meantime, Laidlaw and other measurers with the Wisconsin Buck and Bear Club draw crowds when they set up at small town fairs and big city deer shows. At each of these events, dozens and sometimes hundreds of people bring in their deer mounts - or their grandparent's deer mounts - to be officially scored, and they bring their stories with them, Laidlaw said.

While the Boone and Crockett Club is celebrating the resurgence of the North American deer herd and the exponential growth in trophy deer, the 150 or so highly trained measurers with the Wisconsin Buck and Bear Club can celebrate the unrivaled success of their public outreach efforts.

When it comes to keeping Wisconsin number one for trophy deer, they can justifiably claim "mission accomplished."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Ed Culhane, DNR west central region public affairs manager, 715-781-1683.

The Boone and Crockett state-by-state ranking of trophy deer entries can be found on the organization's website:

Wisconsin Buck & Bear Club website:

Information on deer research in Wisconsin and much more can be found on the DNR website.



More spearing on point for the 2012 Lake Winnebago sturgeon season

"There's still lots of time and opportunity"

OSHKOSH, Wis. -- Improving ice conditions and a break in snowy weather should make for plenty of spearing opportunities for lake sturgeon this week on Lake Winnebago after a slow opening weekend.


A 79.6- inch, 179.9-pound female sturgeon taken by Chris Haedt of Oshkosh. The fish is the 5th largest fish on record since the fishery began in 1932.

"There's still lots of time and lots of opportunity on Lake Winnebago," says Ron Bruch, Department of Natural Resources fisheries supervisor in Oshkosh. "There were 400 more shacks out on Sunday than Saturday, so people are taking advantage of the improved ice conditions. If you're not out here now, hopefully you will be able to make it out before the end of the season."

The Upriver Lakes season closed Sunday after reaching the harvest cap for those waters. The spearing season on Lake Winnebago runs through Feb. 26 or until the number of sturgeon speared triggers the shutdown of the season. DNR sets harvest caps to limit to 5 percent of the adult spawning stock the number of fish harvested. A running harvest total and detailed information about registration from each station is found on DNR's Winnebago System Sturgeon Spearing Season 2012 web page.

"If it doesn't get too warm where we lose ice or get too much snow that creates difficult travel conditions, I think we'll see the number of spearers on Lake Winnebago building over the week. It could be like a second opening day."

Poor ice conditions and fair water clarity on Lake Winnebago resulted in a modern record low harvest of 39 for an opening day on the big lake, while close to normal spearing effort and clear water on the Upriver lakes resulted in a higher than average opening day harvest from those lakes.

That pace continued on Sunday, and the Upriver Lakes season closed after spearing hours.

It was the shortest season on the lakes -- Poygan, Butte des Morte and Winneconne -- since a lottery fishery began in 2007.

Upriver Lakes produces trophy fish, faster action

Again this year, a high proportion of the registered fish exceeded 100 pounds, regarded as "trophy" fish. Of the 210 fish registered system-wide on opening day, 12, or 5.7 percent, were trophy fish; closer to 1 percent has been typical.

Ten of those trophy fish were from the Upriver Lakes including the 79.6 inch, 179.9 pound female taken by Chris Haedt of Oshkosh. Her fish is the fifth largest fish on record since the fishery began in 1932.

On Monday, Feb. 13, Mikey Galligan of Oshkosh registered a 175.3 pound, 78.5 inch female sturgeon from Lake Winnebago, the sixth largest fish by weight on record.

Bruch says the faster action and bigger fish on the Upriver Lakes could be due to a number of factors: the water was very clear, which makes it easier to see the fish and spear them, and there were more adult females staging in the small lakes than normal.

"Normally, these pre-spawn fish are spread all over the river system," Bruch says. "We're not sure why a higher percentage were in the Upriver Lakes this year. It may have been the warm weather, or some other weather phenomenon that may have caused fish to change their migration patterns.

"Or maybe it was a food thing. There's a gizzard shad hatch up there that we don't have on Lake Winnebago. They may have just stayed up there at the buffet table a little longer."

Videos, photo slide shows and other information about sturgeon and the sturgeon spearing season can be found on DNR's 2012 Sturgeon Spearing Season feature page (click on the numbered squares in the top right hand corner to see different features for every day).

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Ron Bruch (920) 427-9831; Trish Ossmann (920) 662-5122



Retired Lake Michigan research boat for sale

MILWAUKEE -- For sale: a boatload of Lake Michigan history.

The state has put up for sale a 75-year-old steel-hulled gill net boat that plied Lake Michigan waters for decades, first helping conservation wardens check on commercial fishermen and more recently helping fisheries staff monitor the health of yellow perch, whitefish, and other Lake Michigan fishing favorites.

The boat, the RV Barney Devine, is listed for sale on People can search that website for "Barney Devine" for more information and for the latest purchase bid. Revenues from the boat's sale go into the Fish and Wildlife Account, which supports natural resource programs including fisheries, wildlife management, law enforcement, and research.

"The Barney Devine has been a stalwart, seaworthy and dependable ship working on Lake Michigan on behalf of the citizens of the state of Wisconsin for more than seven decades," says Brad Eggold, DNR fisheries supervisor for southern Lake Michigan.

"As with many things in life, this chapter of Wisconsin's Lake Michigan history has to come to an end. We're hoping the Barney Devine can find a new home and continue its service for new owners."

The Barney Devine was replaced in August 2011 when the Department of Natural Resources took delivery of a new faster, more versatile research vessel. The new vessel, the 60-foot RV Coregonus, so named after the fish genus that includes lake whitefish, lake herring and bloater chubs, was built by Burger Boat Company of Manitowoc, the company that built the Barney Devine. Watch videos about the history and construction of both boats on DNR's New Lake Michigan Research Boat Starts Its Mission page.

The DNR bought the vessel in 1940 and renamed it the RV Barney Devine after Chief Conservation Warden Barney Devine who had died in December 1940 while still in office.

The 50-foot, 37-ton Barney Devine had been used to check commercial fishers, haul gill nets, conduct fisheries research, and take on a host of water quality studies and Great Lakes law enforcement. The vessel played an important role in helping maintain Wisconsin's Great Lakes sport and commercial fisheries. Sportfishing generates a $418.8 million dollar economic impact, supports more than 5,000 jobs, and generates $28 million in state and local tax revenues on Lake Michigan and Lake Superior.

Last Mission of the RV Barney Devine

A job well done: the 74-year-old RV Barney Devine steamed out of Milwaukee Harbor in December 2010 for one last netting survey for yellow perch.


    RV Barney Devine breaking through ice in Sturgeon Bay


    A view from the pilot house


    Cheryl Peterson, fisheries technician from Milwaukee tries her hand at piloting the boat


    Dave Schindelholz, Brad Eggold, Pradeep Hirethota, and Cheryl Peterson pose for one last picture on the Barney Devine


    A look at sea conditions off Milwaukee during Barney's last yellow perch assessment


    "Pancake ice" two miles offshore


    Staff buoy showing the location of yellow perch nets


    Dick Pagel, retired captain of the RV Barney Devine holds down the fort


    Fisheries technician, Dave Schindelholz, boxes yellow perch nets under the watchful eye of Captain Dick Pagel


    Dick Pagel and Dave Schindelholz stop to pose for a picture


    Tim Kroeff, fisheries technician, monitors the setting of the yellow perch gill net


    The crew picks out fish from the net as it comes out of the water


    Research Vessel Captain, Brandon Bastar, holds a trophy-sized yellow perch


    Dick Pagel, Brad Eggold, Cheryl Peterson, Tim Kroeff, Brandon Bastar and Pradeep Hirethota take some time for a group photo during one of the last surveys


    The RV Barney Devine makes its way through the ice


    Ken Royseck, fisheries technician; Scott Hansen, fisheries biologist; and Pat McKee, fisheries technician, gather round to bring in the RV Barney Devine from its last mission.


    The RV Barney Devine gets tied up at the WATER Institute in Milwaukee


    Crew for one of the last trips onboard the RV Barney Devine after the cruise: Pradeep Hirethota, Brad Eggold, Dave Schindelholz, Brandon Bastar, Dick Pagel, Cheryl Peterson and Tim Kroeff


FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Brad Eggold (414) 382-7921



Awards recognize urban and community forest friends

GREEN BAY - The efforts of individuals and organizations to preserve, protect, expand and improve Wisconsin's urban and community forests have been recognized by the Wisconsin Urban Forestry Council with a series of awards announced at the council's annual conference that was held in Green Bay at the end of January.

The Wisconsin Urban Forestry Council advises the Department of Natural Resources Division of Forestry on the best ways to manage urban and community forest resources. The awards are a way to recognize and thank individuals and organizations for their work and dedication and to help focus attention on a valuable community resource: the trees, plantings and habitat that are an integral part of Wisconsin's forest resource, according to Kelli Tuttle, president of Bluestem Forestry Consulting and council chair.

Recipients of the 2011 Urban Forestry Awards for their support of the state's urban and community forest resources are:

  • Dr. R. Chris Williamson, University of Wisconsin-Madison associate professor and state entomology specialist, received the Distinguished Service Award for his leadership in serving the urban forestry community through entomology research, education and outreach, with emphasis on invasive insects including emerald ash borer.
  • Oconomowoc Junior Women's Club and the City of Oconomowoc Parks & Forestry Department, received the Project Partnership Award for their sustained partnership to plant trees in Oconomowoc parks on Arbor Day in celebration of the birth of babies born to club members. More than 100 trees have been planted since 1982.
  • The Green Bay Packers, received the Innovations in Urban Forestry Award for "First Downs for Trees," an innovative approach to offset carbon produced during away game travel by planting trees in Brown County for each first down achieved during the regular season.
  • Arthur J. Bushue, Village of Clinton Trustee, received the Distinguished Service of an Elected Official Award in recognition of his leadership and support in guiding the development of a comprehensive urban forestry program for the Village of Clinton, which serves as a model for other Wisconsin communities.
  • Harry Libby received the Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of sustained leadership while serving as Middleton City Forester for 19 years and guiding the development of a comprehensive and proactive municipal urban forestry program resulting in increased tree canopy.

Award plaques and local recognition will be presented at award ceremonies in the honorees' home communities.

More information about Wisconsin Urban Forestry Council and how to nominate a worthy individual and/or project for recognition is available on the "Urban Forestry Council" pages of the DNR website.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Laura Wyatt - 608-267-0568



Order seedlings now for spring 2012 planting

MADISON -- Winter allows landowners a chance to relax and enjoy their property as it is draped in a blanket of snow. It's also a great time for them to consider tree planting on their property next spring.

The Spring 2012 Tree and Shrub Ordering Form is now available from the Department of Natural Resources State Nursery Program. The form includes information about tree and shrub species that are available and directions on how to order. Species information and tips on how to prepare a site can also be found on the DNR Forestry Division's website.

"Every year, Wisconsin landowners plant millions of tree seedlings to enhance and restore forests, according to Jim Storandt, manager of the Griffith State Nursery in Wisconsin Rapids.

And when a landowner is thinking about what species of trees to plant, the first place to turn for advice is the local DNR office. Each county has a DNR forester available to visit your land, answer questions, and help the landowner get the maximum benefits from their tree-planting activities.

"Landowners contemplating large tree planting projects should contact their local DNR forester or a private consulting forester for advice on species selection, site preparation, planting methods, cost-sharing programs, tree planter rentals, and other considerations in establishing a successful forest tree planting," Storandt said. Contact information for all DNR foresters can also be found on the DNR website.

Even though these trees will not be distributed and planted until spring, Storandt said it is important to order now because many desirable species sell out quickly.

Landowners can purchase seedlings from the DNR state nurseries for reforestation, wildlife habitat, and windbreak and erosion-control purposes. Customers who would like to select specific seedlings or shrubs must order a minimum quantity of 1,000 tree seedlings or 500 wildlife shrubs. Another option is to purchase a pre-mixed seedling packets of 300 seedlings, usually good for landowners new to planting or those with small acreages.

Hardwood tree species available from the state nurseries include red oak, bur oak, swamp white oak, white oak, black cherry, silver maple, sugar maple, river birch, white birch, yellow birch, cottonwood, shagbark hickory, butternut and black walnut. Conifer tree species available include white spruce, white pine, red pine, jack pine, hemlock and white cedar. Wildlife shrubs available include hazelnut, ninebark, American plum, silky dogwood and red-osier dogwood.

"The seedlings grown at the state nurseries are high-quality native species grown from seed harvested in Wisconsin," Storandt said. "Planting these Wisconsin-grown trees and shrubs is a great way to improve wildlife habitat, increase the value of the land, reduce soil erosion, improve overall aesthetics, and possibly generate income for the landowner."

Seedlings and shrubs are distributed in April and early May. Landowners who order from the DNR can pick up their seedlings at the state nurseries located in Boscobel, Hayward, or Wisconsin Rapids, or in many counties, at a central location designated by the local DNR forester.

"Staff at the state nurseries places a high value on customer service," Storandt said. "Information on tree and shrub inventory is updated regularly. The State Nursery Seeding Catalog [pdf] provides information on the various seeding species. A Frequently Asked Questions page along with links to additional tree planting information help landowners to maximize their investment."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Griffith State Nursery in Wisconsin Rapids - 715-424-3700 or Wilson State Nursery in Boscobel - 608-375-4123



February Natural Resources Board meeting set

MADISON -- Wisconsin's Natural Resources Board, the policy making body for the Department of Natural Resources, will hold a joint meeting with the Wisconsin Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection Board on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2012 at 1 p.m. in the Board Room at the Wisconsin State Agriculture Building, 2811 Agriculture Drive, Madison.

The two boards will receive presentations and have discussions on chronic wasting disease and federal funding, farmland preservation, and nutrient management. Items on the joint meeting agenda are informational only and the board's will take no action on them. No public testimony will be accepted.

The Natural Resources Board will continue with its regular February business meeting at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 22, in Room G09, of the State Natural Resources Building (GEF 2), 101 South Webster St., Madison. An agenda can be found on the Natural Resources Board pages of the DNR website, click on meeting agendas, then, the date of the meeting in which you are interested.

The board provides opportunities for citizens to appear and to submit written comments regarding issues that come before the board. Requests for citizen participation and public appearances on specific action items must be made and written comments must be submitted to the Natural Resources Board liaison no later than 4 p.m. on the Friday prior to the meeting.

A citizen participation session will be held as part of February meeting. Call 608- 267-7420 or email the board liaison, Laurie Ross [] before 4 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 17, to schedule an appearance or to submit written comments.

The seven-member Natural Resources Board, appointed by the governor with consent of the state senate, provides policy direction for programs administered by the Department of Natural Resources. Members serve without pay on a voluntary basis and are chosen from throughout the state.

The public is welcome to attend Natural Resources Board meetings.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Laurie J. Ross - (608) 267-7420 or Laurel Steffes (608) 266-8109


Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, February 14, 2012

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