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Hunters react to no 16-day hunt
Photo supplied Brian Zimmerman, Monroe, shot this buck earlier this year. An avid bow hunter, he isnt concerned about a 16-day gun deer season, which was abruptly removed as a DNR proposal for 2010.
MONROE - The reaction from hunters was swift to Department of Natural Resources Secretary Matt Frank's Dec. 4 letter to Natural Resources Board President Christine Thomas, reversing the agency's plans for a 16-day gun deer season in 2010.

The proposal, slated for approval at the Natural Resources Board (NRB) meetings Tuesday and Wednesday, was abruptly dropped after the state registered its lowest white-tail deer harvest in 27 years. The preliminary tally for the nine-day November gun hunt was 195,647 compared to a preliminary harvest of 276,895 deer in 2008.

"For once I agree with the DNR," said Mike Rufer, Monroe with a laugh. "I'm not for it (16-day season) at all after what's happened around here," he said.

Rufer and several friends hunt his 152-acre property in Lafayette County. He has been hunting white-tails for more than 20 years and usually shoots mature does rather than male deer.

"I've only shot four bucks my whole life," he said. I usually try to get 100 pounds of meat and then I quit," he added.

Dave Ladd, Dodgeville, plans to attend the NRB meeting this week. Ladd served on the Wisconsin Conservation Congress for more than 35 years and co-chaired the Deer 2000 Committee. He has been a frequent critic of DNR attempts to offer more hunts in addition to the traditional November gun hunt and has opposed the 16-day proposal.

"We need to stay with the nine-day hunt," he said.

Others like Brian Zimmerman, Monroe, are less concerned about a longer gun season. Despite the fact that he is an avid bow hunter who might want the woods all to himself during the rut. Zimmerman would leave the matter up to DNR game managers.

He recognizes the problem for hunters in some parts of the state where deer numbers are down, however.

"I feel sorry for the guys up north who aren't seeing any deer. I just feel fortunate to have access to ample hunting opportunities," he said. "This is the 'golden age' for deer hunters in this part of the state."

The Earn-a-Buck (EAB) requirement, scuttled throughout the state except within the CWD Management Zone, is also facing heavy scrutiny. The Hunters Rights Coalition, representing several conservation organizations, has made elimination of EAB a high priority everywhere in Wisconsin.

Randy Steiner at Four Seasons Resort near Yellowstone Lake agrees that change is necessary. He registered 92 deer during the November gun hunt, verses 157 last year.

"We might start out with everybody getting one buck tag, then go with Earn-a-Buck after that. It makes it especially bad for young hunters who might have had a chance at a nice buck, but don't have a buck tag," Steiner said.

Adding to the problem, according to Steiner, is the change in the buck-doe ratio because of EAB.

"It's harder to get a doe because there are fewer of them," he said.

The dramatic decline in numbers has caught the attention of the state legislature. Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker, D-Weston, has called for the firing of top-level deer managers within the DNR due to their miscalculations on deer numbers.

Rep. Scott Suder, R-Abbotsford, is also critical of the DNR's policies.

"It's time for the DNR to realize that the people who pay their salaries by purchasing licenses every year aren't going to stand for the same old bureaucratic spin any longer. We need some real answers, and we need them now," Suder said.