Outdoors: County deer crashes at record levels
Last year’s vehicle-deer crashes in Kewaunee County were at a level higher than any seen this century, and will likely set another record this year.
Kewaunee County Sheriff Matt Joski pulled data from as far back as he could, to the Wisconsin state record deer hunting harvest year of 2000. Fifteen years ago, 252 car/deer collisions were reported in Kewaunee County. The number has fluctuated up and down since, but began to climb again in 2012 when 369 were reported, surpassed 400 for the first time in 2013 (403) and soared to 458 last year.
This mid-October, just prior to the start of the annual whitetail rut, the year-to-date number stood at 312. But by Wednesday morning this week, Joski said it had climbed to 401, with an average of about four crashes per day this month.
Deer mating activity is at or near peak, with some rutting likely to trickle into opening weekend of the gun season. This is the last weekend to sight in your firearms or check your stand sites prior to next Saturday’s opener.
The long-range forecast is changing daily. At midweek, one computer model suggested more heavy rain, and highs in the 40s, which obviously would be a big blow to the harvest. Another called for highs in the 30s, winds from the west/northwest at 10 to 15 miles per hour and partly cloudy. Guess we’ll wait and see.
Recent rains have really filled the swamps, and if you haven’t been to a stand in the Black Ash, Duvall or Kewaunee swamp — or other similar low-lying areas — you’d better be prepared with knee or hip boots.
New roadkill rules
DNR chief warden Todd Schaller said the state budget passed this summer contained several provisions related to car-killed deer procedures that mostly eliminated local law enforcement from the picture.
The new rule allows for possession and removal of a deer carcass from the scene of an accident once an individual notifies DNR by calling 608-267-7691 and provides their name, address and the carcass location.
This notification must be completed before taking possession or removing the carcass from the scene.
What hasn’t changed is that law enforcement officers must still tag car-killed wild turkeys and black bear.
The operator of a motor vehicle that collides with and kills a deer has the first opportunity to take possession of the carcass. If the “striking operator” does not want to take the carcass, any other person who is present at the scene of the accident, or any other person who arrives at the scene after the collision has occurred, may take possession of the carcass in compliance with the new deer requirements.
Through Nov. 7 — the first eight weeks of the 2015 bow and crossbow seasons (and including the youth gun hunt weekend) — Door and Kewaunee County’s camo and blaze orange crew had registered 1,537 whitetails.
The numbers include 839 in Door County (371 with bow, 364 with crossbow and 104 in the youth hunt) and 698 in Kewaunee County (350, 271 and 77, respectively).
The buck kill really took off the first week of November, and the numbers now show both Door and KC with more bucks than antlerless — 452 bucks in Door and 433 in Kewaunee — 885 of the 1,537 total.
Statewide, north of 17,000 additional deer were taken from Oct. 31-Nov. 7 (11,000-plus with bow, 6,000-plus with crossbow), an average of more than 2,000 per day.
Archers reported 38,479 deer (22,592 bucks) and crossbow users 23,615 (14,643 bucks) for a total of more than 62,000 combined. Including the youth count of 3,351 bucks and 3,898 antlerless, nearly 70,000 deer have been tagged and more than 40,000 have been bucks.
While those numbers may sound incredible to gun-only hunters, more bucks and antlerless whitetails will be killed the first two days of the nine-day gun hunt than during the first two months of the fall bow, crossbow and youth gun deer hunts.
By the time the last shot is fired sometime in January (bow, crossbow or ag damage permit), no doubt Wisconsin will have achieved its 22nd straight deer harvest of more than 300,000 whitetails, and 28th since 1985 (didn’t quite get there in 1986, ’87 and ’93).
While our farmland herd is at or near record levels, the same can’t be said for the northern and central forests. That’s where the biggest drop has been since the state record kill of more than 600,000 deer in the year 2000, including 528,494 with gun and 86,799 with bow.
The carcass count passed 400,000 deer combined gun and bow for the first time in 1991, made it there again in 1995, ‘96, ’98 and ’99, and in 2001, ’03, ’05 and ’08.
Besides the record harvest of 2000, the only other statewide hunting registrations of more than 500,000 deer in a single season took place during earn-a-buck years in 2004, 2006 and 2007.
In the past six years, the largest harvest, more than 368,000, was in 2012. Some hard winters, predation and reduced antlerless tags have led to recent drops, but I’d expect the numbers to climb this season after a mild winter and jump even more next year.
Kevin Naze is a freelance outdoors writer. Email him at [email protected].
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press Gazette: Outdoors: County deer crashes at record levels