There has been a concerted push recently to return deer management units in the north back to the numbered units used in the past. The concept behind this push is to manage deer based on habitat type, which many believe would make more scientific sense. Currently deer management units are delineated by county borders. While this seems to make things easier for the hunter, in the natural world, county boundaries are somewhat arbitrary. The idea has gained traction and also the attention of both the Assembly committee on sporting heritage and the Senate committee on financial institutions and sporting heritage. The two have set a joint public hearing on the matter on Thursday in Park Falls.
The effort to return to former management units was originally headed by (River News publisher) Gregg Walker, Dean Bortz, Kurt Justice and several others from the Northwoods. By moving back to the smaller, habitat-type based units, Walker said, deer could be managed according to the populations in those habitat types. Populations, especially in the western part of Oneida County and also to the north, were not the same as they would be in the old unit 38, for example. The ability to manage those populations separately, and based on local conditions, was, he felt, the only way for the herd in those units to rebound.
“Use unit 31 as an example,” Walker said in a meeting last winter when introducing the idea to a group of local hunters. “You can implement laws. No doe tags. No youth tags. Whatever you want to do. Change the seasons — you can administer rules different from the other units. That’s tools. That’s deer management.”
With a set population goal, using 20 per square mile as an example, regulations in that unit should not change until the deer herd has rebounded to that threshold, he continued.
That, Walker said, is what he was going back to Madison for.
He was going to advocate for a return to the old management units and also managing to a number of deer per square mile.
The public hearing on deer management in the north will be held at 1 p.m. on Thursday at the Town Hall in Park Falls.
Public testimony will be received after invited speakers have spoken.
Beckie Gaskill may be reached via email at [email protected].