Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Hunting Gear for 2010

Below are some releases from various companies on upcoming hunting gear for 2010

Gore Develops New GORE™ OPTIFADE™ Concealment Pattern for Hunting Whitetail Deer

W. L. Gore & Associates announced that it has developed a new GORE™ OPTIFADE™ Concealment pattern specifically designed for tree stand hunting in wooded environments. Like the Big Game/Open Country pattern, the new Big Game/Forest pattern is based on how deer see, both spatially and colorimetrically. A new line of Sitka gear featuring the new pattern will be available at retail by summer of 2010.

Gore launched GORE OPTIFADE Concealment at retail in the summer of 2009. Developed by a group of experts, including an animal vision scientist and a leader in military concealment, the pattern was the first to consider how a hunter appears in the eyes of his prey.

GORE OPTIFADE Concealment incorporates a micro and a macro pattern. The unique micro-pattern considers the way a deer or other ungulate perceives color, the ratio of positive to negative space and other visual elements to create an effect that allows the hunter to blend with the animal's perception of the environment. The macro-pattern breaks up the symmetry of the human body so that if a hunter is detected, the animal will not be able to identify the hunter as a predator.

"GORE OPTIFADE Concealment is a game-changing technology in the sport of hunting," said David Dillon, hunting category leader at Gore. "Since the very successful launch of the Big Game/Open Country pattern, we have put our considerable scientific expertise toward developing gear and a concealment pattern that addresses conditions unique to tree stand hunting in a wooded environment."

Rest of Article:
New Benelli Shotgun on Jan 19, 2010?
Sleek. Beautiful. Italian. She's the lightest auto-loading shotgun in the world. And she's coming January 19, 2010. On that day, the launch of Benelli's newest shotgun will be revealed at the SHOT Show and simultaneously unveiled on the Benelli USA website.
Evoking grace and beauty, the female form has inspired artisans since the dawn of time, and does so no less today. With Benelli's newest offering, Italian designers have blended art and function in a way that every sportsman will appreciate.
"At just under 5 pounds, this is lightest shotgun on the market, chambered in a gauge that many skilled hunters and sportsmen will find not only a delight to handle, but wonderful to shoot." said Stephen McKelvain, Benelli USA's VP of Marketing & Communications. "Benelli combined striking gun art with reliable function, the hallmark of all our products."


New Primal Twin Track Cam Bow for 2010

Memphis, Mich., Quest BowhuntingTM, a division of G5 Outdoors, Introduces the new 2010 Primal Twin Track Cam bow. The new bow features the superior construction and quality G5 has built its reputation on, combined with an all new custom decorating process that is exclusive to the Quest Line of bows.
“We are very excited about the new DuraFuseTM process.” Stated CEO and Founder Lou Grace. “The new finishing process not only is tougher than most, it really makes the new line stand out”

The new bow also incorporates the new G5 Patent Pending DurafuseTM decorating process. This process delivers sharp, crisp camo detail and a finish that is more durable than traditionally dipped or painted bows.
In addition to improved durability the DurafuseTM process allows for different designs and looks that have never been seen in the bow industry. One new design is the GfadeTM - a fusion of camo limbs, pockets, and top of riser with a black center riser section. GfadeTM provides the ultimate in versatility for bowhunters. With the camo top and bottom the bow is concealed for tree stand hunting to stalking situations in the field. The black riser mid section makes it perfect for the blind. In the stand, crossing a ridge, or sitting in the blind you never will be out of place with the GfadeTM. The Primal bow is also available in full AP camo or all black.
...Rest of article:

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Chronic Wasting Disease in Wisconsin Panel Review

External Panel Review of

“A Plan for Managing Chronic Wasting Disease in Wisconsin:
The Next Five Years”
December 8, 2009

Executive Summary

Despite the five-year goals of ―minimizing the area affected by the disease and reducing the number of deer infected‖ (WDNR2009:16), the Plan could easily interpreted as a CWD monitoring plan, with the additional objective of limiting the spread of the disease to portions of Wisconsin where it does not already occur. This is similar to how several other states are addressing CWD in free-roaming cervids. If this fairly represents what the WDNR and the citizens of the Wisconsin wish to accomplish, then the Plan should be altered to ensure that this is clear. Doing so would require replacing the two overarching goals listed above and removing all text that implies that reducing deer density in the MZ to the ―business-as-usual‖ level chosen by the CWD Stakeholder Advisory Group [SAG (2008)]—and similar to densities present when CWD became established in Wisconsin—would result in biologically meaningful reductions in CWD prevalence or limit the spread of the disease. Once the overarching goals are clarified, text addressing issues such as hunter access to CWD testing, dealing with food pantries, bans on feeding/baiting, CWD surveillance both inside and outside the known endemic areas, proper disposal of carcasses and butcher waste, cervid farms, social surveys, communication strategies, interactions with tribes, CWD research, and potential risks to humans and livestock should be modified as needed to support the new goals. All of these issues fit primarily under the monitoring umbrella. Conversely, the Plan still would require more specifies regarding intensive reductions in deer density associated with CWD clusters along the edges of the known CWD distribution. Similarly, the Plan would need to include verbiage outlining how the WDNR might work with the Illinois DNR to ensure these agencies are not working at cross purposes with each other along the border.

Alternatively, this may not accurately describe what the WDNR and the citizens of the Wisconsin wish to accomplish concerning CWD or, perhaps more likely, there may be a lack of consensus among stakeholders regarding how to proceed. If this is the case, the WDNR may want to consider completing a probabilistic survey of relevant Wisconsin citizens, and perhaps conducting some citizen focus groups, before committing to a course of action. After all, there is no reason to assume that the majority opinion provided by the 17-member SAG (2008) necessarily represents the opinions of the majority of hunters, other wildlife enthusiasts, landowners, or other Wisconsin publics. Should the WDNR make an informed decision to actively and intensively manage CWD within the endemic region, the Plan should include deer density objectives likely to reduce the risk of disease transmission and management actions sufficient to reach these population objectives. Realistically, it is probable that active, intensive CWD management of this type is incompatible with anything resembling traditional recreational hunting and techniques many 21st century Americans may find unpalatable must be considered. Similarly, statutory changes may be required in order to ensure agency employee have access to private lands (as is allowed for law enforcement agents). If various groups of hunters, wildlife enthusiasts, other publics in Wisconsin, and/or the WDNR are unwilling or unable to consider using such techniques, then the Plan goals and objectives should be modified to more accurately reflect agency/public intentions—that is, a monitoring program with plans for intensive reductions in deer density associated with CWD clusters along the edges of the known CWD distribution.

External Panel Review Members
Panel Chair
Dale L. Garner, Ph.D.
Chief – Wildlife Bureau,
Iowa Department of Natural Resources

Sharon Dunwoody
Evjue-Bascom Professor
School of Journalism and Mass Communication,
University of Wisconsin – Madison

Damien Joly, Ph.D.
Associate Director,
Wildlife Health Monitoring and Epidemiology,
Wildlife Conservation Society

Daniel O’Brien, DVM, Ph.D.
Wildlife Disease Laboratory,
Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Markus J. Peterson, DVM, Ph.D.
Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences
Texas A&M University

Margo J. Pybus, Ph.D.
Provincial Wildlife Disease Specialist,
Alberta Fish and Wildlife Division

Specific Review - Charge

Review and comment on the following issues:

1. The Plan has a management goal of “minimizing the area affected by the disease and reducing the number of deer infected”. Are the actions outlined in the Plan, including sharpshooting as proposed, appropriate and sufficient to achieve the Plan goal and stated objectives? For actions deemed inadequate, how could they be more effective?

2. CWD is likely to be present on the landscape for a considerable time period. Given that this is an adaptive plan that seeks to respond to changes in scientific knowledge and data, is five years an appropriate timeframe for this management plan and why?

3. Public support is important to the success of any CWD management plan. Are the communication strategies outlined in the plan adequate to achieve that support? If not, what methods, messages and target audiences need to be the priority to maximize that support?

Plan Review

Following the 2002 discovery of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in white-tailed deer in Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) developed a management plan (Plan) to guide its CWD management activities. The stated goal at that time was to minimize the ecological and socioeconomic effects of CWD, and the goal-specific objectives included: 1) defining the geographic distribution and prevalence of infection, 2) investigating the possible origin of the disease in the state, 3) minimizing the potential spread of CWD to new areas, 4) eradicating the disease in the affected area, 5) enhancing scientific information about the disease, 6) using the best available scientific information to guide management, and 7) providing the public with timely, complete, and accurate information (WDNR 2009:6).

The current draft plan explicitly accepts the presence of a CWD endemic area(s) in south-central and southeastern Wisconsin, and shifts emphasis to prevention of new foci, and spread from existing areas. This is a significant departure from the previous objective (i.e., 4) of eradicating the disease in the affected area. "The new 5-year goal for managing CWD" as outlined in the Plan is "minimizing the area affected by the disease and reducing the number of deer infected" (WDNR 2009:4, 16). "Minimizing the [spatial] area affected by the disease" by definition, implies that area will become no bigger than it is currently. That, in turn, effectively means that this management goal is to prevent further geographic spread of CWD. The Plan essentially states this as an anticipated result (WDNR 2009:22).

For many people, "minimizing the area affected by the disease" implies that, to be successful, CWD management would reduce the spatial area where CWD occurs in Wisconsin such that it asymptotically approaches zero acres over time. This certainly would be a substantive disease management success. Unfortunately, one also could argue that this goal would be successfully achieved if CWD occurred on one less acre than previously. Worse yet, it also is logical to argue that "the area affected by CWD" was successfully "minimized" even if the spatial area where the disease occurs in Wisconsin doubled; after all, it might have tripled without disease management! This goal is a logical tautology as stated; any CWD management outcome related to the spatial extent of the CWD endemic area could be declared a success.

Similarly, "reducing the number of deer infected" is far too vague an objective to be useful as the basis for sound environmental policy formation or for underpinning extensive and expensive wildlife disease management. After all, "reducing the number of deer infected" includes every possible outcome between one less CWD infected deer than currently present, and zero CWD infected deer in Wisconsin. For example, if the number of deer in the CWD Management Zone (MZ) was reduced without regard to CWD, the number of CWD infected deer would decrease along with non-infected deer, but the prevalence of the disease would be unchanged. Although this action may be beneficial for a variety of others reasons, it is not disease management.

If minimizing the area affected by the disease and reducing the number of deer infected is to be truly realized then there is insufficient focus in the Plan on broad scale management of the deer population in areas outside the MZ.

As difficult as it may be to accept, at this point there is little reason for optimism that the ultimate course of CWD in the current endemic areas can be significantly altered. Indeed, the Plan (WDNR 2009:15) states that "eliminating CWD from Wisconsin is unlikely". There is clearly theoretical justification for management efforts aimed at the MZ itself, in order to mitigate (to the extent possible) the reservoir of disease in that area and so the reservoir for potential geographic spread to areas outside the MZ. However, analyses of both mule deer in Colorado (Connor and Miller, 2004) and white-tailed deer in Wisconsin (Heisey et al. 2010) suggest that once CWD is established in an area, deer density reductions will not appreciably affect growth rates of the disease. In other words, in the MZ itself, the die has already been cast, and whether herd reductions come as a result of harvest or CWD-associated mortality, they are likely to eventually come one way or another.

While many still question the nature of density-dependent disease transmission of CWD, it is clear that removal of infected individuals reduces risk of transmission to susceptible contacts through direct or indirect routes; fewer infected deer results in fewer prions on the landscape, and consequently less risk for disease transmission. As such, in areas where CWD is already established, there are two significant sources of exposure for uninfected deer: 1) infected deer, and 2) the contaminated environment. It is conceivable that as the environment becomes more and more contaminated by infected deer, it will progressively become the primary source of CWD exposure for any deer present there, however sparsely (or densely) they are distributed. In such a scenario, one would not expect density reductions to appreciably alter the growth rates of disease, because most of the exposure is coming not from other deer, but from the environment. However, in previously uninfected areas, the opposite is likely to be true. Where CWD is not established already, the environment is likely to be comparatively uncontaminated, and therefore not a significant source of exposure for deer. In those areas, the only source of exposure for uninfected deer will then be infected deer. In that situation, increasing density will increase contacts between deer, which will increase CWD transmission, and the growth rate (and subsequent establishment) of the disease. The upshot is that, somewhat counter intuitively, it is likely to be more important to decrease deer densities outside the MZ than it is inside of it.

Examination of the WDNR map "comparison of 2009 over-winter deer population estimates to population goals" shows that virtually the entire southern half of the state (south of a line drawn roughly from Green Bay through Eau Claire and on to the Minnesota border) is at least 20% above deer population goals1. More than half of that area is outside the MZ, and so would be considered an area where CWD is not yet established. Therefore, deer density reductions in that area would be expected to help slow or prevent the geographic spread of CWD to the north. There is an adequate epidemiological basis for implementing measures to facilitate such density reductions. Given that such reductions are most likely to be accomplished through increases in antlerless harvest, and that earn-a-buck regulations were far and away more effective than expanded harvest opportunities at increasing antlerless harvest (Van Deelen et al. in review), there may be adequate justification for expanding earn-a-buck to the entire southern half of the state as defined above.

1 By and large, those population goals are established not with disease control in mind, but rather social carrying capacity, which in Wisconsin is traditionally high, even among groups who suffer the brunt of deer damage (e.g., farmers). Consequently, the extent to which current deer populations exceed densities desirable for prevention of CWD spread is likely to be even greater than the map suggests.

It is openly recognized that such an expansion will likely be unpopular with hunters, and the anticipated lower deer numbers which hopefully will result will likely be unpopular with the public in general. However, the public in areas outside the MZ cannot be allowed to persist in the mistaken belief that CWD is not their problem, and that management of deer outside the MZ can carry on as usual, as though CWD did not exist and was not a very real threat to the entire state’s natural resources, culture and economy. This misconception creates the perfect circumstances for CWD to spread and become an even more onerous problem than it already is, which is difficult to imagine. Moreover, it leads to resentment on the part of hunters in the MZ, who see themselves as being forced to accept management actions to which the rest of the state is not subjected. Over time, that resentment tends to undermine public compliance with other disease management regulations (such as feeding and baiting restrictions, restrictions on carcass movement, restrictions on animal movement by wildlife rehabilitators, etc.) which are difficult, if not impossible, to enforce without public cooperation.

Specific Review - Charge

1[a]. The Plan has a management goal of “minimizing the area affected by the disease and reducing the number of deer infected”. Are the actions outlined in the Plan, including sharpshooting as proposed, appropriate and sufficient to achieve the Plan goal and stated objectives?

There are a number of management and monitoring actions outlined in the Plan that seem well conceived and appropriate. For example, continued intensive surveillance in the MZ, continued cooperative working relationships with the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection with regards to the captive cervid industry, banning feeding and baiting, proper disposal of deer parts and carcasses, conducting a third round of surveillance outside the MZ, and employing social surveys to better understand public opinion relevant to CWD management and to gauge the effectiveness of WDNR outreach efforts certainly are laudatory actions.

Many of these efforts, however, are only indirectly related to whether actions outlined in the Plan are sufficient to achieve some measurable degree of "minimizing the area affected by the disease and reducing the number of deer infected". For example, although CWD surveillance is needed to measure the success of Plan goals, it does not by itself contribute to reducing the "area affected by the disease" or the "number of deer infected." Unfortunately, there is no reason to assume that actions outlined in the Plan will result in biologically relevant decreases in the area affected by CWD or the number of deer infected (compared to current values). Further, it is unlikely that these actions will result in even the new, less rigorous, population goals for the Deer Management Units (DMUs) where CWD occurs.

The reasons for these conclusions relate to Objective 3 of the Plan ("Control Distribution and Intensity of CWD"), which states, in part, that: Removing as many deer as possible each year, from infected areas provides the best opportunity for controlling the disease by 1) removing infectious individuals from the population, 2) eventually reducing the number of susceptible animals below the threshold needed for the disease to thrive or persist, and 3) limiting the accumulation of infectious CWD prions in the environment (WDNR 2009:19-20). Based on available knowledge, this statement certainly seems reasonable and appropriate. The Plan (WDNR 2009:22) eventually states that the way the WDNR will determine whether this objective has been realized is that, by 2014:

1) The number of infected deer in the MZ has declined.

2) The geographic distribution of the disease is not significantly larger than the current known distribution.

3) Deer populations in the MZ have been reduced by 40% from the 2008 post hunt population estimate.

Obviously, if the number of deer in the MZ decreases by 40% (or any lesser amount), then the number of CWD infected deer in the region also will decline (i.e., outcome 3 entails outcome 2). However, it is unclear exactly how the WDNR will calculate whether statistically significant changes in the area of CWD endemic region of Wisconsin occurred. Finally, the actions outlined in the Plan will almost certainly fail to result in deer densities similar to those observed in the early 1980s.

There are two primary reasons why planned actions will not meet the deer density objectives listed in the Plan or alter the risk of CWD transmission in areas of Wisconsin where the disease already is well established. First, the "2008 season structure" will not remove "as many deer as possible" in the MZ. Instead, the population goal for DMUs where CWD occurs as recommended by the SAG (2008) and adopted in the draft Plan (WDNR 2009) (78,458 deer) is essentially identical to the average goal in place from 1986 through 1998 for these same DMUs ( x = 78,441 deer) (Figure 1: WDNR unpublished data). 2

2 Data for these population goals include all of DMUs 54B, 73B, and 77C to enable continuity with previous data [the 2001 and SAG (i.e., 2008) goals listed in the draft CWD Management Plan (WDNR 2009:30,35) include only the portions if these three DMUs within the MZ].

Whereas "a business as usual" herd goal will undoubtedly be welcomed by many Wisconsin deer hunters, it is difficult to understand how substantially decreasing the harvest objective will result in substantially increasing the number of deer harvested. Specifically, while actions in place since 2002 may have ended the exponential increase in deer numbers in the DMUs where CWD occurs (Figure 1), there is no reason to

Figure 1. White-tailed deer population goals and estimated post-hunt deer abundance in Wisconsin Deer Management Units affected by chronic wasting disease,
1986–2008 (Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, unpublished data).3

assume that tweaking these same actions, as proposed in the Plan, will lead to substantially fewer deer in this region and thence achieve even the new less rigorous population goals.

A second much more serious issue that there is no epidemiological reason to assume that even if the new deer density goal for the MZ is reached (i.e., x = 18.6 deer/mile2) that a biologically significant decrease in CWD preference or contraction in the area of where CWD occurs in Wisconsin would result. Although the epidemiology of CWD in free-ranging cervids is poorly understood, we do know that: direct CWD transmission among deer via saliva and other body fluids occurs (Mathiason et al. 2006), and cervids also contract the disease via rather persistent environmental contamination, at least when they occur at relatively high densities (Miller et al. 2004; 2006). Conner et al. (2007), however, found that efforts to manipulate mule deer (O. hemionus) density did not produce any measureable changes in CWD prevalence, although they maintained that lack of data and time limited statistical power of their analysis. The point is that, it is unclear to what non-zero value (if any) deer density must fall before CWD transmission rates decline within areas where the disease is already well established. Regardless, CWD persists in white-tailed deer populations elsewhere in the United States where deer densities are far below the objective listed in the draft Plan (e.g., western Nebraska,

3 Data for population goals and post-hunt abundance include all of DMUs 54B, 73B, and 77C to enable continuity with previous data [the 2001 and SAG (i.e., 2008) goals listed in the draft CWD Management
Plan (WDNR 2009:30, 35) include only the portions of these three DMUs within the MZ].

eastern Wyoming), so there is no reason to assume that ~ 19/mile2 is below or even near the CWD transmission threshold. Similarly, current epidemiological data suggest CWD became established in two separate locations in Wisconsin >20 years ago (WDNR 2009:12-13), so as Figure 1 illustrates, post-hunt deer abundance at the new population goal would be quite similar to that observed when the disease became established in the state. For all these reasons, it is highly unlikely that the changes in deer density proposed by the plan, assuming they can even be achieved under the actions outlined in the Plan, will measurably alter CWD transmission in areas where the disease already occurs.

Heisey et al. (2010), using Wisconsin data, confirmed that CWD prevalence may not be directly related to risk of CWD transmission within an area where numerous deer already are infected, at least at the range of deer densities documented in the MZ. They did find, however, that CWD prevalence would be expected to greatly influence how easily the disease spreads to areas where it does not already occur. This research supports the Plan’s objective to substantively reduce deer density by ―conduct[ing] focused sharpshooting on public and private lands where permission can be obtained in areas of disease clusters along the edges of the known CWD distribution‖ (WDNR 2009:21).

Evidence from jurisdictions that apply some form of narrow targeted response in the vicinity of known CWD cases, situations of high deer density, and/or local populations protected from hunting pressure clearly shows that targeted removals are the best tool currently available for reducing the risk of transmission. This result is fully consistent with mounting evidence that transmission of CWD occurs locally in relatively small home ranges, occurs extensively within matrilineal groups, and builds slowly from point sources. All of these factors speak in favor of focused removals as a key tool in finding and removing infected individuals and thus affecting transmission rates.

The question is how much removal is necessary to have a measurable impact on the dynamics of CWD (either in stamping-out new foci or reducing spread from and in affected areas)? Simply put, no-one knows; however, from a theoretical perspective there is reason to believe that geographic- (i.e., areas of higher prevalence) and demographic- (i.e., sex/age classes with higher prevalence) targeted culling (e.g., sharpshooting) is likely to lead to reduced transmission of CWD. Furthermore, while the jury is still out on the nature of density-dependence in CWD transmission, it is a logical assumption that reducing deer densities will lead to reduced opportunities for disease transmission. Therefore, if the deer density surrounding disease clusters along the edges of the known CWD distribution is reduced sufficiently, this objective has the potential to measurably reduce the rate that CWD expands into areas where it did not occur previously and is a worthwhile objective. It seems certain that agency sharpshooters would be required to effectively and consistently address this objective.

The Plan proposes to consult with local citizens and the Conservation Congress to develop a sharpshooting plan‖ (WDNR 2009:19) which will "then be presented to the Natural Resources Board (NRB) for approval, prior to deploying sharpshooters." If the NRB process requires a public comment period as well, implementation time will be further delayed. Even though the Plan is firmly based on a consultative approach, which can be good, the Plan does not contain sufficient assurance that the tool of focused removals will be applied in all appropriate situations. The nucleus of the consultation should be that sharpshooting is essential to achieving the program goal and the local discussions around sharpshooting should be how to conduct activities, not whether to conduct them.

1[b]. For actions deemed inadequate, how could they be more effective?

If decreasing deer density across the MZ remains an aspect of the final CWD Management Plan, the WDNR should abandon the ~19 deer/mile2 objective and consider alternatives such as setting a given percentage decrease in post-hunt deer numbers annually (i.e., steady annual decline) for each DMU within the MZ. As Figure 1 illustrates, there may have been a slight annual decline in post-hunt deer abundance in the MZ during most years since 2002 (one cannot be certain whether these values are significantly different statistically because confidence intervals for these estimates were not provided by the WDNR). Regardless, this apparent decline could be used to inform initial values for the desired goal for each DMU where CWD occurs. Management actions and future herd goals then could be altered adaptively based on data collected over subsequent years.

The Plan should include the distance surrounding each CWD cluster ―along the edges of the known CWD distribution‖ where intensive deer density reductions will take place (WDNR 2009:21). It also should include the target deer density for these zones, the number of years deer density will be held at target levels, and exactly how the WDNR will determine whether these objectives are met. Further, the NRB may want to consider seeking statutory authority that would expedite access to private properties if necessary to enable intensive reduction of deer density at, or surrounding, CWD clusters along the edges of the known CWD distribution.

While the previous paragraph dealt with epidemiological boundaries, political boundaries also are important to CWD management. As Figure 4 (WDNR 2009:12) in the Plan illustrates, the political boundary between Wisconsin and Illinois has nothing to do with epidemiological boundaries. The success of CWD management in southeastern Wisconsin hinges on CWD management success in northern Illinois, and vice versa, as stated in the Plan (WDNR 2009:13). For this reason, it seems logical that the Plan should include a mechanism for collaborating with the Illinois DNR toward achieving compatible CWD management objectives and actions relevant to their shared boarder.

2. CWD is likely to be present on the landscape for a considerable time period. Given that this is an adaptive plan that seeks to respond to changes in scientific knowledge and data, is five years an appropriate timeframe for this management plan and why?

The most fundamental factor driving how a disease is managed must inevitably be the biology and epidemiology of the disease itself. There is both scientific consensus and abundant empirical evidence from both controlled experiments and the field that CWD, as the name suggests, is a chronic disease, with a protracted course. Due to the chronic nature and slow progression of CWD, environmental contamination related to the disease, and the fact that deer density and harvest estimates are made annually, five years is far too short a timeframe for effective adaptive management targeting CWD in free-roaming white-tailed deer. Although education, communication, and public relations campaigns, and possibly even scientific breakthroughs, may occur more quickly, it is likely that a minimum of 3–5 years using a given management approach will be required before the WDNR could evaluate the success of the approach and consider alternatives if needed. It is unreasonable to adopt an adaptive resource management plan that is likely to include time for only one corrective, and no time to see the corrective’s results.

The Plan (WDNR 2009:7) assumes that "success of CWD management techniques cannot be measured over a few years." It goes on to state (WDNR 2009:16) that "Ultimately, assessment of the effectiveness of control actions for CWD must be based primarily on documentation of changes in the prevalence and geographic distribution of the disease. Because CWD is a slowly progressive disease, significant changes in distribution and prevalence in free-ranging deer populations will likely occur over a protracted time scale." The minimum incubation period is 18 months, and no upper limit on incubation has yet been established. Consequently, a five year management plan will encompass a maximum of three transmission cycles, possibly fewer. Moreover, the Plan provides for (WDNR 2009:21) review and possible alteration of control strategies after next year (a maximum of one transmission cycle). While it is recognized that WDNR wants to accommodate the public’s input on the Plan, it will be nearly impossible epidemiologically to demonstrate either the success or failure of prescribed CWD management actions in that short time frame. Therefore, those attempting to manage CWD in free-roaming cervid populations probably need to begin thinking in terms of decades rather than years; 20 or even 30 years is a more reasonable timeframe for adaptively managing CWD in free-roaming deer. It would be reasonable, however, to use shorter timeframes for CWD-related education, communication, or public relations campaigns. Similarly, if the WDNR chooses a 20-year timeframe, it may be reasonable to require a major reevaluation after 10 years.

3[a]. Public support is important to the success of any CWD management plan. Are the communication strategies outlined in the plan adequate to achieve that support?

Under Objective 4, "Increase Public Recognition and Understanding of CWD Risks", the draft Plan (WDNR 2009:24) provides the following action to reach this objective: Use survey data to better understand public opinions about CWD management and to develop, test, and refine messages and delivery mechanisms that enhance public support for CWD management. Use research to identify barriers to harvesting more deer and allowing access to land for deer removal and to develop a communication strategy to reduce those barriers.

The WDNR anticipates that it will have developed, tested, refined, and implemented ―communication strategies to increase support among hunters, the general public, and decision makers for the state’s approach to CWD management‖ by 2014 (WDNR 2009:24), the same year all other plan goals are to have been achieved. A CWD communication strategy, no matter how excellent, is of little value if it comes on line the same date disease management is to have been completed. As the Plan states (WDNR 2009:23), "substantial changes in public attitudes toward CWD and its management will take time, perhaps best measured by generations", which further supports the contention that 5 years is far too short a timeframe for an adaptive management plan for CWD in free-roaming deer.

Regardless of the time issue, the Plan (WDNR 2009:24) still falls short in addressing exactly what sort of "survey data" will be used to "develop, test, and refine messages and delivery mechanisms that enhance public support for CWD management," and specifically how these messages and delivery mechanisms will be tested and refined. The anticipated results of the Plan (WDNR 2009:24) appears to imply that communication success will be measured by long-term targets such as "a steady (annual) decline" in deer numbers, increasing "percentage of landowners granting access to their land for deer removal," and "hunter effort" increasing as deer abundance decreases. These long-term goals are not useful for modifying and perfecting communication strategies. Instead, data regarding changes in hunters’ or landowners’ behaviors that would eventually lead to these long-term goals are needed. Although this section of the Plan (WDNR 2009:22-24) mentions results from Petchenik’s (2006) survey, additional survey efforts undoubtedly will be required. The study population Petchenik (2006:9) addressed "consisted of 8,000 individuals owning a minimum of five acres in the southwest DEZ." The DEZ was in the southwestern portion of Wisconsin (Petchenik 2006:50) and did not include the remainder of the southwestern endemic area or the CWD endemic zone now recognized in the southeastern portion of the state (WDNR 2009:12). Petchenik (2006:9) mailed the survey to a random sample of 1,000 of the 8,000 landowners that met study criteria in the DEZ between 1 October and 12 November 2004, so data obtained addressed the 2003 hunting season and landowner attitudes in late 2004. As noted above, this survey did not include landowners in the southeastern CWD endemic area, those who hunted in the DEZ but did not own land there, landowners and hunters elsewhere in the state, and other citizens of Wisconsin. Moreover, with a disease such as CWD, one would assume that the opinions of landowners within the DEZ may well have changed since 2004.

The text associated with Objective 4 (WDNR 2009:22-24) seems to imply that the WDNR perceives communication to be primarily a one-way street leading from WDNR employees to various Wisconsin publics. For example, the first anticipated result in this section of the Plan is that "communication strategies to increase support among hunters, the general public, and decision makers for the state’s approach to CWD management have been developed and are being implemented" by 2014 (WDNR 2009:24). The Plan does not state how the "state’s approach to CWD management" will be altered by direct public input, but this undoubtedly will occur. Employees of the WDNR could learn much more from the public than simply their opinions regarding a set of survey questions if given the opportunity.

That WDNR should continue to work to understand public perceptions of CWD and its management, and maximize public support for agency actions is not in dispute. However, it is also important to recognize that consensus support for agency policies on CWD (or virtually any other issue) may never be attained. No matter what outreach and education efforts are undertaken and no matter how diligently they are pursued, there will always be a segment of the population that has simply "made up its mind" already and is not receptive to any message which conflicts with its established viewpoint. However, that fact, coupled with the reality that natural resource agencies manage wildlife in trust for the public, may mean that at some point the agency may simply not have the backing necessary to accomplish its management objectives.

Regardless, it is heartening to see that a "do nothing" approach is simply not acceptable in Wisconsin. Yes, we may all learn to live with CWD but we do not have to live with its uncontrolled growth in geographic and numerical distribution. The current toolbox available to limit spread and prevalence of CWD is quite limited, but can and should be applied aggressively until better tools are available. Such a program is fully consistent with wise stewardship of a significant natural resource (free-ranging deer) and protection of a keystone economic, social, and cultural resource.

Finally, WDNR employees, NRB members, and others involved with reformulating WDNR’s CWD management policy undoubtedly are keenly interested in making the best decisions possible for the resource and their constituencies. Similarly, those who initially drafted the CWD Management Plan assumed that management actions outlined therein would lead to significant changes in the CWD situation in Wisconsin. The question that needs to be addressed is to what degree these "significant" changes refer to statistically, biologically, versus socially significant differences. As Morrison et al. (2008:27-28) argued, not all socially important issues matter biologically (and vice versa), and not all statistically significant differences are relevant biologically or socially. As the CWD Management Plan is reconsidered, those involved in reexamining goals and actions should explicitly determine to what degree they are addressing statistically, biologically, and socially significant changes related to CWD in Wisconsin.

3[b]. If not, what methods, messages and target audiences need to be the priority to maximize that support?

More up-to-date social survey data addressing a wider array of stakeholders than those surveyed by Petchenik (2006) is needed to inform effective public outreach programs associated with CWD management in Wisconsin. One could argue that recreational hunting and effective CWD management are incompatible goals. For this reason, if no other, the WDNR needs to know whether there is support not only among different groups of hunters and landowners, but also among the public at large for management approaches that could dramatically reduce deer density. For example, eradication of foot and mouth disease in black-tailed deer (O. h. columbianus) in the Stanislaus National Forest of California during the 1920s demonstrated that massive decreases in the density of deer inhabiting much more formidable terrain than that in southern Wisconsin are indeed physically possible (Keane 1926). The problem is that techniques required for such reductions, such as a year-round open season with no bag limit, pursuit with dogs, nighttime sharpshooting, sharpshooting over bait during winter, snaring, trapping, and helicopter gunning are not particularly palatable for many 21st century Americans. Those responsible for CWD management in Wisconsin may learn via a new survey that the public will not support any approach that would have any reasonable chance of reducing deer densities across the entire MZ sufficiently to impede CWD transmission. Administrators need access to such information prior to implementing massive and expensive disease management plans (Heberlein 2004).

The Plan should include specifics regarding which Wisconsin publics will be targeted by surveys, how communication strategies will be developed, tested, and refined, and how various delivery mechanism will evaluated. Although long-term goals such as "a steady (annual) decline" in deer numbers, increasing "percentage of landowners granting access to their land for deer removal", and "hunter effort" increasing as deer abundance decreases are fine, more short-term data on relevant changes in targeted behaviors are needed. Additionally, strategies for learning from the public should be explicitly addressed in the Plan. For example, scoping meetings and the strategic use of focus groups could be quite helpful. The WDNR needs to learn more from hunters and other groups than just their opinions regarding a list of survey options.

On a fundamental level, the public will ultimately decide, for better or worse, what eventually will be done with CWD in Wisconsin. If the public is unwilling to make the sacrifices necessary in the present to prevent the disease from spreading and the outbreak from growing, then their children will have to deal with the consequences. The WDNR must accept the possibility that no matter what they do or how well they do it, the public may decide that having abundant deer in the short term is more important to them than having healthy abundant deer for the sustainable use of future generations. If that happens, it will not be WDNR who have failed as stewards of the resource, but the people of Wisconsin.

Literature Cited

Conner, M. M. and M. W. Miller. 2004. Movement patterns and spatial epidemiology of a prion disease in mule deer population units. Ecological Applications 14:1870-1881.
Conner, M. M., M. W. Miller, M. R. Ebinger, and K. P. Burnham. 2007. A meta-BACI approach for evaluating management intervention on chronic wasting disease in mule deer.

Ecological Applications 17:140-153.

CWD Stakeholder Advisory Group. 2008. Summary and recommendations to Secretary Matt Frank, WI DNR and the WI Natural Resources Board, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Madison, Wisconsin, USA.
Heberlein, T. A. 2004. "Fire in the Sistine Chapel": how Wisconsin responded to chronic wasting disease. Human Dimensions of Wildlife 9:165-179.

Heisey, D. M., E. E. Osnas, P. C. Cross, D. O. Joly, J. A. Langenberg, and M. W. Miller. 2010.
Linking process to pattern: estimating spatio-temporal dynamics of a wildlife epidemic from cross-sectional data. Ecological Monographs 80:In Press.

Keane, C. 1926. The epizootic of foot and mouth disease in California. Special Publication No. 65, California Department of Agriculture, Sacramento, California, USA.

Mathiason, C. K., et al. 2006. Infectious prions in the saliva and blood of deer with chronic wasting disease. Science 314:133-136.

Miller, M. W., N. T. Hobbs, and S. J. Tavener. 2006. Dynamics of prion disease transmission in mule deer. Ecological Applications 16:2208-2214.

Miller, M. W., E. S. Williams, N. T. Hobbs, and L. L. Wolfe. 2004. Environmental sources of prion transmission in mule deer. Emerging Infectious Diseases 10:1003-1006.

Morrison, M. L., W. M. Block, M. D. Strickland, B. A. Collier, and M. J. Peterson 2008. Wildlife study design. Springer, New York, New York, USA.

Petchenik, J. 2006. Landowner response to chronic wasting disease and its management in Wisconsin’s southwest disease eradication zone. PUB-SS-1022 2006, Wisconsin

Department of Natural Resources, Madison, Wisconsin, USA. State of Wisconsin Legislative Audit Bureau. 2006. An evaluation: chronic wasting disease -Department of Natural Resources. Report 06-13, Legislative Audit Bureau, State of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin, USA.

Vandeelen, T. R., B. Dhuey, C. Jacques, R. E. Rolley, and K. Warnke. 2008. Effects of special antlerless-only seasons on Wisconsin’s deer harvests. Journal of Wildlife Management: In Review.

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. 2009. A plan for managing chronic wasting disease in Wisconsin: the next five years [Draft: July 2009]. WM-482-2008, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Madison, Wisconsin, USA.

Source: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Cougars in Western Wisconsin?

According to the DNR website, DNR biologists have been tracking a cougar in western Wisconsin.

EAU CLAIRE – Biologists with the state Department of Natural Resources have tracked what could be the same cougar through parts of St. Croix, Pierce and Dunn counties in western Wisconsin.

It is possible this is the cougar that was photographed and tracked Dec. 11 in Stillwater, Minnesota. That cougar was moving east, and it would have been easy for the big cat to cross the frozen St. Croix River. Tracks found in Stillwater and in St. Croix County are similar in size.

This question may be resolved as DNA samples (hair) were collected in Stillwater and in Pierce County and then again today in Dunn County. These are being sent to the Wildlife Genetics Lab in Missoula, Montana, for analysis. Results are not expected for at least two weeks.

This past Wednesday, a farmer photographed cougar tracks near Spring Valley, about 25 miles east of the St. Croix River near the border of St. Croix and Pierce counties. DNR biologist Harvey Halvorsen picked up the trail on Friday and tracked the cougar for more than a mile to the Eau Galle River.

A motion-activated trail camera took a photograph of the cougar Saturday night, south and west of Downsville in Dunn County. DNR biologist Jess Carstens verified the tracks on Monday, indicating the cougar has continued to move south and east at a rate of 5 to 7 miles per day.

It had been expected that the cat would make a kill and Carstens found a cache Monday, a fawn deer that had been partially eaten and then covered with corn stalks from a farmer’s field. Evidence examined today shows the cat likely returned to the cache overnight.

The DNR has no immediate plans to capture the animal. Landowners in the lower Chippewa River valley are being asked to be observant for signs of the cougar.

If an individual finds what appear to be cougar tracks the best course of action is to take the highest quality photographs possible with something in the frame – a ruler is preferred but cash money will work – as a reference for measurement.

Instructions for reporting rare animal signs – and up to date information on cougar sightings in Wisconsin – can be found online at: This information includes e-mail addresses for transmitting digital photographs.

This is the second time cougar signs have been found in this part of Western Wisconsin. In May, confirmed cougar tracks were found on a farm in Pepin County.

A cougar first spotted near Milton, Wisconsin, in January 2008 was the first confirmed instance of a wild cougar in Wisconsin since they were extirpated from the state in the early part of the 20th Century.

Biologists suspect that the handful of sightings since then are the result of male cougars dispersing from breeding populations in the Dakotas. Parts of western and southwestern Wisconsin offer ideal habitat for cougars with heavily wooded terrain, high-ridged valleys and large deer populations. There is no evidence of breeding populations in Wisconsin.

Cougars are listed as protected in Wisconsin. It is illegal to kill a cougar except to prevent injury to a human.

Wildlife officials said there is no reason for concern as cougars typically avoid any contact with humans. While the risk of a cougar attacking a human is exceedingly small, it does exist. Officials from Arizona, which has a large population of cougars, offer this advice:

If you encounter a mountain lion:
  • Do not approach the animal. Most mountain lions will try to avoid a confrontation. Give them a way to escape.
  • Stay calm and speak loudly and firmly.
  • Do not run from a mountain lion. Running may stimulate a mountain lion’s instinct to chase. Stand and face the animal. Make eye contact.
  • Appear larger. Raise your arms. Open your jacket if you are wearing one. Throw stones, branches, or whatever you can reach without crouching or turning your back. Wave your arms slowly. The idea is to convince the lion that you are not easy prey and that you may be a danger to it.
  • Maintain eye contact and slowly back away toward a building, vehicle, or busy area.
  • Protect small children so they won’t panic and run.
  •  Fight back if attacked. Many potential victims have fought back successfully with rocks, sticks, caps, jackets, garden tools, their bare hands, and even mountain bikes. Since a mountain lion usually tries to bite the head or neck, try to remain standing and face the animal.
Article Source:
News Release Published: December 23, 2009 by the West Central Region
Contact(s): Adrian Wydeven, conservation ecologists, Park Falls, (715) 762-1363
Kris Belling, regional wildlife supervisor, Eau Claire, (715) 839-3736
Ed Culhane, DNR communications, Eau Claire, (715) 839-3715


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Natural Resources Board to Review Wisconsin's CWD Management Plan

MADISON – An expert panel appointed by the state Natural Resources Board to review Wisconsin’s Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) Management Plan has submitted its report. The complete report is available for viewing on the Department of Natural Resources website at: Chronic Wasting Disease in Wisconsin.
DNR will review and consider the expert panel’s recommendations and will respond to the report after meeting with the panel chair and Natural Resources Board subcommittee on January 6, 2010. DNR thanks the experts for volunteering their time and expertise to help Wisconsin with its efforts to manage CWD now and in the future.

In August of 2009, the Wisconsin DNR submitted a proposed 5-year CWD Management Plan to the Natural Resources Board. The Board tabled the plan pending a review by a Board-appointed panel of six North American experts in the fields of wildlife disease and human dimensions.

Contact(s): Davin Lopez (608) 267-2948 Robert Manwell (608) 264-9248
Source: Wisconsin DNR, News Release Published: December 18, 2009 by the Central Office

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Senator Neal Kedzie 2009 Wisconsin Gun Deer Hunt Survey Results

The survey results are out on the survey that was collected by the office of State Senator Neal Kedzie.  Below you will see the numbers and percentages of the answers given in regards to the 2009 Wisconsin Deer Gun season.  I have posted the link to the results PDF below the statistics so that you can view the comments.

The only area that I found to be of real value was the 7.5% of respondents who said they would not hunt next year.  I am assuming here, but these may be the people who are not the die-hards but mostly the weekend warriors who are out for sake of being out with friends and family.  On the business side, these are exactly who we want to bring into our state to hunt. They are bringing money to buy tags, buy food and groceries.  If we dont have a great herd, these are the types of hunters we will lose. I'm also assuming that of the 7.5% will calm down and hunt next year but its still an alarming number that is starting to grow if we dont have an excellent deer herd. 

A lot of talk has been surrounding the reasons why the hunt was low, such as corn still standing, foggy conditions, higher than normal temperatures, and so on.  So are all the deer in the corn?  If they are, we should ask the land owners if we can do a little herd count on those lands.  I am just thinking this may be a way to calm down a lot of hunters if we can actually prove that the deer are in the corn.  Its true, deer slow down in warmer temps, and yes, fog is tough to see through but these two conditions cannot simply be the reason that deer sightings and harvest numbers are so low.  Lets count the deer in the corn, they have to be in there right?

Finally, I recommend you read a column from Pat Durkin, Pat Durkin column: Deer alarmists react without facts.  I get what he's saying, he does a great job of proving that we should all take a breath before reacting.  However, his method of proving Rep Scott Gunderson wrong on why it will take generations for the herd to recover is a bit flawed.  According to Pat Durkin and his column, he uses the study from George Reserve in Michigan: "Researchers at Michigan's George Reserve twice showed deer herds capable of 50 percent annual growth. Starting with six whitetails in 1928, the reserve's herd boomed to 222 in seven years. And in 1975, after reducing the herd to 10 deer, most of which were fawns, researchers reported the herd at 212 after six breeding seasons." What Durkin fails to mention is that the George Reserve is mostly fenced in.  You can't compare generation growth from deer who live in a reserve.  Not good Durkin.  Try again. are the survey results, enjoy and post your comments. I look forward to your feedback.

2009 Gun Deer Hunt Survey Responses

Office of State Senator Neal Kedzie
Wisconsin’s 11th Senate District


Total Number of Survey Respondents………………………8,432

Number of Deer Seen

Average Deer Seen……………………………………………...5.2
Percentage that did not see a deer…………………………….15%
Percentage that saw 1 deer………………………………….…12%
Percentage that saw 2 deer………………………………….11.5%
Percentage that saw 3 or fewer deer………………………..48.5%

Deer Harvested
Percentage that shot a buck…………………………………….17%
Percentage that shot a doe……………………………………...14%
Percentage that did not harvest a deer…………………………70%

Most significant factor contributing to low harvest number

DNR Herd Management Policies: 6,468….77% (Only response on 3,287 or 39%)
Predators depleting the herd: 3,045………36%
Weather Conditions: 1,233…………………15%
Lower fawn production: 929………………..11%
Bad luck: 85………………………………..0.01%
Other: 1,242………………………………….15%
Not Sure: 209………………………………0.02%

Will you deer hunt next year?


Friday, December 18, 2009

DNR Secretary Matt Frank Testimony from December 17th Meeting

Here is the text of Wiscsonsin DNR Secretary Matt Frank's testimony from the December 17th Department of Natural resources meeting.

Source: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources website:

Text of DNR Secretary Matt Frank’s testimony to joint session of legislative committees considering proposed changes to deer management unit population goals

News Release Published: December 17, 2009 by the Central Office
Contact(s): Robert Manwell (608) 264-9248

MADISON – Department of Natural Resources Secretary Matt Frank appeared before a joint Senate and Assembly legislative committee today to testify on proposed revisions to Deer Management Unit population goals. Secretary Frank also presented the joint session with a brief summary of the current deer hunting seasons.

The following is the text of Secretary Frank’s testimony.

December 17, 2009

Assembly Fish & Wildlife Committee and Senate Transportation, Tourism, Forestry & Natural Resources Committee

Good morning Chairs Hraychuck and Holperin and members of the Committees. I’m pleased to be here today to share with you a brief snapshot of Wisconsin’s 158th deer hunt before we address the proposed deer management unit population goals for the next three years. The annual deer report is normally first delivered to the Natural Resources Board at its December meeting which this year was canceled due to a pretty good Wisconsin snowstorm. A copy of the report has been provided to the Board and has been provided to you as well.

I was out at deer registration stations on opening weekend and also got away a couple of days to hunt myself. Since the season closed we have heard from a lot of hunters who were frustrated with the hunt. We intend to be responsive to those concerns, but I would first like to make some general observations.

The Wisconsin hunting heritage is a powerful force in our state; for families, for hunters, our economy and our quality of life.

Consider these facts from the current season:

• The hunting tradition is strong and vibrant in Wisconsin. We have some of the best deer hunting opportunities in the nation. For the 2009 deer hunt season to date, we sold 638,040 gun licenses and 204,833 bow licenses. These figures are just slightly below the numbers for last season. While 94 percent of hunters were Wisconsin residents, hunters from all 50 states once gain came to hunt in Wisconsin this year.

• Overall, the 2009 nine-day gun hunt was the fourth safest on record with no fatalities. There were seven nonfatal incidents.

• More than 10,000 10- and 11-year tried out deer hunting on the state’s new mentored hunting licenses. I thank the Chairs, the members of these committees, and the legislature for passing the mentored hunting bill in this past year. Of the new youth, 20 percent were girls. There was not a single hunting incident involving these hunters.

• The October Youth hunt harvest increased by 50 percent to more than 6,000 deer on the youth hunt weekend.

• Wisconsin annually ranks nationally in the top five states in the number of deer hunting licenses sold. And we are in the top three in total expenditures for hunting. Deer hunting is a $1 billion driver of our state economy.

We are one of the top three states in the nation for Boone and Crockett trophy whitetails, including a new state record buck taken by bow and arrow this fall.

While our hunting tradition is something we are both proud of and thankful for, of all the work done by the DNR, there is probably no subject that generates more controversy or criticism than deer herd management. That was true 50 years ago when the old Conservation Department was in charge, and it will probably be true 50 years from today. People are passionate about their opinions. Our challenge is to have a good system in place for public input, and to make the best science based decisions we can on how we manage the herd.

As we do so, good dose of humility is always in order. White-tail deer have lived on Wisconsin’s vast and varied landscape for thousands of years, long before any immigrants arrived. Understanding deer and how they interact with their ecosystem is a significant challenge. The ecosystem is constantly changing, and our understanding of the system is always evolving. For example, one of the areas we are focused on is the impact of natural predators in the ecosystem -- wolves, bears and coyotes. We are taking steps to improve the S-A-K population estimate model. And, we are laying the groundwork to do significant research on the impact of deer browse on forest regeneration.

Our 2009 pre-season forecast anticipated a lower harvest primarily due to an expected reduction in antlerless harvest. This reduction was a response to population declines in the last two years which were a result of herd reductions efforts as well as below average fawn production. Statewide preliminary registration figures indicate the harvest during the nine-day gun season was down 29 percent from 2008 to 196,098. This includes 86,708 antlered bucks -- a 12 percent decrease -- and 109,390 antlerless deer – a 39 percent decrease from 2008.

We know that the herd is smaller in some regions of the state which is why we took action to reduce the harvest in those areas. During this season, 13 deer management units had no bonus antlerless permits. 38 units were moved out herd control to regular season, and 29 units were moved out of earn-a-buck, all contributing to a decline in antlerless harvest. In all, the number of regular units increased from 21 in 2008 to 59 in 2009.

Following the 2008 season, hunters told us they told us they wanted fewer antlerless deer harvested. As a result, we greatly reduced the number of antlerless permits available and antlerless harvest went down accordingly. In 2009 there were 78 units (of 132 statewide) where we reduced antlerless deer hunting opportunity. This reduction in permits contributed to the decline in gun deer harvest.

In some areas of the state the deer population is below goal, and our efforts are focused on increasing the population. In other parts of the state, we are still above goal. For example, in the CWD zone in the southern part of the state, over-population has been a contributing factor to the increased prevalence of CWD in the deer herd, increasing the risk of spread of this disease.

Overall, fewer deer on the landscape equals fewer deer seen and fewer harvested. We must continue to manage toward a sustainable, healthy deer population.

Wisconsin’s experience in 2009 is not unique. Our neighboring Great Lakes states and provinces also experienced harvest declines. Deer harvest is down 12 percent in Minnesota, 10-20 percent in Michigan, 20-30 percent in the UP, and 24 percent in Quebec.

Over the next few months, our staff will look carefully at the data hunters provided us on their registration stubs – data that is the foundation of our science-based management -- to determine where we now stand with respect to the size of the deer population. We know the state’s herd varies by region and careful analysis is needed before we move ahead with future season recommendations.

We also will continue to seek input from the public on deer management objectives and policy. In addition to advisory groups, public meetings and hearings, hunters can now give us feedback through a modified deer registration stub and an online database where hunters can record field observations of weather conditions, hours hunted and number of deer seen.

Deer Management Units and Population Goals

This brings us to deer population goals and Deer Management Unit boundaries. The department remains committed to supporting Wisconsin’s hunting traditions and managing for a healthy, sustainable and ecologically balanced deer population. In the early part of this decade, the deer population reached unsustainable levels in much of the state. It’s the department’s job to bring populations down to the population goals approved through an extensive public process with ultimate review by the legislature. It is also our job to use deer management tools to raise the deer population in regions where it is below goal.

The criteria we must follow to determine deer population goals come from laws passed by the legislature. These laws require the Department to manage the deer population for conservation of ecosystems and for future generations’ use and enjoyment. They require the Department to keep agricultural and forestry damage to tolerable levels. Our administrative code further emphasizes the balance that deer goals must strike: NR 1.15 directs that the “department shall seek to maintain a deer herd in balance with its range and at deer population goals reasonably compatible with social, economic and ecosystem objectives for each deer management unit.”

Unit boundaries and population goals are reviewed at approximately three year intervals. In 2005, this committee reviewed and approved the goals that are now in place. Today you are reviewing Natural Resources Board changes approved in October that will guide our herd management decisions for the next three years. As we have done before, we once again welcome input from your committees before these goals are finalized.

The changes before you were developed with extensive public involvement. Beginning in January 2009, a large stakeholder group made up of representatives of hunting groups, landowners, foresters, farmers and ecologists convened to lead this goal review. I would like to extend our gratitude to these hard working volunteers who take deer management very seriously.

The process for this goal review included the stakeholder panel, 40 public meetings to gather input, several web based surveys, eight public hearings across the state to review this rule, as well as Natural Resource Board review and approval.

There are many factors to consider when establishing deer goals -- preserving Wisconsin’s great deer hunting tradition for future generations, forest impacts, agricultural impacts, public safety as measured by car-deer collisions, preventing animal disease transmission, and others.

Wisconsin’s 16 million acres of forest land support great deer habitat as well other important economic and environmental values. When the deer population is too high the regeneration of our forests is put at risk, threatening deer habitat and future deer hunting opportunities as well as our forestry based economy. Wisconsin’s paper and wood products industry is #1 in the country. Our forests are a tremendous natural resource that provide the foundation for 68,000 family-supporting jobs. Forestry related companies are the #1 employer in 23 Wisconsin counties.

Deer also impact another vitally important sector of Wisconsin’s economy, agriculture. The year 2000 was a peak year in Wisconsin’s deer hunt -- over 615,000 deer were harvested. As we have moved closer to deer population goals over the last few years, agriculture impacts have been reduced. In 2000, over 15,000 acres were damaged by deer and 339,000 bushels of corn lost, as well as 71,000 bushels of soybeans lost. By comparison, in 2008, a little over 8,000 acres were damaged by deer, 172,000 bushels of corn lost, and 30,000 bushels of soybeans lost.

Public safety is another factor that the Department must consider in setting deer population goals. While most Wisconsin citizens expect that car-deer collisions are a part of living in Wisconsin, they expect the DNR to keep these collisions in an acceptable range. As we have moved closer to deer population goals over the past decade, the number of deer caused collisions have declined. DNR numbers for deer carcass removals from our highways declined from 48,000 in 2003 to 28,000 in 2008. The number of car-deer collisions reported by police to DOT declined from over 20,000 in 2000, to just over 15,800 in 2008.

These numbers are not just statistics. Ten people died on our highways last year from car-deer collisions. In the 1990s, the trend was better, with fatalities from car-deer crashed averaging just over 5 per year, compared with 10 per year since 2000.

Disease management also remains a key concern. Chronic Wasting Disease poses a serious threat to a healthy, sustainable deer herd and our hunting heritage. Population goals inside and outside the CWD zone need to reflect our strongest efforts to slow disease spread.

Balancing all of these goals is a challenging task. Our responsibility is to establish goals that will sustain our great hunting heritage, result in a healthy deer population that is sustainable on our landscape, and consider the impacts deer have on all facets of life in Wisconsin. The rule before you today follows the recommendations of the stakeholder group, with extensive public input. These rules represent our best efforts to strike an acceptable balance that will ensure ecosystem conservation and sustain our hunting heritage for generations to come.

Thank you for the opportunity to be here today. We look forward to answering any questions you may have.

You can also find the text at:

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

2009 Deer Hunt Survey from Senator Neal Kedzie

Below you will find a link to a survey that is having the results compiled for use during the Department of Natural Resources meeting on December 17th, 2009.  Please take the survey so that hunters have a voice in this meeting regardless of your position. 

From the site:

If you participated in the 2009 Wisconsin gun deer hunt, please take a few moments to complete this survey.

On December 17, 2009, the Senate Natural Resources Committee and Assembly Fish and Wildlife
Committee will hold a joint public hearing on the traditional, 9-day 2009 gun deer season, and a
rule relating to deer management unit population goals. Your input is valued and appreciated.

Thank you very much!

Survey Link:

Sportsmen and Women Call for Veto Override on AB 138, DNR Secretary Appointment Bill

Wisconsin Wildlife Federation

December 15, 2009

News Release
Contact: George Meyer, Executive Director, 608-516-5545

Sportsmen and Women Call for Veto Override on AB 138, DNR Secretary Appointment Bill

Poynette: The Board of Directors of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, the state’s largest conservation organization, at its bimonthly Board meeting on December 12, 2009 unanimously adopted a resolution calling on the Wisconsin Assembly and the Wisconsin Senate to vote to override the Governor’s veto of Assembly Bill 138 which restores the appointment authority of the DNR Secretary back to the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board.

“The request for a veto override was unanimous from the forty-five WWF Board members present who represent the 168 hunting, fishing, trapping and forestry-related groups belonging to the Federation. This is fully consistent with the message that we are getting from meetings being held with sportsmen and women across the state on the issue. Sportsmen and women’s interest in this bill remains very high and has not been dampened by the Governor’s veto. There is a recognition that the veto by the Governor, a reversal of his fourteen year position, was made easy because of his decision not to seek re-election in 2010, stated Jack Nissen (Dousman), WWF President.

“There is an understanding that the Senate amendment to AB 138 is really a minor change to the bill and does not override the great importance of the bill to sportsmen and women. Our elected officials should not let the absence of a “perfect bill” get in the way of a very good bill that the overwhelming number of sportsmen and women in this state have been working hard on for many years. Going in to 2010, hunters, anglers and trappers will be very frustrated if a veto override does not occur. They will be following this issue very carefully, indicated Ralph Fritsch (Townsend), Chair of the WWF Wildlife Committee.
The Wisconsin Wildlife Federation is the state’s largest conservation organization comprised of 168 hunting, fishing and trapping groups representing over 100,000 members. The Federation is dedicated to conservation education and the furtherance of sound conservation policies on a state and national level. The Wisconsin Wildlife Federation is an affiliate of the National Wildlife Federation.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Monster Whitetail Shot With Muzzleloader in Wisconsin

Is this the muzzleloader recordd for the State of Wisconsin?  Unnoficial score was 203"

Here is the story from a fellow hunter:

This was shot south of LaCrosse with a muzzleloader last Tuesday (12/1/09). It was bedded along the fence line as the guy was tilling up his fields. It never moved in two passes so he left the tractor idling and went and got his muzzleloader. He snuck withing 50 yards downwind and whistled to get the buck to stand up. When he did, he dropped him. The best part is (a friend)Eric hunted this farm for 4 straight days through the gun season only seeing does and small bucks. But his treestand was in the background of one of the pictures that Chris saw.

Chris was told that the state record with a muzzleloader is somewhere around 196" and the world is around 201". This buck was first scored around 203".

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

What Should the Wisconsin DNR do Next? Public Hearing, Thursday, December 17, 2009

In the last few weeks, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has taken fire from different groups and individuals.  Experts in the department spend countless hours in the field and in the office trying to desperately find ways to help manage the herd.  Whether we agree or disagree that the efforts they are putting forth are accurate and well executed, we still have to agree to come up with a solution.

To help come to the next "best" option for deer hunters and those that manage the deer herd, I ask that those who can make it, attend the public hearing on Thursday, December 17th, 2009 at our State Capitol.

Below you will see the official notice given of the public hearing so please attend or find a way to have someone voice your thoughts and opinions at this hearing, regardless of what side you are on.

Thank you



Committee on Fish and Wildlife

The committee will hold a public hearing on the following items at the time specified below:

Thursday, December 17, 2009
10:00 AM
411 South
State Capitol

This will be a joint hearing with the Senate Committee on Transportation, Tourism, Forestry, and Natural Resources

2009 Deer Season Review
    The Committee will be briefed by the Department of Natural Resources on the 2009 deer season and population management tools.

Clearinghouse Rule 09-053
    Relating to deer management unit population goals.

Lawmakers Call for Suspension of December Anterless Deer Hunt: Official Release

I came in contact with a copy of the official release submitted to the Wisconsin DNR to suspend this weeks Anterless deer hunt.  Whether we agree to suspend or not its a good time to debate how the deer herd should be managed. 

December 4, 2009
Contact: Representative Scott Gunderson (608) 266-3363
              Representative Dean Kaufert (608) 266-5719

Lawmakers Call For Suspension of the December Antlerless Hunt
Action by Natural Resources Board Imperative to Protect Deer Herd

MADISON… In a letter to the Natural Resources Board, state lawmakers, today, requested that the Board take immediate action to suspend the 2009 December antlerless deer hunt. During the 9-day deer gun season, hunters registered the fewest deer in 27 years and 29 % fewer deer than just last year.

“In light of the historic declines in deer harvest over the past two seasons and the overwhelming sentiment by the hunters of Wisconsin, a suspension of the 2009 December antlerless season is crucial to safeguard our deer herd,” said Representative Scott Gunderson (R-Waterford). “It is absolutely imperative that the Board takes swift action to protect Wisconsin’s deer heard from further harm that may take generations to recover from.”

Representative Dean Kaufert (R-Neenah) continued, “We have heard from countless discouraged and frustrated hunters from all across Wisconsin who do not believe the Department’s deer herd estimate because they are not seeing deer out in the woods, especially antlerless deer. We need to listen to our hunters when they report fewer deer sightings; mild weather and areas of fog cannot explain the drastic reduction in the number of deer registered.”

While hunters across Wisconsin continuously report the lack of deer in the woods, there is significant evidence that their experiences in the woods are consistent with the actual number of deer. The number of deer carcasses removed by state contractors has plummeted for seven consecutive years, and is currently at the same levels as the late 1980’s. Predation by an underestimated bear population and an ever-growing wolf population has decimated the deer herd in vast areas of Wisconsin.

“The nine-day deer gun season is, not only steeped in tradition, but it also has an economic impact of over $1 billion for the state of Wisconsin,” stated Gunderson. “A 29% lower deer harvest this season is cause for concern, but on top of last season’s 26% total deer gun season harvest reduction; we have reached a critical crossroads for our deer herd in Wisconsin.”

“Because of deep tradition and the economic impact deer hunting has in Wisconsin, it is imperative that we act now before there are long-lasting and devastating effects on not only Wisconsin’s white-tail population, but also our economy,” concluded Kaufert.
# # #

Monday, December 7, 2009

Wisconsin Legislators Pushing for Suspending This Weeks Wisconsin Antlerless Deer Hunt

What a week it has been for the DNR. 

Just last week the DNR was under fire, no pun intended, from Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker.  Now a group a legislators are requesting that this weeks antlerless deer hunt be suspended.

According to a new release posted by the Associated Press, 22 legislators made their request in a letter to the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board. The letter dated last Wednesday was released to the media Friday, December 7th.
With a poor harvest in last months Wisconsin nine-day gun season, concerns are mounting and bringing out fire from Wisconsins top brass.  Figures from the DNR show that Wisconsin hunters harvested fewer than 200,000 deer in comparison to recent years where 320,000 to 350,000 deer were harvested.

The antlerless-deer is scheduled for this week, Dec. 10-13.

Proposal for Wisconsin 16-day Deer Hunt in 2010 on Hold

How long will the season be for the 2010 Wisconsin gun deer season?  It wont be 16 days long, yet.  The DNR's proposal for the 16-day Wisconsin gun deer season has taken a back for the moment.  Wisconsin DNR experts first want to take a moment to "analyze" this years deer hunt before making any more proposals.

According to the Associated Press, DNR secretary Matt Frank, released in a letter, "The department first wants to analyze data from the recently completed nine-day hunt, which produced the lowest kill number in years."

"Frank says a 16-day season remains an option for population control in the future. But he says it's more important now to review this season's numbers so the DNR can make better decisions in the future."

This is a step in the right direction for the moment. 

Friday, December 4, 2009

Whitetails Unlimited Opposes Wisconsins 2010 16-day Deer Season Proposal

Wisconsin --( Whitetails Unlimited sent a letter today to members of Wisconsin’s Natural Resources Board, opposing an expanded 16-day gun deer hunt in Wisconsin in 2010.

“There is always tension between hunters and DNR regulators, and we understand that,” said Whitetails Unlimited President Jeff Schinkten. “But the results of the 2009 gun deer season show that hunter numbers were down in Wisconsin, and the number of bucks killed was at a 25-year low for the second straight year. Until we can get a handle on the true deer population in Wisconsin, we need to hold off on the 16-day gun season.”

Schinkten also pointed out that car-deer accidents have had a dramatic and steady decline for the last five years, and a survey of WTU members showed a large gap between opinions of Wisconsin hunters and the opinions of DNR policymakers.

"Whitetails Unlimited has been a strong partner with DNR agencies across the country, working on programs in support of regulated hunting,” said Schinkten. “That will not change. In fact, there is an agenda item for the next NRB meeting that is a donation from our Flambeau Chapter for habitat work in the Upper Chippewa Wildlife Management Area. However, we don’t want to see the number of hunters drop, and when those numbers drop in Wisconsin, where deer hunting is a passion, we get concerned. DNR policy can have a huge effect on hunter satisfaction, and we just want a common-sense approach to wildlife management.”

The text of the letter to the NRB is as follows:

To: Members, Wisconsin Natural Resources Board
From: Whitetails Unlimited

Date: December 3, 2009

The Wisconsin DNR has a tremendous responsibility in managing the natural resources of the state, and it comes as no surprise that deer hunters in the state are very passionate about their sport. While there may always be tension between hunters and policymakers, the divergence of opinion in recent years has led to a level of tension that is actually damaging the sport.

After seeing the preliminary numbers of license sales and deer kills for the 2009 season, it is obvious that the hunting public is increasingly dissatisfied. This problem will get worse if the DNR continues under the existing philosophy, methods and goals.

Whitetails Unlimited is very concerned about the future of deer hunting in the state, and urges the DNR to fully evaluate all data, and to listen to deer hunters in establishing future hunting seasons and regulations.

The fact that Wisconsin has had two consecutive years of buck kills at 25-year lows, and a reduction of the total number of deer hunters this year, are troubling indications that Wisconsin hunters are joining in the decline in hunting popularity. While there can be many reasons for the decline in hunters, it is undeniable that DNR policies can be a major factor in hunter satisfaction, and that the DNR needs to be responsive to those who provide a major funding source for their operations.

Whitetails Unlimited is the nation’s largest organization of deer hunters, and we take our mission of “Preserving an American tradition” very seriously. Our national headquarters is located in Wisconsin, and Wisconsin is the state with our largest number of members. When we conducted a survey of our Wisconsin members this year, their opinion was overwhelming that they believe there are fewer deer than DNR estimates, and they oppose many DNR policies. Anecdotal opinions of WTU staff, friends, and family members, hunting all over the state, agree with our members. We are very concerned that the DNR is damaging their credibility by continuing with policies that are not believed or supported, and even actively opposed, by hunters in the state.

I am not a biologist, but it seems like a common-sense approach is needed, rather than the drastic changes in season length that have been proposed. This is based on back-to-back seasons of buck kills at 25-year lows, a steady and dramatic reduction in car/deer accidents over the last five years, and hunters refusing to go deer hunting.

We understand the difficulty of trying to estimate and manage a population of wild animals, months and months in the future, but the solid numbers of this past deer season need to be incorporated into the evaluation, and are significant enough to warrant the DNR to revisit decisions made earlier this year.

Whitetails Unlimited has a long history in working with the DNR, in Wisconsin and many other states, in projects and programs that advance regulated hunting, and this will not change. However, we cannot stand silently when we feel that actions by the DNR will result in fewer deer hunters enjoying an American tradition.

For the record, Whitetails Unlimited is opposed to lengthening the traditional nine-day gun season, based on the information detailed above. We urge the DNR to get a firm handle on the deer population numbers before making drastic changes to deer hunting regulations.


Jeffrey Schinkten

President, Whitetails Unlimited


Founded in 1982, Whitetails Unlimited is a national nonprofit conservation organization. Our mission is to raise funds in support of education, habitat enhancement and acquisition, and the preservation of the hunting tradition for the benefit of the white-tailed deer and other wildlife. When it comes to the whitetail and its environment, WTU’s degree of professionalism and dedication has earned us the reputation of being the nation’s premier whitetail organization.

Article Source:
Original Article Site

Political push for a new DNR Wildlife Management Team?

Two years of poor hunting seasons and a growing number of concerns for the deer herd has brought on a request for change in the DNR Wildlife Management team.  This request however is not coming from local hunters, its coming from state representative Russ Decker(D).
According to the WEAU news release "Democratic Senator Russ Decker says the DNR has mismanaged the deer herd and a new team needs to be brought in to do the job. Decker is calling on the Secretary of the DNR Matt Frank to make the replacement and if he doesn't the DNR board should.

DNR Conservation Warden Michael Young says warm weather, corn and wet conditions were responsible for a disappointing deer season. Decker adds the DNR is a master of excuses and hunters are sick of them.

He believes they need a management team that knows what they are doing and will listen to hunters."

Hunters across the state are reporting poor hunts, lack of deer, and confusion on the need of more seasons.  Many questions still need to be addressed by the DNR in the next few months but hunters are going to want to know the following for sure: What is the DNR doing to determine actual whitetail deer herd counts in Wisconsin?  If the deer herd is determined to be down, why are increasing hunting seasons?

Sited Source:

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Hunters register 195,647 deer in November hunt

MADISON – A survey of Wisconsin deer registration stations conducted by the state Department of Natural Resources has yielded a preliminary tally of 195,647 for the just-ended, nine-day November gun deer hunt. This includes a buck tally of 86,251 and an antlerless tally of 109,396.
This number is preliminary and is expected change before a final report is published in late winter. It does not include harvest information from the archery, October antlerless gun deer hunt, muzzleloader, December antlerless deer gun hunt or late archery seasons. The preliminary harvest count in 2008 was 276,895.
“Deer populations are variable throughout the state,” said Keith Warnke, DNR’s big game biologist, “and we believe people when they say they did not see deer in their hunting area. We have also received reports from successful camps. As always, local populations make all the difference.
“Wildlife management and especially deer management is a process of continual adjustment. In response to hunter input we adjusted seasons this year to reflect lower populations across the north and central forests and suspended EAB in many areas.”
DNR wildlife officials anticipated the total harvest would be down due to changes in season structure that significantly reduced the antlerless deer harvest, lower fawn production and tough weather conditions for deer and hunters alike. In some northeastern units it was not possible to shoot an antlerless deer and in other northern region units the small supply of bonus antlerless deer tags did not meet demand. Careful adjustment of antlerless tag numbers is an important tool in managing deer numbers.

“There are still days to hunt in 2009 in herd control units where deer are above goal and in CWD units. The muzzleloader hunt is underway and the December antlerless hunt is around the corner.”
In February, DNR biologists will compare unit-level harvest numbers against overwinter population estimates and will adjust the recommended season structure for 2010 to address any significant trends.
“A pillar of Wisconsin deer management is the accurate harvest figures provided by hunters,” said DNR wildlife biologist Jeff Pritzl. “Periods of stable deer populations have always been relatively short-lived in Wisconsin. Mandatory deer registration allows us to respond quickly to changing population levels. We have annually adapted our harvest strategies, and will continue to do so in consideration of what the 2009 harvest tells us about the deer population.”
“This year, in response to hunter input, we moved 29 units from earn-a-buck to herd control status and 38 units from herd control to regular unit status. The total number of regular units grew from 21 in 2008 to 59 this year.” said Warnke. “The result was inevitably less antlerless opportunity and lower antlerless harvest numbers.”
A table of county by county (pdf; 39kb) harvest broken down by DNR region, with a comparison to the 2008 preliminary harvest is available on the DNR Web site.
Young hunters prove themselves safe and responsible

“What is really exciting, is the 9,907 mentored hunting licenses purchased by 10- and 11-year olds,” said Diane Brookbank, chief of DNR’s licensing and customer service unit. “These are the future hunters and conservationists that will step into the woods in place of the hunting ‘retirees’ as our population ages.”

Wardens reported no firearm incidents among these young hunters.

Hunt fourth safest in history

DNR hunter education administrator and conservation warden Tim Lawhern said there were seven hunting incidents during the nine-day gun hunt. A possible eighth incident remains under investigation.
"Our hearts go out to the families whose loved ones suffered injury during the hunting season,” said Lawhern. “Our goal is to eliminate all injury and loss of life while hunting. Every incident is investigated to learn what happened so we can work to prevent such incidents in the future.”

Self-inflicted gunshot injuries accounted for 57 percent (4 of 7) of this season’s incidents. Deer drives contributed to 25 percent of all incidents. Both categories and all firearm related incidents can be attributed to failure to observe one of the basic rules of firearm safety according to Lawhern.

Still, noted Lawhern, hunting remains a safe sport and has gotten safer over time as more and more hunters are graduates of hunter safety education courses. This is especially true in Wisconsin where the incident rate for hunters is well below the national average. The incident rate for 2009 in Wisconsin was 1.11 incidents per 100,000 hunters – the national average is 3 per 100,000.

“This was the fourth safest season ever and the fourth time in history that we’ve had a gun deer season with less than 10 incidents,” said Lawhern, “Nonetheless, our goal is zero incidents.”

More than 638,000 gun deer licenses sold

DNR’s automated License Issuance System, known as ALIS, peaked at 200 transactions per minute at 5:30 p.m. on the Friday before gun season. The 638,040 gun licenses sold through the end of the season on Nov 29 represent a near identical number of hunters as in 2008 when 642,419 hunters hit the woods.

•Nearly one in five hunters age 15 and younger is female and women bought 8.6 percent of all gun licenses sold
•All 50 states are represented in license sales with the highest number of nonresident hunters coming from Minnesota, Illinois and Michigan.
•The most licenses were sold in Dane County.
•All ages participate with over 54,000 hunters age 65 and older buying licenses.

Source: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
News Release Published: December 1, 2009 by the Central Office
Contact(s): Keith Warnke (608) 264-6023