Vilas deer panel reverses decision, says no antlerless
Council also rejects youth doe hunting
The Vilas County Deer Advisory Council (CDAC) voted Monday night that a zero antlerless quota be recommended for the 2017 whitetail deer season.
The committee voted 3-2 to continue growing the herd, and did so by recommending the Wisconsin DNR not allow any harvest of antlerless deer, including those taken in youth hunts.
The decision will move forward to a statewide subcommittee, and if approved there, heads to the Natural Resources Board for the final approval.
While the decision to allow for an antlerless harvest could still be made at the state level, local recommendations typically move through without objection.
The initial motion made Monday came from council member Mike Jovanovic.
“As far as the youth hunt goes, I don’t think it’s the end of the world even though that was a hard one for me last night,” Jovanovic said. “I have two grandsons who have the ability to hunt this year. I don’t know if I would have let them shoot a doe. I would have probably said let’s hang on and see if we can’t harvest a buck.”
Monday’s decision was in contrast to the recommendation given a month prior when the then three-person committee voted unanimously to propose 600 antlerless tags be made available within the county for fall 2017 hunts.
The goal of the 600 quota was to harvest around 200 antlerless deer. According to data provided by the DNR, those harvested would likely be a 50/50 split between both does and buck fawns.
Neither Jovanovic nor Walter Camp was present at the March meeting in Conover when the preliminary quota was set.
Over 70 comments along with 132 votes were received online with 63 votes stating they felt the initial 600 was either low or about right. Sixty-seven people felt the 600 number was either too high or much too high.
Both Jovanovic and Camp along with Art Kunde voted for the zero quota. In another motion following the approval of the zero quota they were also the three council members who voted to disqualify the youth tag along with it.
“I just don’t feel that we are where we need to be,” Jovanovic said. “I am under the premise that our landscape can hold a few more deer.”
In what turned out to be a failed attempt, DNR wildlife biologist Michele Woodford reminded the committee of the overwhelming support the council received for the 600 antlerless quota at the March meeting.
“I just want to remind you that a lot of the comments made by the public at the meeting in March revolved around allowing some harvest of antlerless deer to take the pressure off some of the younger bucks that will be shot without a quota available,” Woodford said.
Both Joe Hovel and Bill Reynolds were at the March meeting and echoed Woodford’s comments to the committee, however it was Art Kunde’s vote to break the tie that made the difference.
Afterwards both Reynolds and Hovel said while they weren’t surprised the vote turned out the way it did, they were discouraged in the way it happened.
“I was discouraged by the lack of council leadership, but understand we need to move forward in a positive direction,” Reynolds said. “I have a lot of respect for everyone on that committee and think we need to understand that our focus needs to be on the future.
“Overall though, it felt like the meeting got hijacked by an opinion that had been absent at every meeting up until this point.”
Kunde, who seemed to change his opinion from March to April, decided to go against his prior vote which was that a small quota would be all right in Vilas County this year.
“My personal opinion is that I’ve seen more deer in the woods this year than I did last year,” Kunde said in March. “We’ve put a lot of pressure on the buck herd up here. Keeping that in mind, if we did a quota it would be small.”
Jovanovic said he felt the committee should stay on their course, which was to continue growing the herd by setting a zero quota.
“Again, everyone there is trying to do the best they can with the data they have,” he said. “This to me was a three- year plan. I don’t believe that 600 was a make or break number either way. Would it have hurt the deer herd? Probably not. But it wasn’t enough to get people to come to Vilas County to hunt. The thing that is going to get people to come here is getting higher quality deer. I don’t think that by harvesting does we are doing our deer herd any justice, or helping to improve the quality either.”
Hovel was visibly frustrated with the vote from both Jovanovic and Camp, who up until Monday hadn’t been present at prior meetings.
“What surprised me was that two guys who voted with the majority, both of them didn’t attend the other two meetings,” Hovel said. “A vote like that is discouraging because it’s narrow-minded in scope. Conservation has a lot more to do with things other than high numbers of deer.”
Both Hovel and Reynolds voiced discouragement in the council’s lack of unity, but recognized that it may be part of showing what is wrong with the CDAC theory.
“The vote was truly nothing more than a symptom of the problem,” Hovel said. “These councils just don’t work. In concept the idea has some merit, but it was pretty obvious that what happened was sort of planned out to their favor.”
The 2017 season will mark the fifth consecutive season where hunters in Vilas County will not be able to purchase an antlerless permit and the third and final year inside a mandatory management plan set fourth by the CDAC.
While each member recognized that the outcome may not have been unanimous, each said they look forward to working together should they get that opportunity next year.
“Let’s look toward the future instead of complaining about the past,” Reynolds said.