Wisconsin Deer Season 2012: Hunting Forecast

For 2012, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) estimates 1.4 million deer across the state, a number that's pretty much been stable since 2008.

(Click here for the forecast on your state's 2012 deer season)

Last winter was a "non-event across most of the state," notes Dan Hirchert, DNR Assistant Deer Biologist.

"Our Winter Severity Index indicated that mild conditions were wide-spread throughout the state. The deer herd will benefit by that and an early green-up that puts does, which were already in good shape, into better food sources sooner. We're expecting a robust fawn recruitment year."

A northern tier state though it is, Wisconsin was not immune to drought conditions this year.

"Up until June, forage was in excellent shape, with an early green-up and crops planted ahead of schedule," Hirchert said. "Since June, the southern quarter of the state has received very little rain. As you travel north conditions improve, with the northern quarter of the state posting a [precipitation] surplus, which has made good summer range conditions in those areas."

"The full extent of the drought has yet to be realized. We've had reports of oaks dropping their yet-to-mature acorns, native vegetation dying back early and ag fields that are unlikely to produce a crop. That's going to likely affect all the wildlife species that rely on those resources, including deer," he said.

First found here over a decade ago, Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) continues to intensify in the southern third of the state. The percentage of deer with the disease, based on deer hunter provided deer samples has gone from about eight percent to 18 percent in bucks in the last ten years, and from about three percent to seven percent in does. Deer numbers here, though, have not gone down.

Meanwhile, a doe from Washburn County tested CWD positive last fall, nearly 200 miles north of ground zero for the disease. The DNR will intensify its surveillance efforts here this fall.

Wisconsin's nickname is The Dairy State, but it could as easily be called, "The Boone & Crockett State," given that Wisconsin ranks at the top Boone & Crockett state from 2005 to 2010 with 383 record book entries, for typical and non-typical whitetails combined. It's 1980 to 1985 ranks was third--with just 40 entries!

The Midwestern Regional Report
_Winter in the Midwest was mild to nonexistent, and deer herds came into spring in very good shape. However, drought could be an issue in some states. "Hard and soft mast crops will likely be compromised, and clover and row crop production is threatened by dry conditions," says Iowa deer biologist Tom Litchfield. In parts of Indiana and Illinois, some farmers were forced to plow under failing corn or chop it up for cattle feed in midsummer.

Deer numbers are stable to growing in most locales, though disease is taking a toll in several states. North Dakota is still reeling from last year's EHD outbreak, CWD is spreading within Illinois and Wisconsin, bovine tuberculosis is still a concern in Michigan's Lower Peninsula, and Nebraska and Missouri experienced EHD outbreaks this summer._

Top Trophy Zones
IL: Pike, Adams, Brown, and Fulton counties. KS: Units 11, 12, and 16.
KY: Christian, Grayson, Hardin, Hart, Muhlenberg, and Ohio counties.
MI: Calhoun, Cass, Jackson, and Washtenaw counties. MN: Zone 3. This fall will be the third year of antler-point restrictions here.
MO: Saline, Putnam, Calloway, Chariton, and Cooper counties.
NE: Since 2005, hunters have taken 44 record-book mule deer bucks in Cherry County, including a 171 2⁄8 typical in 2010 and a 210 4⁄8 non-typical in 2005.
OH: Muskingum County. WI: Buffalo, Trempealeau, and Waupaca counties. Between 2005 and 2010, the Dairy State led all other states with 383 Boone and Crockett entries.