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Tom grew up in Milwaukee, bartended in Wauwatosa in the '70s and moved here in 1984.

Commentary, observations and musings about the outdoors, life in general and maybe Tosa politics and personalities will be the order of the day. He savors a lively debate as much as terrific cooking.

Deer Camp - Day Eight

Deer Camp, Deer Management, Door County Hunting, Governor Walker, Hunting, Scott Walker Deer Management

11/25/11

7:00 PM - The last time I looked - the news was that Governor Walker hadn't killed a deer yet this year.  Hunting in Vilas County I'm told he saw only snow.   

I devote today's post, in it's entirety, to an open message to a greatly admired and fellow Tosan. 

Dear Governor Walker-

I know you've been critical of the DNR's management of Wisconsin whitetails.  I would like to share with you my perspective.

I've had a stretch of a couple days without seeing any deer.  I spied two today - fleeing for their lives.  Granted, I've been sleeping-in and sitting on stand only the last few hours of daylight this week.  My bad hip is killing me.  You have no idea how painful it is to limp a half-mile one way, climb a tree stand, climb back down without falling and limp back.  Of course, I also shot two deer on opening day so my needle on the motivation meter is stuck on 'picky'.  The lack of deer sightings is more likely attributable to nocturnal behavior due to the presence of all the bait piles on the landscape and a lack of hunters pushing deer around.  Nobody does deer drives anymore.

Too bad about your Vilas County hunt.  I learned those woods grouse hunting.  It may be useful to know that deer are not distributed uniformly across Wisconsin's landscape.  Here in farm country on the peninsula we have abundant deer.  I happen to think we have too many deer.  But that's just one hunter/tree farmer's opinion.  I am aware that across Green Bay in the counties to the west the habitat and predator populations are different.  A deer hunter's experience there is going to be vastly different from that of a hunter here.

As evidence of this I keep a bag of ear registration tags collected over the years.  I counted 41 this morning.  That's hardly all of them as a good number ended-up traveling home with someone's kill or have been lost.

It is a fact that we have killed a rather large number of deer over the years - therefore my deer hunting experience has been exceedingly positive and rewarding.  As a matter of fact - judging from the body count alone - someone might conclude that the DNR has done a stellar job of deer management.  But I think you would agree with me that it is not as simple as that.  Nor should it be as simple as that.  It's complicated.  Right?

Without getting into weighty subject matter like social and biological carrying capacity it is valid to account for the reality that private landowners like me might have an easier time of it.  All of the land surrounding me is privately owned.  It's actually rather ideal whitetail habitat with plenty of bottom land and younger forests.  Hunter access is controlled too.  Relatively high hunter success rates suggest to me a burgeoning deer population.  Is the DNR doing a good job or a poor job? 

Contrast with this.  My pal Lawyer has a brother who hunts public land and he hasn't seen a deer in three years.  That's downright discouraging.  Is the DNR responsible for his predicament?

If you talk to the old timers around here they will speak of their youth and a serious shortage of deer.  I'm talking about an entire nine day season on the peninsula yielding a total kill a tiny fraction of the number of deer we now register on opening day alone.  There is general agreement that hunting is pretty good around these parts nowadays.  Who gets the credit?  

My point is this - over my lifetime things have gotten pretty good for the average Wisconsin deer hunter.  Whether you hunt with bow or firearm every hunter's experience is going to be different.  A function of private versus public land, habitat, predators, scouting, hunting prowess, weather and sometimes a bit of good luck or bad luck.  I'm not sure that legislative lawmaking or DNR policymaking can (or should) guarantee that deer hunters always have a positive experience.  

In closing, I don't want you to get the impression that the big pile of ear tags means that my camp has an easy go of it.  If I had a dollar for every hour I've sat in a stand with my bow or gun, freezing my tush or swatting mosquitoes - and not seeing a deer - I'd be able to retire early.

My wife says that is why they call this pursuit - hunting.  It should not be easy.  Not everybody can do it.  Some folks just aren't cut out for it.  If it was easy it would be called shopping.  Like you, I took-up the sport as a mature adult.  My advice is be persistent and take every opportunity to engage in the craft.  You will get your deer.  Probably without the help of big government.

Good luck to you, be safe and shoot straight.

Your neighbor,

Tom Gaertner

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