Doug Smith
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Wisconsin's low deer harvest this season – the firearms harvest is down about 29 percent -- has stirred up a hornets' nest in the Badger State:

* A state senator called for any wildlife officials involved with deer management to be fired.

* A group of 22 state lawmakers wants officials to suspend next week's antlerless deer hunt to help protect the herd.

* Matt Frank, secretary of the Wisconsin DNR, announced Friday that he was removing a 16-day deer season proposal from the agenda of the Natural Resources Boart meeting next week.

"Given the preliminary harvest numbers for the 2009 nine-day hunt that the department released earlier this week, we believe it is appropriate to postpone consideration of alternative herd control measures,'' Frank wrote.

Here's more of his letter to the Natural Resource Board:

"As we make important decisions about the best mix of policies to control the deer herd where it is over population goals and recover the herd where it is under population goals, I would like to give our staff more time to gather all the data from this season's hunt and analyze it. This data is a critical component in the population models we use to estimate the size of the herd both regionally and statewide.

"While we believe that a 16-day season remains a viable option for future consideration, removing this item from the Board's December agenda makes it likely that there will not be sufficient time to implement it for the 2010 deer hunting season. The extra time we take now to carefully review this season's deer harvest will be time well spent and will provide a better foundation for future herd management decision for the 2010 season and beyond.

"Our 2009 pre-season forecasts anticipated a lower harvest. Preliminary harvest numbers from the just-completed nine-day gun hunt indicate a significant drop in harvest on the heels of 2008's decline. We know that the herd is smaller in some areas, which is why we took action for the 2009 season. During this season, 13 deer management units had no bonus antlerless permits in order to restore the herd in those areas. 38 units were moved out of herd control to regular season, and we moved 29 units out of Earn-a-Buck, which contributed to a substantial decline in antlerless harvest. In all, the number of regular units increased from 21 in 2008 to 59 in 2009.''

Added Frank: "The department will continue to strive for the best deer hunting in the nation with a healthy, sustainable deer herd in balance with its habitat, including keeping crop and forest damage attributable to deer browsing at tolerable levels.''

Stay tuned.