End of bucks-only deer harvest in Langlade County draws mixed reactionsSubmitted: 05/27/2016

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ANTIGO - For the first time since 2013, deer hunters in Langlade and Price counties will be able to target does with an antlerless deer tag in hand.

This week, Wisconsin's Natural Resources Board approved the fall hunt plans submitted by County Deer Advisory Councils (CDACs) all over the state. Langlade and Price counties had had bucks-only harvests in each of the last two deer seasons. But in 2016, some hunters will get antlerless tags as well.

The change is a sign the deer herd is recovering after harsh winters depleted it a few years ago.

Brian Waldvogel, who manages J's Archery and Gun Pro Shop in Antigo, expects the 1,100 tags to go quickly once they become available in August.

"Oh, yeah," he said Friday. "I imagine it won't take long to sell [those] tags."

"Those tags will probably sell out the day that they go on sale," agreed Chuck McCullough, a DNR Area Wildlife Supervisor based in Antigo.

After going back and forth, Langlade County's CDAC agreed on the tag number of 1,100. An increasing deer population in the county opened the door for a doe harvest.

"This coming year, we're really forecasting a large jump in deer numbers as a result of these consecutive mild winters," McCullough said.

The doe tags will be carefully distributed. Eight hundred will go to hunters on private land, while 300 will be earmarked for public-land hunters. The DNR expects about 440 antlerless deer will be killed with the 1,100 tags.

The careful calculation comes, in part, because of unique land dynamics in Langlade County.

"In the farm country [of the southern part of the county], we're seeing a little bit heavier population when it comes to Langlade County, versus the heavier timbered areas in the northern part of the county," Waldvogel said. "We get into the southern partâ€"there's a lot more food, a lot more deer."

There's much more private land in southern Langlade County, where the advisory group hopes the most does will be killed. That's why the group decided to hand out so many tags for private lands. Northern Langlade County has significantly more public land.

The conversation about antlerless tags in Langlade County likely won't end anytime soon. Some advisory group members pushed for even more doe tags, while others wanted none at all. It's a debate similar to the one Waldvogel has with himself.

"It's nice that the hunters have an opportunity to go harvest a deer and get meat in their freezer, but yet we don't want to put ourselves back into the same shoes we were a couple of years ago [of low populations]," he said.

Jerry Aulik, a former Natural Resources Board member living in Langlade County, said he fears a doe hunt isn't right for the county. He said deer predation from wolves and bears has hurt the herd too much.

Meanwhile, Arlen Heistad, the Deer Advisory Council chair, supports the move. He said he doesn't want to wait for the deer population to get out of control.

Story By: Ben Meyer

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