Douglas County deer season likely bucks only for most hunters

Wisconsin hunters have until April 29 to comment on the recommendations of deer advisory committees in each county.

Minnesota law requires that all deer farm animals be tested for chronic wasting disease upon their death. (File / News Tribune)

The 2020 Wisconsin deer hunting season in Douglas County would be bucks-only for most people under the preliminary recommendations of the Douglas County Deer Advisory Committee.

The committee — comprised mostly of local hunters — met by telephone conference earlier in April, and, based on input from the public as well as data and recommendations from Department of Natural Resources wildlife managers, opted for a conservative season in 2020.

Antlerless permits would be available only for youth, active military personnel, property owners with agricultural damage, disabled hunters and tribal members. The City of Superior metro area also will have an allocation of antlerless permits for the city archery hunt aimed at keeping deer numbers low within the city limits.

All other hunters in Douglas County would have to wait for a buck in 2020.

The recommendations — as they are for all counties — are open for comments through April 29 at . The committee is scheduled to meet in person May 7 at 5:30 p.m. at the Superior Public Library, but it appears that meeting, too, may have to be held by teleconference due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation.


The official goal in Douglas County now is management to increase the county’s deer herd after a couple disappointing seasons. The 2018 buck harvest was down nearly 14% and the 2019 harvest was down by 23%.

The county’s buck harvest was 27% below the 45-year average. The county’s pre-hunt population estimate dropped from 38,820 in 2017 to 28,900 in 2019 — a nearly 29% decline.

“We have a downward spiraling trend, and have not met our objective of increasing the deer herd,’’ the DNR noted in its report to the committee.

Across northern Wisconsin counties, the buck harvest was down 27%, in part because of two major snowstorms during the firearms season that greatly limited hunters' ability to get into the woods, but also, many hunters said, because there were simply fewer deer.

“That’s the million-dollar question, whether it was hunter access or that many fewer deer,’’ said Greg Kessler, DNR wildlife manager stationed in Brule.

Al Horvath, chairman of the county Deer Advisory Committee, noted that 115 people submitted a questionnaire that showed 26% of hunters were satisfied with the 2019 seasons in Douglas County, 50% were dissatisfied while 21% were neither satisfied nor dissatisfied and 2.6% chose not to hunt.

Only 16% of hunters said they complied with the DNR request to submit a deer head for chronic wasting disease testing.

Of hunters who responded, 50% wanted zero antlerless permits issued for 2020 and 40% wanted a small number of permits, while 8% wanted a large or medium number of permits and 3% were unsure.


It’s still possible that vocal private-land hunters, as they did last year, write-in with comments that would spur the committee to allow more antlerless permits on private land in the final recommendations made next month.

Kessler said most counties to the south of Douglas County are aiming for additional antlerless permits in 2020 to reduce or hold steady deer populations. Bayfield County’s initial recommendation is to reduce antlerless permits by 20%.

John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at
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