Record your deer watching to help DNR biologists

I’m lucky to live in the middle of a woodland paradise. My little section of Waupaca County is teeming with wild turkeys, sandhill cranes, coyotes, frogs, turtles and of course white-tailed deer. It’s not an exaggeration that I see deer almost every day, and that’s not always a good thing. In 18 years of living on a Wolf River backwater, I’ve only had a few deer bounce lightly off the side of my car and never killed one with a vehicle.

Close calls? Don’t go there.

Many of you see many more deer than me. Those blessed with the ability to select which of 15 named bucks they want to shoot or to pick off a couple does when they need to fill antlerless tags are even more fortunate. As much as we occasionally cuss the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for things they do and don’t control (no, they never released hyenas at night to control the gila monsters they released a few years back to control the ticks), the proof of their many successes is all around us. Wisconsin is the envy of many other states when it comes to providing deer hunting opportunities, and we still have more trophy deer records than any other state, too.

Now it’s your turn to help.

Citizens are encouraged to record their daily deer observations from Aug. 1 through Sept. 30 and submit them to the DNR as part of Operation Deer Watch. To access the online tally sheets and details, just type in “deer watch” at the DNR website’s search line.

The DNR wants to know the number of bucks, does without fawns, does with fawns and lone fawns that you see each day. Try not to include multiple observations if you are fairly sure the same deer are being seen repeatedly.

You should only include daytime (dawn to dusk) observations and do not include trail camera counts.

The online tally sheet also includes the county and deer management unit where you observed the deer. If for some reason you can’t submit your reports online, you can also mail them to Brian Dhuey, DNR surveys coordinator, 2801 Progress Road, Madison, WI 53716.

The DNR has been monitoring deer reproduction and other deer observations since 1960, but the public’s only been involved in the process for a few years. Results of the 2016 and 2017 counts also are available here:

Determining the fawn-to-doe ratio and other data can help determine the overall deer population, and the reports also aid County Deer Advisory Councils in developing hunting season quotas and framework, Dhuey said.

This would be a fun project for families or any wildlife lovers. I’ve been seeing mostly twin fawns in my area, but did observe one doe with three fawns. Sadly, I’ve seen quite a few dead fawns on the roads, too. Cars on busy highways can’t be expected to slow down in every deer zone, but on the backroads, I see way too many people driving 55 or faster at night through known deer crossings. If you don’t really value your vehicle and don’t mind risking injury or death, then continue to be blissfully ignorant about our abundant whitetail population.

Bonus antlerless “tags” on sale Aug. 13

Speaking of the abundance of deer, bonus “antlerless harvest authorizations” (the DNR’s new word to replace tags) will go on sale beginning at 10 a.m. Monday, Aug. 13, through the Go Wild website and at license vendors.

Tagging of deer, turkeys and bears has been eliminated, but I’m sure most of you will still call them that. “Permits” seems to be a much more concise, user-friendly term, so I think that’s a better option than “antlerless harvest authorizations.”

I’m picturing a bunch of scruffy, flannel-wearing guys in deer camp discussing the upcoming hunt.

“Fred, how many antlerless harvest authorizations did you buy?”

“Crazy Bill, I have no idea what you are talkin’ about, but I got four doe permits.”

“Did you know you can shoot button bucks with those?”

“Yes, like I said, doe permits.”

These permits are $12 each for residents, $20 for non-residents and $5 for youth ages 11 and under.

You can enter the online system at 9:45 a.m., when each user is assigned a random number. If you enter after 10 a.m., you are added to the end of the “virtual” line. You will click on the “Buy Licenses” area of your Go Wild’s personal dashboard to find the “bonus antlerless harvest authorization” at the top of the list!

Aug. 13 is for the Northern and Central Forest Zone (Zone 1), Aug. 14 is for Central Farmland (Zone 2), Aug. 15 is for Southern Farmland (Zone 2) and remaining bonus permits will be sold on Aug. 16.

The “regular” antlerless permits issued with buck tags are now available, too. If you’ve already purchased a Conservation Patron license or bought your buck tags, you can print your antlerless tags now via Go Wild and your home computer, or pay $2 and have them printed at a license vendor.

I prefer to wait a bit so that I don’t lose them. You are only allowed to carry one set of permits, even if you end up printing more than one set.

Ross Bielema is a freelance writer from New London and owner of Wolf River Concealed Carry LLC. Contact him at