By Scott SturkolDecember 21, 2017
There were 1,336 hunters who took to the woods at Fort McCoy Nov. 18-26, harvesting more than 400 deer during the post's 2017 nine-day gun-deer season.
A final harvest total for Fort McCoy will be known later in December after Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) online harvest data are checked and verified.
The annual hunt is important in helping to control the deer population on post, said Wildlife Biologist Dave Beckmann with the Directorate of Public Works Environmental Division Natural Resources Branch (NRB).
For 2017, approximately 2,000 regular permits were made available as well as 350 additional bonus tags, Beckmann said. The final number of people selected for a permit was 2,033 with an additional 33 permits provided for youth and service members who moved to Fort McCoy after the application deadline. Of those 2,033 permits, 1,414 were actually purchased, which is a 13 percent decline from 2016.
"Our goal again this year was to have a deer harvest of around 500, and although our hunter participation was down by 10 percent, we hope to be close to that once again," Beckmann said. "From information we had from surveys, we expected it to be a good hunt for all involved this year, and it looked like a really good year for some hunters."
Going into the season, Beckmann said it was estimated that Fort McCoy averaged about 35 deer per square mile.
"Our goal is to have approximately 20 to 25 deer per square mile," Beckmann said. "That's why these hunts are so important - they help us meet our wildlife management goal."
Many large bucks were taken during the hunt. One person who got a "deer of a lifetime" was Pete Hodges with the Fort McCoy Resource Management Office.
Hodges said he was hunting on North Post on the last day of the season and harvested a large, mature 10-point buck.
"This was the first trophy Wisconsin buck for me," Hodges said. "I'm still thrilled for the blessing. We are lucky that we can hunt on such a wonderful area of the country."
Kevin Luepke, research assistant and wildlife coordinator with Colorado State University's (CSU) Center for Environmental Management of Military Lands under contract with Fort McCoy, said more than a quarter of all deer harvested were brought through the biological collection station on South Post.
"The data we have right now says that about half of all deer taken were bucks, and some were really nice ones that I saw come through our station," Luepke said. "The opening weekend may have slowed hunters a bit as there was a lot of wind that may have caused more deer to stay bedded down. However, as the season went on, and when deer drives were allowed, we started to see more deer come through."
The 2017 season was the second season where carcass tags were issued electronically through the WDNR. It was the third year the WDNR used an all-electronic deer-harvest registration system.
Hunters registered their deer harvests through a smartphone app, through the WDNR's webpage, or by phone. And at Fort McCoy, this was the second year permit notifications for hunters were issued through the i-Sportsman website.
Looking ahead to the 2018 season, Beckmann said he believes hunting possibilities should continue to be good.
"It always depends on how the winter goes, but if we have another mild winter, then the deer will continue to do well," Beckmann said.
Permit applications for the 2018 Fort McCoy gun-deer season will be available in late spring with an application deadline in June or July.
For more information about hunting on Fort McCoy, call the Permit Sales Office at 608-388-3337, or go online to https://ftmccoy.isportsman.net.
For more information on hunting in Wisconsin, go online to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Web page at dnr.wi.gov/topic/hunt.