The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources will conduct its largest-ever survey of deer hunters this fall to better understand which animals hunters take.
The agency plans to invite more than 130,000 licensed hunters to keep online diaries to record the number of hours they spend in the woods, the deer they see and observations about the size and age of the bucks they don’t take.
Part of the goal is to figure out how often hunters pass up bucks they consider too small, said Meghan Pluemer, assistant research sociologist for the DNR.
“Harvest registrations are only telling part of the story,” Pluemer said.
With the proliferation of trail cameras hunters may be more selective, and Pluemer said some hunters may be targeting specific bucks and passing up younger ones.
“We know hunters who utilize different weapons have different motivations,” Pluemer said. “Gun users are typically motivated by camaraderie. ... Vertical bow hunters get involved for the challenge.”
By surveying roughly one in five registered hunters, Pluemer said the agency can also use survey data to check its deer population models within each of the state’s deer-management zones and will eventually be able to track trends over time.
The project began Saturday with the start of the archery season and will run through the end of the nine-day gun season on Nov. 29.
Randomly selected hunters will be asked to keep diaries during three-day periods throughout the fall. Participation is optional, but Pluemer said it’s important for everyone selected to take part so the surveys best reflect the experiences of hunters from across the state.
The agency did test surveys last year in Bayfield and Iowa counties.