A listener emailed to tell me that they had a buck contest at his workplace, and of the 50 hunters who were in, ONE got a buck, and that was a six-pointer. He wrote to the DNR about how bad conditions are. Below is the response he got from DNR biologist Jeff Pritzl. Please share this with any deer hunter you know. I'm going to do this after 9:00 on Wednesday's show. I plan to read the letter and let deer hunters respond before I weigh in:
Dear Mark, first the answer to your question. At this point the public comment period has closed until the Natural Resources Board takes up the issue at their December meeting in Madison. You can request to make an appearance before the NRB to provide your testimony. I'm including the address to the NRB website. http://dnr.wi.gov/org/nrboard/ This is available on the DNR homepage as a link also. If the NRB approves the package, it will then go to the legislature for review and possible further action. You may also contact your representatives to express how you would like them to react to the proposal.
Now for some clarifying information regarding your concerns. There has been so much banter in the media and online about this process that its important to remember how we got here. The 16 day season idea was not originated by the DNR (this time). It was forwarded by a committee of deer hunting interest groups. Its genesis came from the unrest of the 2008 season, and the continued need for herd control in some units and general opposition to Earn-a-buck. The DNR has listened to hunters. There is no Earn-a-buck right now. (How Earn-a-buck has been implemented over the past 8 years was based on a huge hunter input process called Deer 2000 and beyond. Hunters told us when and how EAB should be used). There were no antlerless permits available in 13 deer management units up north. When asked what would be preferred to Earn-a-buck regulations, the most active and vocal hunter interest groups said extend the gun season to 16 days along with several other seasons to provide antlerless harvest opportunity (when and where needed). So that now has become the DNR's proposal.
"The DNR doesn't listen" mantra is getting old Mark. First and foremost we are deer hunters too, and we fully recognize that deer hunting is the life blood of conservation funding in Wisconsin. Its not logical to suggest that we would purposefully manage deer in a way that would ruin the future of the hunt. There are many ecological, social, and economical factors that the DNR is responsible for considering when managing deer. Deer hunter satisfaction is a big one, but its not the only one. Given reduced antlerless harvest pressure, deer herd productivity will once again start exceeding our ability to keep up with it with a "traditional" season framework (in the farmland regions at least). Had we gone to a longer gun season almost 20 years ago when the DNR first suggested it, perhaps the herd control measures including Earn-a-Buck would have never came to be. Listening is a two way street.
How do we get to the point of sustained, responsible deer management without hunters and DNR seeing each other as the enemy? We've been working on it for almost 70 years. Hunters do have many challenges confronting us that impact our ability to see as many deer as would meet our expectations. Lower current deer numbers is certainly part of it, but there are many factors that are independent of the deer population. Higher deer numbers won't be an automatic cure. Believe me, I've heard from plenty of frustrated hunters even during the record harvest years. Deer hunting has continuously changed from decade to decade. May I suggest an excellent book on the subject recently written by Bob Willging titled "On the Hunt". We are just starting to write the next chapter.