DNR monitoring deer license sales

Madison Department of Natural Resources (DNR) licensing and
wildlife officials are crossing their fingers, hoping early
comparisons in license sales indicate that an earlier survey was
wrong when it said 36 percent of the state’s hunters wouldn’t buy
deer hunting licenses this fall.

“We’ve been trying to do some comparisons and trying to look at
it with all of the variables right now,” said Marilyn Davis, DNR
director of licensing. “We’re seeing a slight difference (in
license sales) at this time from this year to last year, but I
don’t know if we can read a lot into that until we see what happens
when the hunter’s choice application deadline comes and goes on
July 20. That will let us know more.”

Businessmen who hoped to open a private CWD testing lab in the
Hayward area commissioned St. Norbert’s College of De Pere to do a
survey of hunters. Results reported last month said that of the
fewer than 500 hunters surveyed, 36 percent said they wouldn’t hunt
deer this year. They said they wouldn’t buy a license unless they
could be guaranteed that testing facilities would be available for
deer they shot.

“Right now, I’m not seeing anything to indicate that 36 percent
of the hunters are not going to hunt,” Davis said.

Since then, the Natural Resources Board approved a controversial
DNR CWD battle plan that includes a ban on deer baiting and
feeding. That ban went into effect on July 3. When that decision
was announced, some hunters who already bought deer licenses
threatened to seek refunds while others vowed not to buy licenses
this year.

Davis hopes those hunters have since changed their minds.

“Immediately after the board’s decision, there was a very small
flurry of angry phone calls to our field offices,” Davis said.
“That’s always the case when something controversial happens, but
it disappeared just as quickly as it erupted. Only time will

Even if license sales are off of an average pace by the July 20
hunter’s choice deadline, Davis said the difference might not be
directly related to CWD concerns, or the baiting and feeding

“Between the 45 Zone T units and the two CWD zones, there are a
lot of units where a hunter’s choice permit is not necessary this

“We’re also looking back one more year to give us something more
to compare to. The weather last year could have also affected
hunters’ buying habits. I also do believe there is some
procrastination among license buyers now that they have become
familiar with our automated license system, and the conveniences
that go with that system.”

As far as license refunds go, the DNR Bureau of Licensing is
doing nothing different than it has in the past. If someone bought
a gun deer or archery deer license and, for some reason, decided
not to use it, that person can get a refund if the season has not
yet opened. However, because patron and sports licenses are valid
on the day they’re issued, refunds are not issued for those

“Even with the CWD concerns, with respect to people asking for
their money back, we’ve seen just a very small reaction,” she

Currently, the licensing bureau is in the process of sending out
information to retailer outlets to help clerks and license buyers
understand what license and permit options are available this year,
with the two CWD zones, Zone T units and hunter’s choice units all

“We’re going to put it out in a format so it can be posted at
the license outlets. Hunters can read the information directly and
make their decisions,” Davis said.

The DNR has also worked with its ALIS contractor to improve
system hardware. Those changes will help make it easier to read the
carcass tags that caused some confusion last year. Most of the
carcass tag changes, however, will be in place for the 2004 license

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