DNR deer team ready to release final report

Correspondent

Poynette, Wis. The DNR Deer Streamlining Committee is working on
its final report to be submitted to DNR administrators and internal
committees in October.

The report contains ideas designed to make deer hunting rules
and tagging options easier to understand and follow.

The DNR will then take the ideas to deer hunting groups for
comment. Final proposals will go to public hearings and have to
pass the Natural Resources Board and legislative review before they
can be implemented, which is not expected before the 2007
season.

At the committee’s last meeting at the end of September, members
reviewed proposals submitted by the Wisconsin Bowhunters
Association, Conservation Congress, and Wisconsin Deer Hunters
Coalition.

Proposals that did not violate special sideboards (including
maintaining mandatory deer registration, the variable quota system,
backtags, tagging requirements, and harvest control) were run
through a matrix and scored.

Those ideas that scored the highest, and made the committee’s
list, are:

Legalizing crossbows to hunt deer. More people are interested in
using crossbows, especially as the population of hunters ages and
more people have difficulty with regular bows. Sometimes there’s
doubt that people with disabled permits actually are qualified for
the permits. Allowing crossbows as a legitimate hunting method for
all will eliminate confusion over the current law.

A 16-day statewide gun deer season beginning the Saturday
nearest to Nov. 15. The DNR wants to make every effort to increase
the harvest with consistent regulations across the state, and will
have a better chance of avoiding earn-a-buck seasons.

This probably will be the most controversial of all
recommendations of the committee, and may not garner enough support
within the DNR to see the light of day. However, it could be the
one change that has the best chance of avoiding the need for
special seasons, and thus different seasons in different counties,
by providing hunters with more days to harvest antlerless deer.

Two four-day antlerless deer seasons in every county. The first
season would be in October, starting the Thursday nearest Oct. 15.
The second would be in December, beginning the second Thursday
after Thanksgiving.

These two antlerless-only seasons would be consistent in all
counties, would move earlier in October to avoid conflicts with
archery hunters and the rut, and would add to the antlerless
harvest to avoid special hunts.

Eliminate the special youth hunt and allow first-time hunter
education graduates to take a deer of either sex with their gun
license.

This would provide youths with an opportunity to shoot a deer of
either sex, would increase the antlerless harvest, and would reduce
the need for a special season that now causes some confusion for
small game and archery hunters about the requirement that they wear
blaze orange during the youth hunt.

Eliminate hunter’s choice and replace it with two types of units
(restricted quota units and unrestricted quota units) and offer
antlerless tags in both units.

In unrestricted quota units, hunters would get a free antlerless
tag with their license that could be used in any unrestricted unit.
They could also buy an unlimited number of antlerless permits for
those units and possibly receive two permits for the price of
one.

Restricted quota units are those where there is a limited number
of antlerless tags available. These permits would be purchased at
$12 and would be unit specific.

This eliminates the July 20 date to apply for hunter’s choice
permits, and all hunters get two tags per license (one statewide
buck tag and one antlerless-only tag that can be used in any
unrestricted quota unit).

Eliminate the River Block either-sex deer season. The gun season
would be the same statewide, with restricted quota units and
unrestricted quota units.

Kurt Thiede, DNR wildlife regulations and policy specialist, was
pleased the committee brought together people from a variety of
backgrounds that generated good discussions about deer seasons.

“But, now the toughest work begins to move these through the
process and get changes implemented,” Thiede said. “I’m optimistic
yet realistic, having worked with Deer 2000.”

Thiede was a part of the Deer 2000 process, a three-year effort
spearheaded by the Conservation Congress to look at deer
management. He learned from that effort the need to get a diverse
group of users involved. There the process was lengthy and began
with an open slate. To be able to make changes sooner this time,
the DNR will bring suggestions to the table.

“Now let’s see what will work best for hunters. We wanted to say
that here is something that we think will work from a management
perspective, to manage the deer herd and simplify things, and now
comes the important part of trying to get hunters and various user
groups involved,” Thiede said.

The general charge of the committee was to simplify deer harvest
to make it user friendly while balancing science and law
enforcement needs.

The committee used a matrix of concerns to rate each proposal,
including whether proposals provided the science necessary to
manage the deer herd; how easy it would be for hunters to comply;
whether it would be consistent across the state; whether it
increased costs to the DNR and to hunters; whether it provided the
ability for the DNR to manage the deer herd; whether it would
receive support from the DNR and the public; and whether it would
be simple for hunters to understand and easy for the DNR to
administer and enforce.

The final results, the committee believes, will improve
consistency by having each license type (archery and gun) coming
with two tags a buck tag and an unrestricted quota unit tag for
antlerless deer.

Hunters should have less confusion over which tag to use. A buck
tag can be used in any unit, will only be used on a buck, and is
firearm specific. Antlerless tags are not firearm specific, and
would be for unrestricted quota units or specific restricted quota
units.

The statewide season would be the same, without the separate
River Block season. The four-day antlerless seasons would be
statewide, would avoid conflict with rut or pre-rut times favored
by bowhunters, and would reduce the possibility of a need for
earn-a-buck seasons.

Earn-a-buck would still be a possibility, but the committee
hopes that these changes would make that possibility remote.

The committee also recommends that deer unit boundaries be
combined into larger units with common characteristics. The
committee believes that the number of units (now totaling 135)
could be reduced by one-fourth without compromising historical
data. This would help simplify rules and increase opportunities for
hunters to hunt larger areas.

The recommendations now must go through DNR internal review,
including a fiscal analysis, in hopes of being presented to the
Conservation Congress and other deer hunting groups by early
2005.

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