Madison Deer and bear harvest quotas and permit levels must now
be approved annually by the Natural Resources Board (NRB).
NRB members took from the DNR the ability to set Zone T and
earn-a-buck (EAB) season structures without board oversight at its
Feb. 22 meeting.
The board also took back final approval of bear harvest quotas
and permit levels.
Both changes were suggested by Conservation Congress chairman
Steve Oestreicher in January and were placed on the board’s
February agenda as action items.
The Conservation Congress proposal on deer quotas and Zone T and
EAB seasons was supported by the DNR.
NRB oversight of the DNR’s deer season suggestions is not new.
Prior to 2001, the NRB annually reviewed and approved or modified
the season structure recommended by the DNR.
But, following the Deer Management for 2000 and Beyond
initiative, the Zone T and EAB seasons became part of a “recipe,”
or formula, and the NRB gave the DNR the authority to set those
seasons and identify Zone T or EAB units based on that formula.
Under that scenario, the DNR would propose a season structure and
preliminary quotas. Public herd status meetings (just completed for
this year) were then held around the state in late February. The
DNR would then inform the board of the quotas and season structure,
including Zone T and EAB units, with an informational item at the
March board meeting. No board action was required.
“We agree with the congress with regard to the special deer herd
control seasons,” said Tom Hauge, DNR director of wildlife
management. “Those decisions are of significant social import to
many folks, and the additional consideration and scrutiny by the
board provides citizens with an extra level of comfort.”
From the biological standpoint, Hauge did not believe it was
necessary, but from a sociological standpoint he realized it was a
“I do, however, differ with the congress recommendation for bear
quotas,” Hauge said. “The department makes a number of biological
assessments, whether it is sturgeon, turkey, or fisher quotas, and
I don’t see any distinguishing feature to bear populations as
compared to others. We try to bring our best professional judgement
as to the biological capacity of the population for sustained
harvest, and there is always rigorous debate.”
DNR bear research and management activities are designed to
maintain bear populations by zones. The idea is to allow maximum
hunting opportunities while maintaining populations at or near
goals. Bear registration data, plus ages of harvested bears,
reproductive histories, population models, and bait station
surveys, are the components of the monitoring program. Population
goals for each zone are based on habitat and human tolerance
Once the bear population estimates are complete, the DNR Bear
Committee meets to set quotas and permit levels, and invites the
Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association and Conservation Congress to
However, the Conservation Congress believes bear numbers are
higher than the DNR’s model indicates, and that hunter input has
Oestreicher asked the board to take back approval of Zone T and
EAB and deer quotas, and bear season structure and quotas and
“This action (the congress request) was taken as a result of
extensive hunter dissatisfaction and anger following the 2004 gun
deer season,” Oestreicher said. “Since the end of the season, I
have received 130 phone calls and 67 letters from concerned hunters
and landowners and one message is perfectly clear all of the
hunters are utterly disgusted with the management of the deer herd
by the DNR and its wildlife biologists-turned bureaucrats.
“These folks fear that the traditions and lifelong sport that
thousands have come to love and embrace is quickly fading from
their lives,” he said. “The creation of kill-at-all-costs in the
name of deer management programs like Zone T and EAB has destroyed
the sport and, more importantly, the white-tailed deer herd.”
Oestreicher said he keeps hearing of record deer herds, yet
hunters see fewer and fewer deer every year. The joy of getting
together with friends and family, and the camaraderie of hunting in
Wisconsin has soured many who were once diehard hunters, he