Madison, Wis. (AP) – The Wisconsin law requiring hunters in
certain areas to kill an antlerless deer before they bag a buck
would be repealed under a bill passed by the state Assembly on
The bill also generally prohibits any gun seasons ahead of the
traditional November hunt, with some exceptions for youth, mentored
and disabled hunts and in chronic wasting disease zones.
The bill passed on a bipartisan 64-33 vote. It previously passed
the Senate and now heads to Gov. Scott Walker for his
consideration. He supported doing away with the so-called earn a
buck program during the campaign last year and was expected to sign
the bill into law.
Hunters have long complained about early gun hunting seasons and
earn a buck, which they said forces them to pass up trophy
Frustration boiled over in 2009 after two years of anemic
November hunts. Hunters complained that the Department of Natural
Resources overestimated the deer population for years, leading to
restrictions like earn a buck that they say have devastated the
herd and put the future of their sport in jeopardy.
The bill passed despite objections from some Democrats,
foresters and conservation groups that had testified in support of
earn a buck saying it’s needed to help to control the herd and
protect trees and other wildlife.
“This bill will almost certainly will hurt the forest
industry,” said Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha.
“It almost certainly will hurt agriculture.”
He and other Democratic opponents argued for delaying doing away
with earn a buck to give a recently hired expert on deer more time
to assess the situation in Wisconsin and report back to the
Bill sponsor Rep. Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst, argued for passage
of the proposal, saying hunters detested earn a buck. The
department can use other methods to control the deer population, he
said, like issuing more permits to hunt them.
The Conservation Congress, a group of influential sportsmen that
advises the DNR, has been calling for the elimination of
earn-a-buck and other antlerless hunts for years.
Kurt Thiede, administrator for the DNR’s Division of Lands, said
at the public hearing on the bill in April that the agency was
sensitive to concerns of hunters, but it was worried about losing
the ability to control the deer population by permanently doing
away with the earn a buck program.
The agency said in a fiscal estimate when the bill was
introduced that doing away with earn a buck could lead to
“potentially significant” economic losses for vehicle insurance,
agriculture and the forest products industries.
The DNR has been struggling for years with what it says is a
deer herd across Wisconsin.
The agency has been conducting four-day antlerless hunts in
management zones where the herd is above the agency’s goal. The
hunts usually take place in mid-October. In zones that remain above
goal, the DNR can impose the earn-a-buck restrictions.
The bill would still allow the state to require that an
antlerless deer be killed before a second buck is bagged.