Saturday, February 4th, 2023
Saturday, February 4th, 2023

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Congress Big Game Committee OK’s deer trustee report

Plover, Wis. — The Wisconsin Conservation Congress Big Game Committee voted at its Aug. 18 meeting to endorse the final report and recommendations submitted by Dr. James Kroll on Wisconsin’s 21st Century Model of Deer Management. The committee forwarded its decision to the congress Executive Committee, recommending adoption as the official position of the congress.

Kroll was appointed Wisconsin’s “deer trustee” by executive order of Gov. Scott Walker in September 2011. His 136-page report was submitted to Walker’s office June 30. The report included more than 60 recommendations aimed at improving the state’s deer-management program.  

Conservation Congress Big Game Committee chairman Al Phelan supported the committee recommendation, saying he’s already seen an improvement in the relationship between DNR staff and landowners/hunters.

“The people who have worked with the department have seen a more cooperative attitude within wildlife management,” Phelan said. “You’re seeing it at the field level. You’re seeing it from the local biologists, as well as the regional biologists.”

Phelan does not envision a lot of specific changes happening soon, however.

“Anything that involves a rule proposal will take a while,” he said. And, he acknowledges there will be challenges. The implementation of a deer management assistance program is an important one, according to Phelan.

“The most important thing is to define what DMAP is going to be and at what level it will be implemented,” he said. “Is it township, county, geographic region of the state? Is it going to be implemented the same in all parts of the state?”  

Tom Hauge, DNR Bureau of Wildlife Management director, agrees that it will take time to define and implement ideas and that challenges exist. According to Hauge, the system will have to be retooled to achieve goals established in the report.

“If we reconfigure deer management units, we still will have to gather data on the herd,” he said. “Instead of data based on population (as recommended), we will have to use other metrics,” he said.

Hauge also acknowledged the role the agency must play in the process.

“Anything that pertains to rules we will have to do. Nobody can do that but us,” he said.

Hauge also said that the agency will try to move forward with as much public input as possible.

“Most of the recommendations are at the conceptual level,” he said. “The tough part is taking these concepts and boiling them down into the details.”

Kevin Wallenfang is the DNR’s big-game biologist, and he also serves as the DNR liaison to the congress wildlife committee.  Wallenfang welcomed the involvement of the congress in working through the program. He fielded several questions from committee members about DMAP in particular. 

“DMAP tries to bring deer management down to the local level,” Wallenfang said. “It brings together wildlife biologists and landowners and hunters.”

Manitowoc County congress delegate Larry Bonde, who serves on the congress Big Game Committee and the Executive Committee, said the concept looks a bit different in each state where it has been implemented.

“They all are about the same, but it looks like each state has tailored it to their needs,” he said.

A suggestion to come up with a different name for DMAP in Wisconsin failed to gain traction, however. Pepin County delegate Bill Yingst said it will probably look about the same with some minor differences.

“If we don’t call it DMAP, it might appear that we are deviating from Dr. Kroll’s recommendations,” Yingst said. “They’re using it in other states, so it’s a common term.”

Yingst expressed support for Kroll’s expertise. He said he had hired Kroll to speak to a local rod and gun club long before Kroll came to Wisconsin as the deer trustee. 

“One of its (DMAP) greatest functions is more of that face-to-face contact with landowners,” Wallenfang said. “The message is that in we have an opportunity to create whatever we want it to be. We can make it a custom fit for whatever is right for Wisconsin.”

In other action, the congress Big Game Committee recommended:

  • Cancellation of the four-day October hunt in the CWD Management Zone.
  • Establishing a task force to work with the DNR on implementing the deer report recommendations.
  • Asking the DNR to seek $100,000 of federal aid from the Pittman-Robertson fund to continue the deer research project begun two years ago to gather data on fawn survival in two areas of Wisconsin.

All four recommendations were approved by the congress Executive Committee at its Aug. 21 meeting.

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