And the real Wisconsin deer registration numbers are …

With backtags, carcass tags and in-person registration, there were few questions about the deer kill. (Photo by Jerry Davis)

Many hunters and population biologists predicted this query several years ago.  Someone even made the remark when “Dr. Deer” came to Mount Horeb High School and proclaimed we were going to have fun that evening.

Dr. James Kroll was talking about himself and his two assistants preparing to narrate on behalf of Wisconsin’s deer, their well-being, and how to make Cheeseheads more like Texans.

During an intermission, or maybe when I stepped out to clear my mind, a respected conservation sage remarked that at least there is one thing we can always count on with the way Wisconsin does deer things.

“At least we know hunters can never argue about how many deer were killed and registered. With in-person, deer tagging, and registration, the number is the count,” he said.

Well now, no one has come right out and said it yet, but this year’s gun deer season kill did not top 2016, or even a pile of carcasses more than many of the last 30 years.  There were more guesses, but no one will ever know if any hunters shot a deer, loaded it into a pickup, and then simply said, “Twist it, I’m going home to prepare this venison for the freezer.”

This suspect number is now out there. And registrations are suspect in some minds.

The DNR wardens will make a case now and then. But are the men and women behind the badges going to find enough deer that were not called in to write that possibility off the reasonable list of shorting the charts?

What we don’t have that we did rely on just a few years ago were backtags, carcass tags, required validation of those tags, in-person registration, and treating deer as prized big game animals.

We will never know. We can never put as much faith in the deer kill numbers again.

I’m not saying we should add a single digit to 195,738 deer reported, but I can’t say we shouldn’t either.

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