Madison —The question as to whether more accurate deer harvest records are gained through either electronic or in-person registration was discussed at length during a number of Conservation Congress spring hearings in counties around the state.
Rollie Lee, of Black River Falls, is a former DNR game warden who retired as the DNR’s deputy chief warden. Lee drafted a resolution asking if hunters favor restoring the deer carcass-tagging requirement. Lee asked hunters to submit his resolution in their counties. Other hunters drafted similar resolutions and submitted those.
One-third of the counties passed some type of resolution on April 9 asking lawmakers to reinstate the mandatory tagging of deer and/or turkey.
Combined, more than a 75 percent approval across the board – 1,325 yes to 430 no – said they would like to see the DNR again require that hunters attach a carcass tag to a deer immediately its harvest.
The resolutions will be reviewed by the Conservation Congress.
On its own, Lee’s resolution was introduced in 21 counties, where it passed 1,215 to 426, or 74 percent to 26 percent.
“Legislators will be running for election this fall and will be sensitive to voters’ wishes,” said Lee. “Direct asks to sponsor remedial legislation, restoring the statutory language, will be timely this fall. I will be asking many around the state to join an effort to contact legislators to restore deer tagging language.”
Many hunters who favored reinstating the tagging requirements said they felt it was a safeguard against poaching. They also felt it provides a more accurate account of the actual harvest.
“Once the DNR eliminated the in-person registration and attaching carcass tags they made it easier for people to either forget to register their deer online or by phone, or just choose not to register,” Mike Lindau said. “There will always be poachers, but if you want the most accurate harvest data, keep in-person registration and tagging.”
Lindau, who lives in central Wisconsin but hunts in Dunn County, said that while the streamlining of systems may have made things more convenient for hunters and the DNR, it’s a flawed system that he said is now packed full of information that can’t be substantiated.
DNR Big Game Ecologist Kevin Wallenfang, pushed back.
“The DNR has been measuring registration compliance ever since electronic registration was launched,” said Wallenfang. “In 2017, it was about 90 percent for gun hunters and 94 percent for those hunting with bow or crossbow. This is likely as good as it’s ever been, even when hunters were required to register in person.”
Many hunters side with Lindau and also feel that by the DNR streamlining things it ends a strong tradition.
Mark Benson, of Minocqua, said that being able to reinstate many of the old traditions will help keep hunting closer to those who are entrenched in how it used to be. That includes having to attach a carcass tag to a deer.
“A part of the fabric of the deer hunt was taken away when they allowed (electronic tagging/registration) to go into effect,” Benson said. “For those who chose to do that work it was a part of a week where their business was a center piece of attention and in many cases it was a loss of a decent revenue stream, even if only for 10 days.
“Whether the accuracy of the count becomes that much better, apparently the legislators didn’t really care about the other part. Again, it’s another fleecing of societal rules that many don’t think are necessary.”
After the installation of the DNR’s GoWild registration system hunters soon after were not required to tag their deer after harvesting it, or even when it was being transported.
Wallenfang said that while it is not still required to tag a deer physically, hunters know they must register their kill, and, therefore, have continued to do so electronically.
“If registration hadn’t been a requirement for the past many decades, I think the compliance would not be this good,” said Wallenfang. “But registering your deer is an ingrained part of deer hunting in Wisconsin. We will continue to measure it in the future.”
Twenty-three counties passed local resolutions that asked the Congress to work with legislators to reinstate legislation rescinded in the last budget bill, and restore the requirement to tag a deer.
“Big game reporting makes sense,” said Jeff Van ReMortel, of Hazelhurst. “For a number of reasons – better accuracy in harvest data, and I do feel it adds at bit of teeth to the law when it comes to enforcing regulations.”
Dan Biertzer hunts public land in Vilas and Oneida counties. He’s not convinced the online registration is more accurate, though it does have perks.
“The online system is nice when you want to buy a license last minute or whatever,” said Biertzer. “I don’t like or trust how deer registration is managed by online registration or having to call it in.”
Jennifer West, of Three Lakes, misses the old registration days where the gas stations and sporting goods stores were gathering spots in town. While she wasn’t sure whether accuracy of harvest numbers were an issue with the electronic system, she would like to see the state bring back carcass tags and in-person registration.
“It made the season more of a ‘thing’ where people hovered around trucks, groups talking about who saw what,” said West. “We used to drive into town just to check out what was going on at the registration station. I just miss the community of the hunt that happened at registration stations. I can imagine the businesses also miss the money that came in, too.”
Wade Wentland, who hunts in north and southern Wisconsin agreed with West. As a mentor for a number of youth in the Northwoods, he’s missed teaching one of the things he was taught when he began hunting.
“I am in favor of the in-person registration,” said Wentland. “Some of those reasons are to keep real world accountability. That and the potential income for bars and convenience stores. We’ve lost the camaraderie of celebrating success with random strangers who love to retell the story, as well as other intangibles associated with the old system.”
Jason Sloan, who hunts in Grant County, said while on-line deer registration is convenient and easy to use, he feels there is a gap in data lost such as age structure, disease testing, etc.
“That alone makes it worth going back to the old system,” said Sloan. “I don’t believe that a regulation change such as the initial move to online registration ‘creates’ poachers, yet the deer numbers registered are probably way less accurate than before.”
Ben Benaszeski hunts in Portage County and said with a couple of up-and-coming hunters in his family, he’d like to see some traditions put back in place.
“I miss the feeling of the successful, hard hunt,” he said. “Part of it was slitting the tag and wrapping it around the antler or in the ear of a doe. This was part of the heritage and tradition of the hunt which I hope I can pass on to my children.”