NRB’s last-minute cut to antlerless tags in 6 counties angers Cole

Madison — The Natural Resources Board (NRB) cut the number of bonus public land antlerless deer permits in half in six northern deer units, but the question is whether the DNR will follow through and enact those June 23 changes.

It could be one of the first times in recent memory that a DNR secretary indicated he might not carry out an NRB order.

Jeff Pritzl, DNR deer specialist, said the DNR recommendation on bonus antlerless deer quotas for 2021 is 209,125 on private land and 48,725 on public land. The quotas had been recommended by county deer advisory councils (CDAC) and the DNR was endorsing CDAC numbers with no changes.

However, Greg Kazmierski, NRB member from Pewaukee, expressed concern over quotas for some northern public properties, saying the DNR and NRB have responsibility over managing deer on public land. He said CDACs are not getting the information they need to recommend deer quotas.

Kazmierski then proposed reducing the CDAC/DNR original public land antlerless quotas for Bayfield (4,675), Douglas (600), Iron (125), Langlade (1,280), Oneida (1,000), and Sawyer (2,300) counties by 50%.

The motion to reduce the quotas in half passed by a four (Bill Bruins, Terry Hilgenberg, Kazmierski, and Dr. Frederick Prehn) to three (Bill Smith, Marcy West, and Sharon Adams) vote.

When the amended motion to approve the final quotas came back, it passed with only Smith and West in opposition.

At that point, DNR Secretary Preston Cole said the DNR would take the vote “under advisement,” while board chair Prehn said the NRB voted on it statutorily. He expected the DNR to carry out the order adopted by the board.

Cole noted the board made antlerless quota changes last year, and then had to hold a second meeting to correctly modify permit adjustments. The NRB and DNR received “blowback” from the public on changes the board made. Cole said they’d broken their promise to CDACs and now are making changes at the eleventh hour.

Kazmierski said the CDACs had “totally went against public input,” while Prehn said the board was not about to rubber stamp whatever comes its way.

While the NRB approved the season with the changes in some bonus permits, there was still a question as of June 29 whether the DNR will follow through. 

DNR recommendations

The 2021 season framework includes a buck-plus-antlerless by authorization general deer season during the archery, crossbow, muzzleloader, and nine-day gun season. Also included is a four-day December statewide antlerless-only hunt.

The DNR recommendations for seasons and quota permits came from CDACs and were supported by DNR.

The only two exceptions to what CDACs recommended were: no holiday hunt in LaFayette County, and Sheboygan County set a private land bonus permit level that they later realized would not meet demand and the DNR increased the quota to 750, especially after CWD was found in the county.

“In both cases CDACs did not object to our adjustments to their recommendations,” Pritzl said.

Statewide, the number of antlerless permits automatically issued with licenses will increase by 18% from last year, recognizing a mild 2020-21 winter and increasing deer populations.

In the Farmland Zone, counties are offering between one and four antlerless “tags,” and metro sub-units have one or two antlerless tags available, plus tags.

The Northern Forest Zone has increased antlerless permits. Most of those counties have an objective of maintaining current deer populations.

In the Farmland Zone, CDACs have recommended a holiday hunt in 36 counties; 27 counties have the extended archery and crossbow season in January. Last year 32 counties had the holiday hunt and 26 had the extended archery and crossbow season.

There are no “bucks-only” and no antlerless-only seasons in any deer units this year.

Five people provided comments to the board, with Tony Blattler, of the Conservation Congress, supporting the DNR recommendations.

Neil Messerschmidt, of Edgerton, Dick Wolkowski, of Baraboo, and Jim Johannes, of McFarland, each objected to the proposed antlerless quota in Bayfield County.

Messerschmidt asked the board to lower antlerless quotas on public land to help the herd recover. Wolkowski and Johannes said forestry concerns intimidate the CDACs and carry too much weight. They characterized public land deer hunting in Bayfield County as “pathetic.”

Kazmierski amendment

Kazmierski presented his analysis of deer numbers in the northern forest counties to show the buck kill per square mile on public land and on private land for each county.

He found a dramatic difference, with Bayfield County having 1.17 bucks harvested per square mile on public land and 2.62 on private land.

Kazmierski said CDACs do not have this kind of metric, and they should have it.

“It’s an uneven distribution. That’s the reason we went to public/private tags,” he said.

Kazmierski said there is little they can do to manage deer on private land, but on public land they have an obligation to be sure they are not overpopulating or over harvesting, but maintaining a suitable population. He said the new deer management plan is a success, as the state has had the most stable harvest of bucks since 2014.

Kazmierski thinks CDAC members only look at Sex-Age-Kill metrics, and they don’t have deer browse surveys that were supposed to be available and they aren’t getting the information they need. He made a motion to reduce the bonus antlerless tags in six counties on public land by 50%.

West said changing the quota, like what they did last year, upset a lot of people. She could not support Kazmierski’s motion.

Pritzl confirmed the information that Kazmierski presented, but added that there is something else going on between the buck harvest and the number of total bucks available at the beginning of the year.

Smith thought Kazmierski’s work was good, but came to the board late – the NRB and DNR need more time to consider this kind of information.

Smith trusts CDACs to knowing their areas. He is concerned about over-turning their recommendations.

Cole entered the discussion, saying the board and DNR got “blowback” last year when they changed deer quota numbers and promised get to CDACs early this year on any changes.

“Whatever you vote on today I’m going to take it under advisement, because I’m going to take it back past the CDACS because you’re going to get it handed to you again,” Cole said. “We didn’t do what we said we would do. That we’d be in the room, talk to them before June, and work with them, and here it is the 11th hour and we didn’t do what we said we’d do.”

Kazmierski said the CDACS totally went against public input for no justifiable reason.

Prehn said the board would not just rubber stamp what the CDACS want.

In the end the board approved the season, with Kazmierski’s changes to six northern units, but observers were left wondering if the DNR will follow through with those changes. As of the deadline for printing this issue, the DNR had not responded to what change it would or would not make.

Categories: Hunting News, Whitetail Deer

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