Deer hunting is big business. It is big business across the country, especially in the state of Wisconsin. Deer hunting in Wisconsin is so important that it became an issue in the recent campaign for the Wisconsin Governor’s office. During his campaign, Scott Walker told the citizens of Wisconsin that if he were to be elected he would appoint a “Deer Czar” to look at deer management in our state.
The Governor appointed Dr. James C. Kroll to look at the management of deer in our state. Dr. Kroll, also known as “Dr. Deer” recruited renowned deer experts, Dr. David Guynn and Dr. Gary Alt, to assist him in his project. Recently a preliminary report was released. The committee described their charge as follows:
“Contractor…shall undertake an assessment of Wisconsin’s deer management plans and policies…including, but not limited to: (1) The methodology and accuracy of population estimates for Wisconsin’s white-tailed deer herd: (ii) The necessity and effectiveness of Wisconsin’s policies in response to…Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD): (iii) The significance of the impact of Wisconsin’s timber wolf population upon the white-tailed deer herd; and (iv) The structure of Wisconsin’s deer hunting periods, including, but not limited to, the necessity and efficacy of hunting policies such as “Earn-A-Buck…”
As they took on the task, they described their relationship as follows.
“Often, we followed up with questions to specific individuals in the WDNR and other agencies whenever needed. The WDNR staff was very cooperative in satisfying these requests, and we appreciate their enthusiasm, especially during what has to be a trying experience.
“The pre-established ‘rule’ for this review was simple. Each member was given complete independence to review, judge and evaluate all materials, data and information. Each member is free to express his own opinions, and if needed, produce an independent opinion when there is disagreement. To date, there have been no such disagreements, and we were striken by the uniformity of our conclusions in almost every issue. This briefing document will be followed within a week by a more comprehensive interim report by the committee presenting our findings. The next step will be to conduct town hall meetings at six locations, geographically distributed so as to represent all people of Wisconsin.”
The committee reported:
• “It quickly became obvious there has existed for some time an intense dissatisfaction with and distrust of WDNR activities and methods used to carry out their mandate to conserve the white-tailed deer resources of Wisconsin. This was evidenced not only by the numerous inputs received by citizens, professionals, interest groups and NGOs, but also by scientific investigations and publications by professional human dimensions scientists, even within WDNR.
• These problems have arisen over many years; stemming initially from use of the S-A-K Excel Population Model (SAK) to establish population goals for Deer Management Units, and actions beginning 10 years ago to eradicate chronic wasting disease (CWD) in the southern portion of the state.
• Our review is not the only one conducted over the last dozen years. Among these were:
– The Deer Management for 2000 and Beyond review, costing well over $1,000,000.
– The SAK Review in 2006, costing over $40,000.
– The Staples Marketing Study on CWD in 2011, costing about $250,000.
• Each of these studies produced criticisms and recommendations for remedies.
• The Whitetails 2000 report listed 74 recommendations for changes in procedures and regulations. At the time of preparation of our report, 35 (47.3 percent) of these recommendations had been completed, 22 (29.8 percent) had been partially completed, and 17 (23.0 percent) were not completed. Some of those partially completed or not completed involve key issues.
• The SAK audit (2006) was conducted by a six-person committee, representing a broad range of scientific disciplines. The committee arrived at 14 conclusions and recommendations. Subsequently, we have heard oral statements and read written claims that:
“A recent audit (2006) by an international panel of experts found the department’s deer population modeling system to be a sound program, as good as or better than that of any state. Yet, no system is perfect and challenges remain including hunter concerns with deer population model accuracy.”
More information will follow from this preliminary report.
Longtime Northwoods outdoors personality Roger Sabota writes a bi-monthly column appearing in the Star Journal.