Natural Resources Board Approves 2019 Hunting Framework

Conservation Congress Rejects CWD Bounties Idea

White-tailed deer
JanetandPhil (CC BY-NC-ND)

The Wisconsin Natural Resources Board approved antlerless harvest quotas on Wednesday for the 2019 deer hunt. It’s the first time in a decade where it doesn’t include any buck-only counties.

The state DNR requested changes to County Deer Advisory Councils (CDAC) recommendations in Buffalo and Monroe counties. Buffalo County requested an antlerless-only season after a review showed it wasn’t meeting its objective to decrease the deer herd.

The Buffalo County CDAC chair has said the recommendation was an effort to make a point about a lack of resources to reduce its deer population, urging lawmakers to bring back the Earn-A-Buck program. The program, which required hunters to shoot an antlerless deer in order to get a buck, was eliminated by lawmakers in 2011.

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Wisconsin Conservation Congress Chair Larry Bonde said that isn’t a viable option to control the deer herd.

“Earn-A-Buck isn’t going to happen, and for us to go down a trail that already hasn’t worked, we’re fools,” said Bonde.

He noted the Conservation Congress is willing to assist the county in any way to help evaluate resources and tools available to reach population objectives.

However, George Meyer, executive director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, felt Earn-A-Buck could be brought back to help manage the deer herd.

“Earn-A-Buck definitely needed reform and while its brand is tarnished, the real complaints about it could be resolved,” said Meyer.

He said that could be done by having the program locally initiated by the county CDAC, if it allows pre-qualification of antlerless harvest, and if it’s only used for a limited number of seasons.

Board members contended the biggest challenge facing Buffalo County and others is a matter of access. Board member Bill Bruins said the majority of land in the county is privately owned.

“We have to talk to these private landowners,” said Bruins.

Other board members, including Greg Kazmierski and chair Fred Prehn, agreed that more communication was needed to connect with landowners in addressing “hotspot areas.”

Many farmland zone counties have expressed frustration with maintaining or decreasing the deer herd, according to the DNR. A holiday hunt will offer an additional nine days of antlerless-only gun deer hunting across 29 counties within southern and central Wisconsin. The hunting framework will also extend archery and crossbow seasons in 22 counties.

Hunters killed 160,653 bucks in 2018 — the second-highest buck kill in the last decade next to 2012.

They harvested 336,464 deer overall in 2018 — about five percent more than were harvested in 2017. The total harvest declined last year in the northern and central forest zones while increasing in other parts of the state. The number of deer harvested has increased in recent years although the state is seeing declining participation from hunters.

Conservation Congress Rejects CWD Bounty Program

The Wisconsin Conservation Congress rejected the proposed Payments for Positives program that would pay hunters for deer carcasses infected with chronic wasting disease.

Around 60 percent of those who took part in the annual spring hearings said they supported the idea in April.

Bonde, chair of the Wisconsin Conservation Congress, told the NRB Wednesday that the congress voted against the idea at its convention earlier this month.

“The delegation clearly had concerns … People are really concerned (with) creating the whitetail (sic) bounty system — the dollar amount they had real concerns about,” said Bonde. “So, the Congress, which is very, very seldom, went against the popular vote.”

The program called for payments that would range from $750 to $1,250 per deer.

Bonde said his takeaway from the vote was that the public feels something needs to be done to further control the spread of CWD.