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Buffalo County Deer Advisory Council Recommends No-Buck Deer Hunt

Hunting Guides Say Antlerless-Only Hunt Will Kill Local Businesses

deer grooms a doe
Brennan Linsley/AP Photo

Wisconsin’s Buffalo County is a national leader for producing trophy bucks, but a local deer advisory council is recommending only allowing hunters to shoot antlerless deer this November.

The move is meant to pressure the state Department of Natural Resources and Wisconsin’s lawmakers to give counties more tools to manage deer population. However, hunting guides say the decision will hurt the local economy.

Hunters in Buffalo County have shot more trophy deer than in any other county in the nation, according to the Boon and Crocket Club, which verifies trophy whitetails.

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Members of the County Deer Advisory Council are frustrated by a fast-growing deer herd and a lack of tools to manage the population. Deer advisory councils make recommendations to the state’s Natural Resources Board on whether to increase, decrease or maintain the herd size. If approved, those recommendations provide input to the DNR when setting the hunting season structure.

But Mark Noll, the Buffalo County County Deer Advisory Council chair, said even after five years of recommending decreasing the size of the county’s herd, the population continues to increase. He said in order to get the deer population under control, at least 6,000 deer need to be killed.

Noll said in years past the DNR used an earn-a-buck approach that forced hunters to shoot a doe before getting a buck tag. The earn-a-buck program was eliminated by state lawmakers in 2011. Noll said a lack of tools led them to make the unusual recommendation to only allow hunters to shoot antlerless deer in November.

“We’ve got this crazy season that nobody thinks will work and we decided to throw it out and vote for it,” said Noll. “Our effort is more to elevate the statewide discussion that we need more antlerless harvest options. We don’t have them.”

Noll said the board’s decision has gotten plenty of attention and personal attacks from people on social media who are opposed to an antlerless-only hunt in the county that has been described as the “Shangri-La of trophy buck hunting.” He said council members knew this would happen, but they’re hopeful it will force the issue.

“They all knew they were going to be put through this, but we’re just trying to make a point that we really need new tools and the Legislature, they’re bucking this,” Noll said. “They say there’s no way you’re going to get earn-a-buck back. So, we’re between a rock and a hard place.”

Jarred Fluekiger, who owns Rutting Ridge Outfitters and Lodging in Alma, said it’s true there are parts of the county that have too many deer, but the council’s decision to use an antlerless hunt as leverage with lawmakers and the DNR is risky.

“It’s something that they didn’t want and it’s something the county didn’t want, but yet, it’s something they’re trying to push,” said Fluekiger. “I don’t think it makes sense and I don’t think they went about it the right way.”

Fluekiger said even if the state Natural Resources Board rejects the antlerless-only hunt in Buffalo County, hunters who travel from around the nation for a chance at a trophy buck don’t like the uncertainty when booking their hunting trips.

“That’s going to kill all my hunters wanting to come here,” Fluekiger said. “It’s going to kill the restaurants coming in, taxidermists. The amount of money the county makes during that time of the year puts everybody through the winter and it’s going to kill a lot of businesses.”

He also said that guide companies like his pay between $70,000 and $100,000 per year on leases with local farmers in exchange for them allowing hunting on their property. Fluekiger said those contracts are for multiple years so if the antlerless season is approved, guides won’t be able to make up the difference.