THE WISCONSIN WIRE: 5 Questions with WI DNR About Deer Season Changes

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For those who travel east across the state lines to chase whitetails in the fall, there will be some changes in the regulations in 2014 and beyond.  We reported about it in an earlier post, which can be read here. 

The biggest change being the removal of in-person deer registration stations.  Telephone and internet registering will take place, similar to what many other states have done.  We asked Kevin Wallenfang with the Wisconsin DNR about the changes and if there’d be any repercussions.

We also asked if he felt that Wisconsin could shift towards the “ranch-style” hunting that takes place in Texas, since Dr James Kroll was brought in as a consultant.

Here are the questions:

1)     Do you anticipate much backlash from the small business owners who have manned the in-person registration stations? 

We have heard some and that’s understandable.  At a time when being in business is harder than ever, every opportunity that would drive people to their front door can impact them.  We have met with a few organizations who represent business owners to discuss how this might affect them and our hope is that we can work together to minimize it.  But in the big picture, this is something that hunters (and even a fair number of the registration stations) have been hoping and asking for.  It will be much more convenient to hunters, will provide us with instant access to registration information, can help with law enforcement situations, etc.

2) Is the DNR worried about under reporting?

We’ve already got a track record in using phone-in registration with turkeys, geese, and wolves, and compliance rates have been explored.  The vast majority of people are honest and do call it in.  People know in Wisconsin that they have to register their deer.  I would ask, if you have always been honest why would you turn rouge now?  There will still be penalties for not registering just like always.  You still have to tag the deer in the field, etc.  This is going to be a very easy system to use.  And we have talked to other states who say when mandatory, compliance is high.  We certainly feel we can make this work.

3) Many other states have shifted away from in-person registration in favor or electronic or telephone registration, are you aware of any problems those states have had come up?  

There are always issues with any system, and other states have had to work through the bugs.  Because of their experiences, and our own with turkeys, geese, wolves, etc. we can benefit and avoid as many problems as possible.

4) Other changes could include the reduction of deer management units, from 134 to 72.  What is the reasoning behind this? 

It has several reasons that include rule simplification, data collection and applicability, and involving the public and local governments in making deer management decisions.

5) The changes are said to allow hunters to have more of a voice in the management, but others have expressed concern that implementing too many of James Kroll’s ideas could shape Wisconsin into a “ranch-style” hunting state like Texas.  What is the overall goal of the new changes? 

Wisconsin has a long-standing tradition of deer management that is significantly different than Texas and I don’t see that happening.  Texas is something like 98% private lands, much of it in huge blocks of single ownership.  Wisconsin, on the other, has millions of acres of lands open for public use and our average landowner has something like 20 acres.  We also have a long-standing tradition, perhaps more than any other state in the country, of including the public in deer management discussions and decisions.  These tradition and opportunities date back to Aldo Leopold and the creation of the Wisconsin Conservation Congress.  What is happening right now is meant to provide more opportunity for the public to be involved and to take ownership of local decisions.

6) Will the new changes be in place for the 2014 season? 

 Many will, others will take more time to fully put in motion.  Telecheck, for example, will be a pilot in 2014 and plans for full implementation in 2015.

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