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Wis. Ends Earrn a Buck

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Wis. suspends earn-a-buck hunting regulations

By TODD RICHMOND , Associated Press

WEST BEND, Wis. - Bowing to pressure from hunters and legislators, Wisconsin wildlife officials finally decided Wednesday to mothball its contentious earn-a-buck program and look for other ways to control the state's deer population.

The Natural Resources Board voted to suspend the program indefinitely everywhere except chronic wasting disease areas. The board also decided to set up a committee to come up with other population management techniques.

The decisions marked a victory for hunting groups that have grumbled about earn-a-buck for years.

The program requires hunters kill an antlerless deer before taking a buck. The DNR has held up the program as the most effective means of controlling a burgeoning deer herd in the state by reducing the number of does, but hunters despise it. They say it forces them to pass up trophy bucks. Thirty-five deer management units were subject to the requirements during last fall's hunts.

"Earn-a-buck is an absolutely socially unacceptable solution to Wisconsin's deer problems," said Ed Harvey, who leads the Wisconsin Conservation Congress, a citizens advisory group to the Department of Natural Resources.

Complaints about the program peaked after DNR statistics showed hunters killed about 165,000 fewer deer in 2008 than in 2007. Hunters insisted they weren't seeing deer and the DNR's population estimate of 1.7 million deer before the traditional nine-day November gun hunt was overblown.

The agency acknowledged the numbers were high and the harsh 2007-08 winter and cold spring led to more deer deaths and reduced fawn production.

That gave hunting groups more ammunition to rail against earn-a-buck, saying it's no longer needed. The DNR in March proposed four fewer earn-a-buck zones, and earlier this month DNR Secretary Matt Frank proposed suspending the program for the 2009 season but keeping 50 units designated as herd control zones, which means multiple hunts throughout the fall and winter for those areas

Hunters were disappointed," said DNR big game expert Keith Warnke. "We listened."

That wasn't good enough for state Sen. Jim Holperin, D-Conover, who serves on the Senate's rural issues committee, and Rep. Ann Hraychuck, D-Balsam Lake, a member of the Assembly's natural resources committee.

They held public hearings on earn-a-buck in Spooner, Rhinelander and Madison. On Tuesday they sent a letter to Frank recommending earn-a-buck end indefinitely.

Board members balked at the thought at Wednesday's meeting, saying earn-a-buck is the best tool they have to control deer reproduction, and the population could rebound even as the DNR gets closer to its overall goal of about 735,000 deer.

"You have to take a bigger view than what you see under your stand," said board member John Welter. "I'm afraid this recommendation reflects a move away from what the science should be telling us."

Jim Redemann, a hunter from the town of Fremont, implored board members to give hunters a choice again. He held up a picture of his son, J.J., with a doe he killed last fall.

"My son hunted three months to shoot this little doe fawn because there's no does on our land," he said. Then he flipped the picture over to reveal another photo, this one of J.J. with a buck.

"Four days later, he got a buck. Why are we put in that position? The DNR makes us do that," Redemann said. "To me, that's just not right. I'm not in the minority on this. Let us hunters go back to making the choices."

George Meyer, executive director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, warned the board if they didn't make a move, it was inevitable lawmakers would take over and do away with earn-a-buck through legislation. Frank agreed, saying lawmakers were "looking over our shoulder."

The board voted 6-1 to adopt the moratorium and the 50 herd control units, with Welter the only vote against.

Board member Jane Wiley then proposed another resolution to suspend the program indefinitely and work to find management alternatives

She said she attended Holperin and Hraychuck's hearing in Madison and it was clear the board was about to lose control of deer management to lawmakers if it didn't send a message it was serious about stopping earn-a-buck.

"We're responding to the Legislature," she said.

The board ultimately voted 6-1 — with Welter again the only opposing vote — to approve the indefinite suspension and create a study committee to come up with alternative herd control methods that might be more popular. The committee is supposed to turn over its recommendations before the 2010 hunting seasons. Frank also promised to review the agency's population projections and methods.

Hraychuck said she was pleased with the board's decisions. Lawmakers have indeed been pondering deer management legislation, she said.

"It would not be good to legislate things that should be determined by science and listening to the hunters," Hraychuck said. "We got it done. It's a great day for hunters."

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EAB seems scary to me, what if we overestimate the herd count, thus overharvest the antlerless deer, plus our bonus tag system, have a brutal winter, and then what ? Interesting article.

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Right on mrklean, I see lots of fawns in fairly large groups, many shoot the larger deer in my area, if 2 come out the largest is going down, we've been in the 5 deer area for quite a few years now and they seem thinned out fairly well.

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i see changes coming from everywhere right now not just MN

Isn't it amazing to watch other states adapt and actually make changes for the better of the heard and hunter.

EAB may have its place in areas with extremely high deer populations but I certainly don't see any of those areas in Minnesota, even in the intensive harvest areas. I know some states have super high limits on does or no doe limits at all, then it might be time to start talking EAB.

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"Isn't it amazing to watch other states adapt and actually make changes for the better of the heard and hunter."

Bear, are you saying EAB was a success? What I took from the article was that EAB was a failed experiment, so much so they are working to repeal the regulation. Maybe that's what you're saying too.

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I think EAB in most areas of MN would be a bad idea. I'm in already a 5 permit area and our deer numbers are down or in check, I sometimes wonder if the 5 antlerless is left in place because so many are choosing not to buy the extra doe tags or waiting for the buck, wish I knew how many are taking advantage of that option, I would assume that is the gist of EAB, lower the antlerless deer numbers and I think the Wisc. hunters are saying we get it, make sure we take down the antlerless deer as well as waiting for the buck. I think with deer hunter numbers being so high and having the amount of days we can hunt being decent, we are doing just fine. I could see some states having large many large tracts of land and lower deer hunter numbers and many antlerless being passed on, the need to impose EAB to lower deer numbers could be an option. I think to some deer numbers and how we view them vary from person to person, county to county, and area to area. Interesting article. Makes a person wonder how often that "trophy buck" was really passed on and if worse came to worse and a hunter took buck first, and ended up without a doe was that buck ever registered or what kind of corners were cut when the regulation was in place.

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"Isn't it amazing to watch other states adapt and actually make changes for the better of the heard and hunter."

Bear, are you saying EAB was a success? What I took from the article was that EAB was a failed experiment, so much so they are working to repeal the regulation. Maybe that's what you're saying too.

I will give Wisconsin credit for at least giving something a try and even more credit for saying hey maybe we were wrong and this isn't the best thing to do, lets make some changes.

I would only favor any kind of EAB in Minnesota if the deer population got completely out of control.

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Right on Bear, I'm not sure the first year they tried it it was wrong to do or the second, but now that DNR and hunters can agree numbers are where they should be they threw it out.

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but now that DNR and hunters can agree numbers are where they should be they threw it out.

Board members balked at the thought at Wednesday's meeting, saying earn-a-buck is the best tool they have to control deer reproduction, and the population could rebound even as the DNR gets closer to its overall goal of about 735,000 deer.

"You have to take a bigger view than what you see under your stand," said board member John Welter. "I'm afraid this recommendation reflects a move away from what the science should be telling us."

She said she attended Holperin and Hraychuck's hearing in Madison and it was clear the board was about to lose control of deer management to lawmakers

Doesnt sound like agreement to me. Sounds like Science taking a back seat at the end of a barrel.

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I really dont mind them doing away with EAB, I've never had a problem with it. Looks like it will revert to what is used to be, where the yokels refused to shoot does. leaving more and larger deer for me

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I think numbers will grow very fast. I hunt in 61 which was an EAB area. Alot of people complained that the number of Deer were way down, I didnt see that. What I did see were terrible conditions for the Firearms season. Rain, high winds and alot of crops standing, the deer had no reason to move. on the night of opener we drove to Pepin to register a doe and had to stop 3 times (in a 9 mile drive) so we wouldnt hit deer, and passed a field right at last light that had 30 deer in it. Did we see as many deer, no. Come the late antlerless season, After the crops were harvested they were thicker than rats. I only got to hunt 1 late afternoon of the late season. 3 pm when I went out, had seen 5 before 3:10, dropping 1 and saw another 24 out of range before darkness fell. All told my dad and I took take 4 deer last year and could have had more but we had filled our freezers for the year.

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I find it funny that everyone that responded to this was from out of state. I know my address may say Willmar but I grew up in central WI.

My first questions is do any of you hunt in Wisconsin?

If not then this is dead.

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I hunt in wisconsin SE of Ellsworth and west of Plum City. Depending on which side of the road I'm on its either Pierce or Pepin County.

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