(The Center Square) – One of the biggest questions about Wisconsin’s deer management plan is who is making the decisions.
Lawmakers held a public hearing in Park Falls to question DNR managers and get input from hunters.
“I hear from a lot of hunters who say everything is coming from Madison, and that they have no input,” state Rep. Rob Brooks, R-Saukville, said.
Wisconsin used to allow counties to track and manage their own deer populations. That changed in the 1950s and 1960s when the state took over.
In 2014, the DNR changed again to a County Deer Advisory Council model that split the state into four hunting zones and managed the population in each differently.
The hearing focused on northern Wisconsin, where Jeff Pritzl of Wisconsin’s DNR said most of the state’s deer live.
“The primary tool at our disposal has been the annual adjustment in antlerless harvest totals, initiated through the recommendations provided by the County Deer Advisory Councils,” Pritzl said. “These permits influence the number of antlerless deer that will be part of the annual harvest. Which is a key part of the equation of the number of does within a management unit after the hunting season.”
DNR’s numbers show the state’s deer harvest has gone up and down over the past five years and has fluctuated around 300,000 deer taken each year. About half of those are antlerless.
Brooks said the current deer management system works well in most parts of Wisconsin.
“In my areas in southeastern Wisconsin, and where I hunt in southwestern Wisconsin, some of those people are very happy with the county model,” Brooks said. “[They’d] like to have more input and say, and they think they do. But when I talk to people that hunt [in northern Wisconsin] they think that the CDAC has very little input, and DNR just does what it wants.”
The questions about input and local control are top of mind because the DNR is due to rewrite its deer management plan. The three-year plan from 2021 expires this year, and a new 2024-2026 plan is in the works.