Thursday, April 03, 2008

WISCONSIN OPINION: October Deer Hunt is Back

Pat Durkin's latest column:

Now that Wisconsin again will offer an October gun season for antlerless deer — our second-most popular hunt when held statewide in recent years — critics say the state Department of Natural Resources is ignoring its customers.

Let's pause for those who seldom follow deer hunting's inner debates.

OK, you guys. Let's concede the lead paragraph is a contradiction that makes no sense. But critics believe hunters hate this early season, even though harvest data shows the four-day hunt trailed only the traditional November season for participation.

Got it? OK. Let's continue.

To make this hunt even more popular, the DNR will move it to Oct. 16-19. Previous October gun hunts were closer to Halloween, which overlapped bowhunting's prime time.

Readers might recall why the agency canceled these hunts in 2006 and 2007: A stakeholders committee, which included all state deer hunting groups, wanted to show the DNR we didn't need October gun hunts to reduce deer numbers.

The committee voted in July 2005 to try these tools instead during the two-year experiment: extra free antlerless tags, a statewide December antlerless gun-hunt, a longer archery season and a two-day October youth hunt.

The experiment included this benchmark: Hunters must achieve a two-year antlerless-to-buck harvest ratio of 2-to-1, or the October season would return in 2008.

The results are in, and only the Central Forest region met the 2-to-1 ratio. Well, technically, it didn't, but the DNR figured a 1.95-to-1 ratio was good enough for the government. (Remember, the DNR ignores its customers.) Therefore, the five deer-management units in this small area won't have an October gun hunt.

The antlerless-to-buck ratios averaged 1.6- to 1.75-to-1 in the other four DNR districts. If not for widespread earn-a-buck regulations, which hunting groups opposed, those averages would have been worse. The ratio was 1.2-to-1 for deer units without free antlerless tags, 1.7-to-1 for areas with unlimited free tags and 3-to-1 for earn-a-buck areas.

Further, in CWD (chronic wasting disease) zones, the ratio was 2.8-to-1 with earn-a-buck and 1.2-to-1 without it. This, despite hunters' promises to shoot more does and fawns if the DNR dropped earn-a-buck regulations in 2006.

It did, and they didn't. Lesson learned.

An objective person would agree hunters failed to meet goals set by their representatives. But objectivity is irrelevant in deer hunting. This is Ford vs. Chevy, Packers vs. Vikings, Gordon vs. Earnhardt.

That's why seven of 18 members on the Wisconsin Conservation Congress'big-game committee voted Saturday to reject the DNR's proposed 2008 deer regulations during a meeting at the Mead Wildlife Area near Milladore.

Before voting, they reviewed a lot of DNR data without dispute. For instance, the 2007 harvest showed a combined gun-archery kill of 518,573, Wisconsin's second-highest kill on record. The archery kill, 116,042, was a record.

They even heard appeals to their integrity from fellow committee members, reminding them that their representatives approved the 2006-07 experiment.

Ken Anderson of Eagle River said: "I don't enjoy someone saying the October hunt is being shoved down our throat. We had two years of warning. You guys all agreed to it; 2-to-1 was the ratio. We didn't get it done. Now you want to go back on what we agreed to?"

The opposition's response: The DNR shouldn't bully them. Hunter harmony and customer satisfaction would improve if the DNR dropped the October gun hunt.

It's odd that professed businessmen in the group made that argument. Whether it's the DNR, Wal-Mart or Joe's Tavern, few can define — and none can measure — customer satisfaction.

In deer hunting, we can't even link it to success. Some hunters weren't happy in 1971 when archers and gun-hunters combined to kill 77,357 deer. Judging by today's malcontents, a kill of nearly 520,000 deer didn't make hunters seven times happier than 37 years ago.

This much is certain: The big-game committee's majority realized that sacrificing October's gun season would not satisfy such a crowd.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Tom you better ck your #'s In the 60's there were 600.000 deer ,adout 250.000 were taken ever year!