Wisconsin DNR board set to vote on deer proposal

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Associated Press | January 20, 2014

MADISON — Wisconsin deer hunters have hauled their kills to roadside taverns or gas stations to be counted for decades, hanging around after the work is done to slug beers, swap stories and show off their trophies.

Now, though, the tradition, camaraderie and spending in-person registration generates are in jeopardy. The Department of Natural Resources has proposed moving to online and telephone reporting as soon as this fall.

Gov. Scott Walker's deer trustee, Texas researcher James Kroll, proposed the switch to as a way to tally kills faster, save money and make life more convenient for hunters. But tavern and convenience store owners who have relied on registration to draw in hunters for 70 years worry about the loss of business, and DNR officials warn they could lose detailed biological data on the state's herd and tissue samples used to test for chronic wasting disease.

The DNR's board is set to vote on the plan Wednesday along with other rules implementing Kroll's recommendations on improving Wisconsin deer hunting.

"It affects the culture. It affects the local economy," said Lee Fahrney, a deer hunter and spokesman for the Conservation Congress, a group of sportsmen who advise the DNR on policy. "It just affects the whole social underpinnings of the annual deer hunt."

Currently hunters register their kills at 626 locations, including DNR-run stations, taverns and convenience stores. DNR workers staff 100 or so stations during the popular nine-day November gun hunt to collect age and sex data as well as tissue samples for CWD testing. The agency uses data from that hunt and others to tally kills, track buck mortality and gender ratios, and assess deer health and antler characteristics.

The rules call for eliminating in-person registration across all deer seasons in an effort to maximize savings, said Eric Lobner, a DNR wildlife supervisor who is coordinating efforts to implement Kroll's recommendations. The first sites would disappear this fall; all would be gone by 2015.

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