By Mike Heine/The Week
(Published March. 2, 2007, 2:38 p.m.)
Area hunters reacted loudly Monday night to the prospect that the Department of Natural Resources may bring back earn-a-buck regulations in an effort to curb the spread of chronic wasting disease.
"I think what we need to do is have a framework that gets the most amount of hunters in the field and gives them the most opportunity," said Whitewater's Mike Sklavos, a biology teacher at Beloit Turner High School.
He said rule changes are confusing and potentially pushing hunters away from the sport.
"I don't think they're consistent enough in supporting what hunters' needs are," Sklavos said. "It seems like tonight, a lot don't want earn-a-buck, but are they (the DNR) listening to them? It seems like they're not."
About 50 men gathered at Milton Town Hall on Monday night for a DNR open house.
"When you're talking deer, you're messing with people's traditions," said conservation warden Boyd Richter. "People want the same thing every year. They don't want it to change."
The DNR extended the gun-hunting season from nine to 16 days a few years ago. People didn't want that, Richter said.
Now, earn-a-buck regulations might come back.
"Traditions can change," Ritcher said, "but they have to change slowly for people to accept them. We've had drastic changes the last few years since CWD came about."
The DNR says the proposed changes are needed because it is trying to protect the herd-and a $1 billion annual hunting industry in the state-from chronic wasting disease, an always-fatal brain disease that is shown to spread among deer through contact and saliva.
Some hunters say the DNR should let the disease run its course. They argue that the DNR wants to cut the herd too much, and soon there won't be enough deer to make it worth hunting.
"People just don't see the deer that they used to," one man said from the audience. "They sit there all day and never see a deer. I heard that not just once or twice. I hear that from all over."
Said another: "You're not going to eliminate (chronic wasting disease) no matter how hard you work at it. Just let us go out and hunt. CWD is basically getting shoved down our throats in some areas."
DNR officials said they set up rules in areas where the disease was found to let people hunt and kill as many deer as possible. Multiple options have been tried since the disease was found in Wisconsin in 2002.
Last season, hunters in disease-reduction zones could kill as many bucks and does as they wanted throughout the extended season.
Although those liberal regulations came at the request of hunters, they shot 10,000 fewer does in the herd reduction areas in 2006 compared to 2005, when earn-a-buck was in place, said Tami Ryan, CWD supervisor for southeastern Wisconsin.
Now, the DNR is considering a reinstatement of earn-a-buck regulations where hunters are required to kill an antlerless deer to earn a buck tag.
"It all comes down to what hunters say and what harvest data shows," Ryan said. "The trends and harvest ratios do not support what the public was telling us and what they were willing to do.
"Even though we're trying to balance public sentiments, we also have a natural resource to manage and the even bigger issue of trying to contain the disease."
Proposed CWD rules
The state Department of Natural Resources Board in late March will consider the following proposed rule changes for chronic wasting disease zones:
n Unlimited earn-a-buck in all seasons. Pre-qualifications will be in place for up to two buck stickers if hunters shot at least two antlerless deer last season.
n Archery season in disease eradication zones and the herd reduction zone Saturday, Sept. 15, through Sunday, Jan. 6.
n Gun seasons in the herd reduction zone Thursday, Oct. 18, through Sunday, Oct. 28, and Saturday, Nov. 17, through Sunday, Dec. 9.
n Gun seasons in the disease eradication zones Saturday, Oct. 13, through Sunday, Oct. 28, and Saturday, Nov. 17, through Sunday, Dec. 9.
n Youth hunt Saturday, Oct. 6, and Sunday, Oct. 7.
Miss the open house Monday in Milton? The DNR will have three more:
n 5 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at the DNR South Central Region Headquarters, 3911 Fish Hatchery Road, Fitchburg.
n 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Dodger Bowl, 318 King St., Dodgeville.
n 6 to 8 p.m. Monday at Grand Avenue Elementary School, 225 Grand Ave., Prairie du Sac.