Boots & Sabers

The blogging will continue until morale improves...


Everything but tech support.

1831, 26 Dec 16

Dispute Over Deer Harvest

I’m missing something here.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources will be sticking with its new online and phone-in deer registration next year, despite controversy swirling around the agency’s numbers, which show a higher deer harvest in the North amid conflicting reports from the field.

According to the DNR, the Northern Forest Zone’s buck harvest this year increased by 30 percent from 2015. The DNR’s website attributes the increase to two consecutive mild winters and limited antlerless tags, and some agency officials say the numbers are proof the northern herd is recovering.


Reports flowing into The Times paint a different picture than the optimistic one Wallenfang presented.

Buck contests in the North, for example, were generally down in their numbers, some by as much as 50 percent, while spot checks of meat processing centers were reporting no significant change, and some taxidermists, too, reported lower numbers. To cite just one specific example, the Northwoods Youth Deer Hunt Challenge deer kill was down 78 percent after 13 seasons of consistency in the numbers.

In addition, many say the higher DNR numbers for the North don’t comport with lower numbers reported in the southern part of the state.

Those numbers and reports, while they do not include everyone, are widespread in the North, and they raise concerns about the accuracy of the online and phone registration systems. Some callers have reported people killing does and registering them as bucks, as well as attempts to inflate kill numbers to suggest a recovered herd and relieve political pressure to delist the gray wolf.

I think that most of us can agree that we want the numbers to be accurate. We can’t effectively manage the herd without accurate data. Personally, I like the online registration. It’s easy. I killed my deer this year and had it registered before I hung it up. As a general rule, when we make regulations easier to comply with, we tend to get better compliance. That’s just human nature. If it is a pain in the butt to comply, more people are likely to “forget” or refuse.

What some of these folks are suggesting is that some activists may be falsely registering deer in order to inflate the reported harvest to take political pressure off of delisting the gray wolf. That seems like quite a stretch. And to do it, it means that wolf activists would have to buy deer licenses and falsely register deer. While I don’t rule out the possibility that a few folks did this, I find it hard to believe that any did it in significant enough numbers to inflate the reported harvest by 30%. Plus, to pull off a widespread fraud like that, one would think that hunters would have caught wind of it on social media somewhere.

In this case, I’ll adhere to Occam’s razor. The reason that the deer kill is up in northern Wisconsin is because hunters killed more deer. The second most likely explanation is that the reported harvest is up because compliance is greater with the online registration process being easier.


1831, 26 December 2016


  1. Kevin Scheunemann

    Environmentalists are too cheap to come up with a plan like that.

    They only want to spend other people’s money with excitement.

  2. Le Roi du Nord

    Just another opportunity to take a gratuitous slam at environmentalists, eh Kevin?  You should stick to something you understand, but for the life of me I don’t know what that would be.

    The online registration works only if everybody complies like you do, Owen.  But many for what ever reason don’t like the on-line or can’t use it where they hunt.  Where I hunt near the MI border we have to drive 15 miles to get cell coverage.  So there is really no difference for those of us in the more remote areas of the state than previously.

    Another drawback is the lack of data collected at the registration stations.  DNR isn’t aging deer any more so a key piece of data for the SAK formula in no longer gathered.  Now your best tool for population estimation is running on bad data.  And wardens hate the lack of a back tag.

    The new politically driven deer management program set back scientific deer management by 75 years.  That is a quote from a regional manager, who shall remain nameless to protect his career.

  3. Owen


    I get that online/phone doesn’t work for everyone, but if people don’t do it because of it, then that would drive registrations down – not up as the story says. I suspect that more people registered because it was easier than didn’t because they were outside of coverage and didn’t do it later.

    I wonder about the aging. A DNR official aged my deer when I took it into process it. So they are still aging deer and taking a sample, but it isn’t the same kind of sample as they did when they did it at the registration stations.

  4. Le Roi du Nord

    “It’s not like it’s the old days in the DNR where these decisions were made in a building in Madison in a cubicle,” she said.

    That quote from Stepp is just another example of either her complete lack of knowledge for how decisions were made prior to her reign, or her lack of respect for the intelligence of those who were involved, both agency and the public.  Probably both.

    Since there is no required registration there is no way to collect data on a number of things.  In the past deer of both sexes were aged at registration stations until they had sufficient sample size.  Other tests/samples were taken on everything from CWD to ticks, blood born pathogens, etc.  Since not everyone goes to a processor like you did (we don’t) a lot of that data is missed.  Like all statistical analyses, the bigger the N, the more significant the results.

    Just curious, what was your deer sampled for?

  5. Owen

    Agreed on the sample size, but you can have statistically relevant results with a relatively small sample size, if it’s done right. But I do think that the online/phone method skews the results. I just don’t know how much or if that skew is more or less important than the positive benefits of the online/phone method.

    They just aged my deer (3.5 years) and surveyed me (where was I hunting? how many other deer did I see? weather conditions? etc.). They didn’t test for CWD because I wasn’t hunting in a CWD zone.

  6. Le Roi du Nord

    I’ll always lean in favor of >N.  Look how the pre-election polls turned out.

Pin It on Pinterest