Editors Blog

‘Dr. Deer’ James Kroll Deer Report Disappoints


Dr. Deer James Kroll is Wisconsin's deer czar

Although he provides an extensive regurgitation of Wisconsin's deer management history, appointed deer trustee James Kroll and his team did not provide many new insights that will help the state manage its deer herd. (photo courtesy of the WDNR)


In case you missed it, today was a big day for deer hunters in Wisconsin. We received news that James Kroll, a private-land deer manager from Texas, released his interim whitetail report for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Kroll was retained by Gov. Scott Walker’s administration to serve as a “deer czar,” offering his opinions on the state’s deer management program and management practices. Kroll, who is being paid up to $125,000 for less than a year’s worth of service, has enlisted well-known wildlife biologists David Guynn Jr. and Gary L. Alt to assist in his review. The money is coming directly from Wisconsin hunters; segregated funds from the State Fish and Wildlife Account.

The report, posted today on the DNR website, spans 186 pages, but only 21 of those pages are “new content.” Much of the report is rehashed data that was collected during the state’s Deer 2000 study, and the rest of it is Kroll’s resumé and vitae.

It is going to take me some time to digest Kroll’s entire report, (read it yourself here) but my first reaction is to quote a line from a popular Billy Joel song: “Is that all you get for your money?”

Forgive my sarcasm. My take on this subject is nothing personal against Mr. Kroll, Mr. Alt or Mr. Guynn. They have done credible and important work in their careers. However, I’m always one to call a spade a spade, and this preliminary report is disappointing. Mostly, because Wisconsin hunters essentially paid this team to essentially rehash what hunters in this state already knew.

Further, it appears that much of this review is purely subjective and based off on an unscientific survey of 486 people who visited Kroll’s personal website. You would expect more for $125,000.

Among the “conclusions” Team Kroll listed in the report are these Top 5 head-scratchers:

Deer Trustee Conclusion:  

“We were surprised to see that “sublegal” spiked bucks were recorded as antlerless deer. We understand the thinking possibly behind this, but do not support it.”


They possibly understand the reasoning behind allowing hunters in a one-buck season (one for archery and one for gun) being allowed to check a buck with 1-inch spikes as a doe? Really? It’s called common sense. If you force a hunter to put his buck tag on it, guess what? Yes, that’s right … the buck gets kicked into the grass and left behind. What’s more, how many sublegal bucks are shot each year? Don’t know, but it’s not many. Allowing them to slip under the antlerless quota is a minuscule price to pay.

If I have misread their concerns on sublegal spike bucks, and they merely wanted these bucks “counted” in the overall harvest figures, it still doesn’t make much sense to point that out as a major concern. After all, we already know that about 20 to 25 percent of all “antlerless” harvests are comprised of buck fawns. That is already factored into harvest quotas. Adding in sublegal spikes wouldn’t push that needle a fraction of percent on the overall harvest.

Deer Trustee Conclusion:

“Important activities such as herd health checks performed by local biologists, range assessments, morphometric studies related to physical condition are notably absent.”


Another “ah-ha” moment for the researchers. Let’s see, yes, that is correct: When the state cut the DNR’s workforce by more than 500 employees in the early 2000s, it started a trend that continues today: There’s no one left to do the work, much less a budget for carrying it out.

Deer Trustee Conclusion:

“We also were surprised, in spite of being a recognized ‘big buck’ state, Wisconsin does not have a big buck record book. On the surface this may appear to favor ‘trophy management,’ when in reality it fosters information gathering, and provides yet another way for biologists and citizens to interact.”


Um, yes we do. It’s called “Wisconsin Trophy Records,” and it spans 500 pages. It is available for order directly from the Wisconsin Buck and Bear Club.

Deer Trustee Conclusion:

“The vast majority of both forestlands (>60% of area) and farmlands (>90% of farms) have no formal agreement with WDNR to provide public access for deer hunting. This implies that access to most (likely >70%) deer habitat, deer populations and hunting/management opportunities is controlled by private landowners.”


Wrong again. The state does, in fact, have TWO formal programs. One is called the Managed Forest Law. Within this law is a caveat that offers huge tax breaks to landowners who enroll. When they do, they must allow open hunting (under a tiered program). The fact that many landowners do not participate is because they, too, are hunters and don’t want to share access.

The second program is called Unlimited Public Access, and it was implemented more than two years ago. In this program, the state makes a lease payment to landowners who open up their property for public hunting. To date, it has opened up more than 50,000 acres to deer hunting.

Deer Trustee Conclusion:

“We also searched the WDNR website as a ‘landowner’ and could not find any contact information or link to ‘our’ biologist. This stems from an inherent mind set that the function of WDNR is regulation, not facilitation of deer management by landowners or organizations. Many states have Deer Management Assistance Programs (DMAPs) which generally foster higher credibility.”


Sounds to me like someone doesn’t know how to use the Internet. It took me precisely 40 seconds to find this county-by-county searchable directory on the WIDNR site (attached photo).

These men obviously have a ton of deer research experience. And, to be fair, their report includes some valuable information, clarifications and reminders. Among them is this line item on wolves in Wisconsin:

Deer Trustee Conclusion:

“The current wolf population is at least three times higher than the goal. This has not been due to inaction by the Wisconsin DNR, rather federal regulations providing protection to wolves.”

I will be reporting more of my analysis of this report in the coming days. Check back at this blog each Tuesday morning for new installments.

What are your thoughts? Read the report, then check in with your opinions.











6 thoughts on “‘Dr. Deer’ James Kroll Deer Report Disappoints

  1. Wisbowmen

    Ok what? Liberal are trying to say Walker wants to sell off all the public land and then raise prices so only rich people can hunt? If that is what Walker is trying to do then why in the heck did he authorize this? http://www.jsonline.com/news/wisconsin/forest-land-deal-sets-state-record-du5eq5q-151820355.html

    Se Wisconsin adds over 67 THOUSAND acres to public use but at the same time Walker is trying to get rid of public land? ROFLMAO Are liberals all this stupid or just the idiot group from daily kos?

    Stop trying to use deer hunters to wage war on Scott Walker, stop acting like children. When Scott Walker wins AGAIN June 5th all of us ” right wing nutters” will be enjoying all your tears!! Cant wait for the cry baby diaries on daily kos! HAHAH

  2. ViewGrand

    Wow…..you’re just a caution, Retch. And you’re about as condescending as portions of Dr. Kroll’s preliminary report. I don’t always agree with everything on this site and its publication, but to categorize it as one of “willing accomplices in the outdoor media” of the DNR….is an ignorant and gratuitous swipe at best. You are a known quantity, and believe me……you ain’t that good, nor do you have the credibility to make such statements.

    As far as what, and to what degree, Dr. Kroll’s preliminary report should or should not be taken at face value………let’s just examine the Summary portion of his report……..dismissing for a moment the entirely legitimate points Dan Schmidt detailed.

    Public confidence in the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources in regard to deer
    management issues has seriously eroded over the last few decades. The reasons are complex
    and not easily solved, but revolve primarily around two key issues— the current use of the SAK
    Population Model and the ineffectiveness of the CWD eradication program.[/b]

    I’ll go to “the ineffectiveness of the CWD eradication program” first……….mostly because it’s an area that’s dear (deer……whatever) to my heart. A big zero to Kroll on this point……even given the dissatisfaction in the hunting community it fostered……because of his own cited statistics that very few people are aware, or even interested, in the issue here or in the western states. Beyond that, he makes no mention of the fact that eradication is an effort that has been dismissed and acknowledged as impractical and unachievable by WDNR. Acknowledged and explained in their new Response Plan 2010-2025. To wit….

    “This goal does indicate a shift in our original management approach by currently accepting an area of CWD infection in southern Wisconsin, and at the same time, focusing CWD
    control efforts on limiting CWD to that area of the state while simultaneously controlling its
    intensity and distribution.”

    Beyond that, every state which currently does not have a recorded instance of CWD, but borders a state who does………..currently has an implementation plan that mirrors that which Wisconsin instituted back in 2002. The difference? Those states now have a protracted history of testing specifically for CWD, and they will know when CWD first penetrates their state.

    Sad that Wisconsin didn’t know that CWD was more firmly entrenched in their two “hot spots” than they were aware of at the time? Surely. Lots of money spent on unachievable eradication? Surely. Wasted money down a rat hole? Your call. Gratuitous swipe by Kroll on the situation? Indubitably. Piling on description would be charitable.

    There is so much to be learned about CWD, particularly the most recent studies….accomplished and ongoing out west. In the whole spectrum of things about Wisconsin that Kroll is examining and providing input/proposals for…….I dare say this is his glaring weakness.

    And now to the SAK-derived estimates and Population Model. One of two key issues….remember?

    First…….a survey by Dr. Robert Holsman yielded the fact that only 6% of hunters even knew how or what SAK did. (I could add that you aren’t included in the 6%, Retch……..in spite of the tutelage…….but I won’t….oh what the hell, I will) Hunters aren’t interested in scientific explanations or nuances. Nor……according to Holsman’s survey, are they interested in improvements to the science or formulas. Their interaction and relationship with WDNR has eroded to the point that nothing that agency does to improve their “numbers” will make any difference.

    There may be reasons to reject an estimating system whose requirements are that yearling bucks are harvested at random. That surely goes against the billboards of “Let ’em go, Let ’em Grow” we see on the highway. And that herd estimation requirement is contradictory to leaders in our sport we admire and follow (which includes this site and organization). But is the premise of that harvest requirement (which would inhibit the current WDNR estimation process) compatible with a majority of the 600,000+ hunters in Wisconsin?

    We know enough about Dr. Kroll to know it’s incompatible with HIS philosophy. And that’s beyond his capability of displaying the estimation process in Wisconsin was inaccurate. Actually beyond the capability of ANYONE showing such evidence, but I believe he was charged with the responsibility to do so…..if he could.

    The best that has come out of this “Deer Czar” hiring is the fact that people have discovered (or maybe they haven’t….but will shortly) that Dr. Robert Holsman defined a problem early on…….and predicted repercussions if change wasn’t made. WDNR became complacent and arrogant about their relationship with hunters. Actually…..in some respects the absence of a “relationship”.

    So…….in the face of this impasse, with acknowledged distrust for WDNR……is the fact that a guy on a painted white horse comes trotting in and declares himself “an enemy of your enemy” enough to make him your friend?

    The original entry of this blog is topical, and should be taken to heart. Be skeptical………be knowledgeable. Know the history of your “White Knight”. They change colors in the blink of an eye.

    1. Dan Salmon

      If you have been watching the results of the mortality studies, you would understand that the SAK assumptions are skewed and not helping with those numbers.

      You might also remember that for the past decade, the WDNR has been run by a class of clowns that seem to believe that everything they think and want is what every other person in the existent world wants and needs and that they need not ask nor demand anything more than what this benevolent ruling class gives them. That’s where the hunters be damned attitude came from.

  3. retch sweeny

    What I think some here and other media outlets fail to understand is the term “Problem statement” as it applies to the work of the deer trustee. See the link for a complete understanding of a problem statement


    but here is the short version.

    “A problem statement is a concise description of the issues that need to be addressed by a problem solving team and should be presented to them (or created by them) before they try to solve the problem. When bringing together a team to achieve a particular purpose provide them with a problem statement.”

    The title of the Deer Trustees preliminary report says:


    He and his team went to great lengths to explain where they are in the process and how they got there and what they have learned in order to arrive at a problem statement. In his report he makes several observations and summaries. They can be found on pages 16 thru 21. He then explained the next steps yet some want to pretend this was all we paid for and this is all we got for the money. They are either ignorant or purposefully trying to sour the public to the deer trustees work. We are seeing it here by the resident outdoor writer who follows that template.

    I think people are smarter than they are being given credit for being by some in the media.

  4. retch sweeny

    I dont think you grasp that this was the finding of “issues” and preliminary report explaining the scope of thier upcoming work.

    I doubt hunters will find much in the way of surprises in the report by Dr. Kroll and his team but that is to be expected because it’s we what hunters have been saying for years. Dr. Kroll and his team came to WI and met with reps from the state’s orgs and with hunters and then created a web site seeking input from hunters. He and his team also dug deeply into WI deer management plan via requests made of DNR reports and data. Dr. Kroll and his team have now formulated and issued a report of findings that is exactly what hunters in WI have been saying for years.

    So what’s the difference? The difference is that in the past, the DNR and its willing accomplices in the outdoor media downplayed, dismissed and insulted the hunting community and labeled them complainers and “Barstool biologist” because they dared express their concerns for the direction WI deer management has been headed and because hunters objected to management prescriptions we dared to disagree with (as if we had no place objecting despite the fact that we are one half of Wisconsin’s whitetail deer management team responsible for not only carrying out the mission but paying for it.)

    Now we have a preliminary report of findings generated by several Pedigreed biologists with the letters PhD, MS, BS, AAS, and titles such as Wildlife biologist, Chief scientist, Professor, teacher and researcher in the fields of Forestry, wildlife population dynamics, Wildlife biology, human dimensions of deer management who have produced many books, dissertations and peer reviewed papers all focusing on wildlife and deer management that represents a combined 100 years of experience directly related to the subject and this team has now produced a preliminary report that mirrors that of Wisconsin’s “barstool biologists”.

    Wisconsin’s barstool biologists have been making these same observations publicly and on this and other web sites and in print and in testimony for many years so it is refreshing and a validation of Wisconsin’s many barstool biologists to know that their combined efforts and their concerns have finally been heard and corroborated by a team of honest to goodness biologists.

    So, well done fellow barstool biologists. You are in good company now that there is a team working to address the problems you have been so vocal about for so long even if you saw little if any actions addressing your concerns from the state. It looks like the tide is turning. But be warned, The same willing accomplices that labeled you as barstool biologists, will downplay this as “No big deal” and nothing new and a waste of money, insisting that this was all well known already (essentially admitting that we hunters were actually right all along) or that this team was hand selected by insiders and is scripted. Just make sure to continue to do what you have been doing all along by ignoring those irrelevant folks that would still insist you ought to instead listen to the state’s biologists and the out of date management plans and that they know better than you and to just keep shooting.

    Lastly and certainly not to be overlooked is a thank you to Governor Walker for listening to hunters and for having the vision to see the direction deer hunting in WI was headed if we maintained the present course. This may be the beginning of the end of the adversarial relationship between the two halves of Wisconsin’s deer management team that is the states deer managers and the private game managers that are deer hunters.

Comments are closed.