Editors Blog

Some Win, Some Lose with Earn-a-Buck Rules

Dan Schmidt with mature doeThe August issue of Deer & Deer Hunting will include an in-depth piece on what of the most effective — but also controversial — deer management techniques in North America: Earn-a-buck regulations. These regulations have been used extensively in my home state of Wisconsin since 1996. However, the program will soon be dropped, because frustrated hunters lobbied lawmakers to do intervene.

In case you are not familiar with EAB, these are aggressive deer management techniques that essentially force hunters to shoot and register an antlerless deer before "earning" the right to use their buck tag. Wisconsin is one of the few states that still has mandatory deer-check stations.

The August article, by John Ozoga, cites several recently concluded scientific studies. The authors of those studies found the most effective way to increase the harvest of antlerless deer while controlling the confounding factors was to use earn-a-buck regulations in conjunction with supplemental antlerless-only seasons. This approach resulted in a harvest increase of 5.3 antlerless deer per square mile in the Wisconsin test areas.

Conversely, earn-a-buck regulations resulted in a 1.6 deer per square mile decrease in the buck harvest. This reduction in buck harvest apparently resulted from the inability of some hunters to harvest an antlerless deer, meaning they didn’t “earn” the privilege of hunting for a buck.
Hence, the researchers suggest that the earn-a-buck program “likely represents a cost to management in terms of hunter frustration and reduced support for management.”

After following this issue for nearly 15 years, I see both sides of the fence. EAB allows deer managers to do their job — manage herds to density goals. On the other hand, deer never distribute themselves equally across the landscape. What happens then is that deer sightings for hunters become a case of the haves and have-nots. If you have great land with great food sources, you will see a lot of deer. If you have marginal land, or have to hunt public land, you are often plumb out of luck.

4 thoughts on “Some Win, Some Lose with Earn-a-Buck Rules

  1. Brian

    Nebraska started with EAB in some units last year and expanded it this year. With 95% of the state privately owned (agriculture) and less people owning land, it has become harder to find hunting places, especially for the rifle season. The deer population has exploded and the state is getting pressure from politicians to reduce the number of deer, so we have had special doe only seasons (rifle) in October as well as many "bonus tags" for does and now EAB. Just as a footnote, Nebraska still requires a hunter to check in a deer at a check station, but only during the 9 day rifle season. The rest of the seasons use a telecheck or online process.

  2. Dan

    Jon: Wisconsin allows archers to shoot one buck on their archery license, The only exception is the CWD zone where hunters can pretty much shoot unlimited bucks…only catch there is that earn-a-buck rules are in place in that area.

  3. Jon 5 buck

    The EAB is a state wide regulation??? or just in certain zones??..

    We have something not as close as radical as that in one State Park ,here in ILLINOIS…you can only shoot does in the month of October…than you can take a buck in Nov, till the end of season…2 bucks is the limit for bow state wide.
    How many bucks does Wisconsin allow?? say ..if i went up and hunted the archery season??

  4. Dan Salmon

    Just because you don’t own land or garden for deer doesn’t eliminate you from seeing deer.

    There is more State Owned land in WI than ever before. It is simply a matter of putting in the time and effort to look in lots of places to find where the deer are.

    Most hunters don’t bother to do this, they go out the weekend before season, brush the blind they’ve been sitting in for their entire lives and then scream about not seeing deer.

    The biggest problem in Northern Wisconsin, where the State or Federal government owns large tracts of land, is the lack of logging activity. There are literally thousands of acres of mature forest that do not provide the habitat necessary for deer or song birds for that matter.

    Hunters like sitting in mature forest because they can see a long way off and justify their Magnum rifles, the problem is most deer use these areas only as a travel route and use them quickly during daylight hours.

    Most hunters would see many more deer if they would take the time to scout areas around recent clear-cuts or cedar swamps. Sitting in an area that provides cover during the daytime hours and requires a shotgun or .30-30 at the most is where the deer are.

    When WI hunters figure out that just buying a deer license doesn’t guarantee them a buck and that there isn’t an App that will make them a successful deer hunter they will all be better off.

Comments are closed.