Editors Blog

Dumping Deer Registration a Colossal Mistake


Mandatory deer registration was not only a way for hunters to socialize, it is historically the best tool for obtaining irrefutable proof of harvest. (photo by Dan Schmidt)

 “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.

It’s probably one of the greatest quotes ever, but it wasn’t penned for deer management. It should have been.

As my home state of Wisconsin puts the close to its annual 9-day firearms season, I’m both saddened and discouraged over our future. This was the first year in more than a half century that we didn’t have mandatory harvest registration. Up until now, hunters were required to take their deer to check stations — typically gas stations, sport shops and taverns — to have them checked and registered. It was a tradition, a social event, and kind of a pain in the butt during warm-weather seasons. However, above all, it was one of the most valuable management tools ever developed.

Dumping in-person deer registration came about through the state’s ill-fated recommendations by the Governor-appointed deer trustee a few years ago. Back then, Gov. Scott Walker paid James Kroll, a private-land deer consultant from South Texas, upwards of $125,000 to recommend changes to Wisconsin deer season structure. The result was a lot of pomp and circumstance and little substantive changes to actually improving deer populations in the Badger state.

I’ll say it here and now: Dumping in-person check stations will go down as one of the worst deer management decisions ever made. Well, that and the dumping of deer management units. DMUs were specific topographical zones based on deer population distribution. The invaluable histories of DMUs allowed state wildlife biologists to make precise harvest recommendations for, again, more than a half century.

Here are three more reasons why dumping in-person registration was a bad idea:

1. In-person deer registration provided virtually incontrovertible proof of harvest with antlered bucks. This provided a very strong index to track herd trends. Even in the face of that fact, hunters still questioned harvest reports. How much more will they question the veracity of Telecheck numbers? Dead deer don’t lie. Telecheck registrants do.

2. Random samples of deer ages will be difficult to obtain. Spot checks at butcher plants in 2014 were not encouraging. Age data tells us how fast deer are being added to the herd, how fast bucks are dying, and herd sex ratios. Precise sex-ratio data is the basis for reconstructing population estimates, and Wisconsin was #1 in this exercise (head and shoulders above any other state) for decades. No more.

3. Obtaining tissue samples for monitoring disease presence and prevalence will be confounded.

These reasons don’t even include the economic impact that mandatory in-person registration has had on Wisconsin businesses.

According to Wisconsin Public Radio, businesses felt a huge pinch during the 9-day firearms season, as hunters stayed away from gas stations, restaurants, taverns and other traditional check-point locations. There’s no telling how much revenue was lost, but let’s do some simple math to get an idea.

According to Statisca, a national economics firm, the average expenditure on snacks alone at convenience stores is about $4 per person per visit. That’s just snacks. Doesn’t include anything else. At 116,000 registrations (we can safely assume hunters travel in groups), this would be nearly a loss of $500,000 in snack sales alone. I’d like to see a scientific study, but I’ll bet you a bonus tag that the overall economic impact was well over $1 million.

Average per person expenditures on snack foods at convenience stores and gas stations. (Statisca)

Average per person expenditures on snack foods at convenience stores and gas stations. (Statisca)

I hate to come off as the pessimist, but there’s really no going back on these damaging deer management decisions. The current Administration’s gutting of the Department of Natural Resources is complete (500+ jobs eliminated from the Department, including nearly all wildlife research scientists). From here on out, my beloved state of Wisconsin’s deer management program — once the epitome of sound, science-based decisions — will now be managed in much the same way other states have done it for years.

With a flip of the coin.


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2 thoughts on “Dumping Deer Registration a Colossal Mistake

  1. wilmer thrun

    Poper08 nailed it. Dan Schmidt really got this terribly wrong on a host of levels. To begin with Dan makes a painfully obvious error right from the starting blocks making the rest of his opinion piece useless. He starts by making the mistake of saying:

    “This was the first year in more than a half century that we didn’t have mandatory harvest registration. ”

    That is pure B.S. WI still has mandatory harvest registration. Nothing has changes. It makes one wonder if Dan got this simple fact so terribly wrong, can anything he write afterwards be worth a hill of beans. The answer is no. The only thing that changed is where the hunter stands (or sits) while registering his deer but registration remains mandatory.

    Dan is a long time Anti-Walker guy who is always on the lookout for a way to bash the Governor. This epic failure of an opinion piece is just another in his long time Walker derangement syndrome.

    Poper08 did a good job of debunking the drama and breathless hype Dan tried to paint so I don’t need to rehash his spot on explanation. Tele-check is one of the best and smartest things to happen to WI deer hunting in years. Dan is simply a partisan who is pouting. I don’t expect this listing of cold hard truths to stay posted here as Dan does not care for opposing views that prove his opinion wrong but in this case he is terribly wrong.

  2. poper08

    Let me address each issue presented, if not with hard evidence, but with my own personal experience of 25 years of deer hunting solely in WI;

    -BS reason; nothing should ever be continue simply because that’s the way it’s always been done. Advancement and improvement are a necessity of life.

    Social event;
    -The best social event happens with friends and family, NOT at a registration station among strangers. I’ve never been to one where you weren’t being churned in and out as fast as possible. And who wants to share the details of their hunt (which is always specifically WHERE did you get him) with some random person?

    Warm weather pain in the butt;
    -Agreed, so much so that I know of many people who simple skip the registration when the choice is between legality and risking the meat. So what’s worse; the deer that are completely left out of the SAK calculation or the potential for lying?

    Incontrovertible proof of harvest;
    -I don’t think this is as “incontrovertible” as you think it is. I know many a registration station (taverns, typically) where the employees have NO desire to go look at a dead deer and will simply sign you off and make you go away. You are taking up their time that could be used to sell to people who are actually there to BUY something from the business.

    Random samples of deer ages will be difficult to obtain;
    -Simple enough to remedy; add a question to the electronic registration to estimate age. Yeah, there will be some error, but about as likely to estimate low as high, so average.

    Obtaining tissue samples for monitoring disease presence and prevalence;
    -The only legitimate complaint, in my opinion. But, again, easily remedied; based on location during electronic registration, along with the verification number, a random sampling of people simply get an additional notification that they are required to provide a tissue sample; \Take deer to an “classic” registration station or go to http://www.dnr.whatever.com for instructions on submitting your sample to the State Hygiene lab in Madison.\

    The simplicity that has come from the electronic registration is AMAZING; my archery buck this year went from field to caped for mount to quartered and in my cooler in not much more time then it would have normally taken me to drive to and from the correct registration station and sit around there waiting my turn.

    “[T]here’s really no going back” because this is a far better way!

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