I guess my biggest concern for the future of deer hunting and big game hunting in Wisconsin is the simple idea of being able to get a good accurate count on the deer herd, bear population, and wolf population. Without accurate and timely numbers managing any of the populations is impossible.
I don't want to get in to debates on who's at fault, I don't care. What I do care about is that we fix what isn't working and reverse what damage that has been done.
Last spring with the EAB hearings we herd testimony about the SAK and the errors that were found. We herd testimony about how deer car crash data is used in many other states and what this data tells us about our Wisconsin deer herd. IMHO the debate and hearings were about the wrong subject. EAB is just a tool and a good tool if used correctly. I just believe it was not used correctly, used too many years in a row and goals were either set too low or the inability to keep track of the numbers has put us way past intended goals.
CWD policy again was set up with good intentions but handled all wrong. First the DNR wanted hunters to wipe out the deer herd in the CWD zone but by putting so much emphasis Chronic Wasting disease, creating public fear about consuming diseased meat and all the hoopla did just the opposite of what the DNR wanted and needed to do. It's a simple matter of public relations, if you want hunters to hunt in an area, do not name that area after a disease! Instead of drawing hunters to that area they basically scared people away from hunting the CWD Zone. It would have been much more inviting if the DNR just issued more tags in each unit needed without the scary dramatic label.
IMHO I believe a lot of hunters who hunted the CWD Zone prior to 2002 drove north to do there hunting for disease free deer while at the same time the dept of Ag was waging war on the deer in the name of CWD and crop damage throughout the state while up north the bear population and wolf population has added to the hunting pressure on the deer herd. The result? Few deer left up north, few deer left in central Wisconsin and too many deer left in the CWD Zone.
Again, everything stems back to the ability or lack of ability of keeping track of how many deer, bears, wolves and hunters in any given area. I also believe that the current food chain in the north woods can not work and support hunting as it is and needs to be treated differently than the rest of the state unless we want wolves and bears throughout the state. The north woods deer herd has been over hunted by humans, bears and wolves and the loss of deer will mean the loss of everything. DNR scientists predicted this back in the early 90's and suggested back then that in order to support a bear and wolf population and also a deer hunting season we would need to bring back other missing species such as Elk, bison, caribou and moose. That's what it took to support wolves and bears 200 years ago and we are fools to believe that we can support bears wolves and hunting without bringing at least 1 or 2 of these species back.
This is where the forestry people get involved saying the over population of deer are hurting our forests. To support the wolf, bear and hunting populations it simply takes more deer than the forests can support. The wood wasn't meant to feed just deer and we can not replace the elk, bison and other species missing with more deer. If something happens to the deer, wolves bears and hunting dies with them. To leave the deer overpopulated you kill the entire forest. The only solution is to bring back elk and bison or kill off the bears and wolves. If we bring back the elk and bison, we may not draw as many deer tags as we have in the past but the addition of bear tags, elk tags, bison tag and even wolf tags will ensure that hunting never dies in our state.
Speaking of dieing, that's a good description of Wisconsin's paper and lumber industry. As we move further into the paperless erra how much of our north woods should we reinvest in these industries? Would it not make more sense to optimize the renewable resources that we can get from the land? Trees are an important part of good habitat but tree lots make for very poor habitat. Do you want 10,000 trees of the same species all in rows on your land? Or would 5000 trees of different species and several species of big game animals be a better investment? The 5000 trees will still be enough to support what's needed for the paper and lumber industries with a lot less wasted or lost to disease, insect infestations, invasive plant species, and fire while at the same time creating good habitat for the deer, elk, bison, bears, wolves and many other native species. Our forests can provide so much more than we're getting from them now.
Agriculture is another problem. If you were to study South Africa one could draw many parallels to our own situation in Wisconsin. The animals are different but the principles are the same. Farming is an abuse to the land. To plant crops they bulldozed jungle, use fertilizer and pesticides that aren't good for the land, they devert water to feed the crops and livestock, they kill native animals as pests, they need to get rid of the waste from cattle, all hard work that cause more problems than it's worth when you consider that before the farms the jungle took care of itself with out any fertilizers insecticides, irrigation, hard work or manure. The native species that live in the jungle are much more valuable than anything raised on the farms. Instead of eating beef, now the people eat the animals that farmers considered pests as those animal bring in more money, better food with virtually no upkeep. Let the jungle do it's thing and reap the rewards by letting the land provide what it was meant to provide.
In northern Wisconsin the land can provide lumber, papper pulp, deer, bison, elk, bears, wolves, moose, caribou, ect but at this time it's only providing paper pulp, lumber, a few deer, bears and wolves, a small fraction of its potential.
To say replace all agriculture with wildlife in Wisconsin would be foolish. The north woods and the rest of Wisconsin are 2 different stories though. The north woods is where we need to start and the first step is getting behind the RMEF and WIDNR in there fight to restore elk. If we can get the elk herd established it will take the pressure off the deer so they can recover and it will get the ball rolling. It took a long time to get us in this bad position, it's going to take some time to make it right.
American by birth, hunter by choice.