Whitetails Unlimited Opposes Wisconsin Deer Gun Season Expansion
Whitetails Unlimited sent a letter Thursday to members of Wisconsin's Natural Resources Board, opposing an expanded 16-day gun deer hunt in Wisconsin in 2010.
"There is always tension between hunters and DNR regulators, and we understand that," said Whitetails Unlimited President Jeff Schinkten. "But the results of the 2009 gun deer season show that hunter numbers were down in Wisconsin, and the number of bucks killed was at a 25-year low for the second straight year. Until we can get a handle on the true deer population in Wisconsin, we need to hold off on the 16-day gun season."
Schinkten also pointed out that car-deer accidents have had a dramatic and steady decline for the last five years, and a survey of WTU members showed a large gap between opinions of Wisconsin hunters and the opinions of DNR policymakers.
"Whitetails Unlimited has been a strong partner with DNR agencies across the country, working on programs in support of regulated hunting," said Schinkten. "That will not change. In fact, there is an agenda item for the next NRB meeting that is a donation from our Flambeau Chapter for habitat work in the Upper Chippewa Wildlife Management Area. However, we don't want to see the number of hunters drop, and when those numbers drop in Wisconsin, where deer hunting is a passion, we get concerned. DNR policy can have a huge effect on hunter satisfaction, and we just want a common-sense approach to wildlife management."*********************************************
The text of the letter to the NRB is as follows:
To: Members, Wisconsin Natural Resources Board
From: Whitetails Unlimited
Date: December 3, 2009
The Wisconsin DNR has a tremendous responsibility in managing the natural resources of the state, and it comes as no surprise that deer hunters in the state are very passionate about their sport. While there may always be tension between hunters and policymakers, the divergence of opinion in recent years has led to a level of tension that is actually damaging the sport.
After seeing the preliminary numbers of license sales and deer kills for the 2009 season, it is obvious that the hunting public is increasingly dissatisfied. This problem will get worse if the DNR continues under the existing philosophy, methods and goals.
Whitetails Unlimited is very concerned about the future of deer hunting in the state, and urges the DNR to fully evaluate all data, and to listen to deer hunters in establishing future hunting seasons and regulations.
The fact that Wisconsin has had two consecutive years of buck kills at 25-year lows, and a reduction of the total number of deer hunters this year, are troubling indications that Wisconsin hunters are joining in the decline in hunting popularity. While there can be many reasons for the decline in hunters, it is undeniable that DNR policies can be a major factor in hunter satisfaction, and that the DNR needs to be responsive to those who provide a major funding source for their operations.
Whitetails Unlimited is the nation's largest organization of deer hunters, and we take our mission of "Preserving an American tradition" very seriously. Our national headquarters is located in Wisconsin, and Wisconsin is the state with our largest number of members. When we conducted a survey of our Wisconsin members this year, their opinion was overwhelming that they believe there are fewer deer than DNR estimates, and they oppose many DNR policies. Anecdotal opinions of WTU staff, friends, and family members, hunting all over the state, agree with our members. We are very concerned that the DNR is damaging their credibility by continuing with policies that are not believed or supported, and even actively opposed, by hunters in the state.
I am not a biologist, but it seems like a common-sense approach is needed, rather than the drastic changes in season length that have been proposed. This is based on back-to-back seasons of buck kills at 25-year lows, a steady and dramatic reduction in car/deer accidents over the last five years, and hunters refusing to go deer hunting.
We understand the difficulty of trying to estimate and manage a population of wild animals, months and months in the future, but the solid numbers of this past deer season need to be incorporated into the evaluation, and are significant enough to warrant the DNR to revisit decisions made earlier this year.
Whitetails Unlimited has a long history in working with the DNR, in Wisconsin and many other states, in projects and programs that advance regulated hunting, and this will not change. However, we cannot stand silently when we feel that actions by the DNR will result in fewer deer hunters enjoying an American tradition.
For the record, Whitetails Unlimited is opposed to lengthening the traditional nine-day gun season, based on the information detailed above. We urge the DNR to get a firm handle on the deer population numbers before making drastic changes to deer hunting regulations.
President, Whitetails Unlimited
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Founded in 1982, Whitetails Unlimited is a national nonprofit conservation organization. Our mission is to raise funds in support of education, habitat enhancement and acquisition, and the preservation of the hunting tradition for the benefit of the white-tailed deer and other wildlife. When it comes to the whitetail and its environment, WTU's degree of professionalism and dedication has earned us the reputation of being the nation's premier whitetail organization.