MADISON, Wis. (WEAU) – It is 126 pages of paper that could change deer hunting in Wisconsin for decades to come.
And WEAU 13 News has a one-on-one interview with the man behind it all in a special Assignment 13 report.
WEAU was in Madison on Tuesday and is the local TV station to sit down with Dr. James Kroll just hours after his Deer Trustee Report was released.
In Nov. 2011, Gov. Scott Walker gave Dr. Kroll and a team of experts a big task; get to the bottom of problems with Wisconsin’s deer management.
“This has been nine months of hard, hard work. We're very proud of it,” Kroll said.
In his report, the so-called “Deer Czar” said the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources should focus on how many deer are in different regions rather than a state-wide number.
He also said hunters’ expectations for bagging a buck are too high.
“The habitats are different. The types of hunters are different. There’s public land, there’s private land. So there’s a different mix,” Kroll said.
An element that’s causing controversy is his recommendation for the DNR to push for organized hunting on private land.
“What it involves is working with the local people. It's not about giving private deer hunters special privileges,” Kroll said.
Dr. Kroll said his report holds up against the rumor he would suggest privatizing public hunting land in the Badger State.
“I'm a Texan so I don't take to insults very well. But, I was willing to tolerate it because this is important,” Kroll said.
The self-styled Dr. Deer said the state needs to put the fun back into deer hunting by simplifying rules and fees.
“We need regulations not to be changed every year, year after year; they need to be three and five years. This report is going to put the fun back into it for the DNR,” Kroll said.
Kroll said the new age of deer management he’s been promoting involves bridging the gaps between the hunters, landowners and government.
“The recommendations we make in this report will work, it'll fix it. But this is a reset button and you can only press it once because things are deteriorating,” Kroll said.
The Texas deer expert says working in Wisconsin has been the highlight of his career.
“I'm at the end of my career and this is a way to leave something good,” Kroll said.
He said it could take a couple years for his suggestions to take effect.
Dr. Kroll was paid $125,000 for the work but told WEAU he’d consult with the DNR for free while it implements the ideas.
A link to the Deer Trustee’s full report is linked below.
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin wildlife officials should scrap local deer population goals, let landowners hold mini-hunts on their property and establish better connections with the public, Gov. Scott Walker's deer trustee wrote in a report released Tuesday.
Texas researcher James Kroll's 136-page study focuses largely on the Department of Natural Resources' shortcomings but takes hunters to task too, saying they expect the agency to maintain a herd so large the landscape can't support it. His plan offers the two sides a chance to compromise and save Wisconsin's hunting traditions from disappearing, he said.
"This is a reset button," Kroll said of his recommendations. "If we're going to continue to have the hunting heritage in Wisconsin, we're going to have to do this."
DNR Lands Division Administrator Kurt Thiede issued a statement saying agency officials haven't reviewed the report yet.
"We are not afraid to face recommendations and critiques that are contained in the report and adjust accordingly," Thiede said.
Deer hunters have been feuding with the DNR over the last decade or so, contending the agency's herd control tactics have become so ham-handed and rigid they're leading to anemic hunts.
Walker, a Republican, tapped into the rancor on the campaign trail two years ago, promising to respond to hunters' complaints. The governor's administration hired Kroll in October for $125,000 to undertake an extensive review of the DNR's policies. Kroll and two other researchers have spent the last nine months studying DNR documents and data and meeting with DNR employees, stakeholder groups, Wisconsin's American Indian tribes and the general public.
Kroll issued preliminary findings in March that were highly critical of the DNR. He picks up where he left off in his final report, picking apart everything from the DNR's population estimates to a lack of easily accessible, computerized maps.
The report says the department's population estimates aren't precise enough to serve as the basis for population goals in individual management zones. Zone goals are crucial to hunters because the numbers determine what herd control strategies, such as antlerless hunts, the DNR might impose on that area.
The agency should do away with zone population estimates and goals, saying most hunters have little faith in them, the numbers are indefensible statistically and the constant argument over the figures erodes the DNR's credibility. The DNR instead should adopt simple goal statements such as increase, stabilize or decrease population density and establish criteria to measure success based on local trends, such as crop damage, forest degradation or car-deer crashes.
The report recommends the DNR start a program that allows landowners and hunting clubs to run hunts on their property after consulting with DNR biologists. At least 20 states already allow such hunts, according to the report.
The hunts would help manage the local herd, build trust between hunters, landowners and the state and provide the DNR with valuable scientific data from the dead deer. The program could yield up to 25,000 deer and cost about $100,000 annually. The money would come from enrollment fees and antlerless permit fees.
Wisconsin Democrats have accused Kroll of favoring private hunting clubs over public lands, pointing to remarks he made to "Texas Monthly" magazine in 2002 calling people who want more public land "cocktail conservationists who are really pining for socialism." They feared Kroll might recommend privatizing public lands.
Kroll dismissed that criticism as politically motivated — it came during the height of Democrats' attempt to recall Walker this past spring — and he insisted his mini-hunt idea could apply across swaths of public land too.
The study also recommends the DNR step up its attempts to connect with the public and stakeholders. Agency biologists should spend more time working with forestry and agricultural specialists and develop local management teams that would include tribal representatives, the agency should involve volunteers in projects as much as possible and involve members of the Conservation Congress, a group of influential sportsmen who advise the DNR, in local deer management decisions.
"You guys almost overnight can go from heels to heroes just by working with people," Kroll said he told agency officials.
Still, Kroll praised DNR employees as competent professionals trying to do the right thing for Wisconsin wildlife. He ended the report by admonishing hunters, saying they want to see more deer than the land can sustain. They want government officials to maintain a herd so large the state's forests would suffer and more motorists will crash into the deer.
"Ironically, by attempting to raise more deer than the land can sustain, they wind up with fewer deer," the report said.
Kroll warned that if the DNR and hunters can't agree on his recommendations the state's rich hunting tradition could vanish. Legislators will step in and start mandating heavy-handed changes, he said. Hunter numbers will decline and the DNR will have to rely on predators to control the herd, he said.
"Everybody's sick and tired of this and they're ready to do something," Kroll said. "The ball's in your court, pure and simple."
Statement on the deer report from DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp:
“Today we received the Wisconsin deer herd report from Deer Trustee, Dr. James Kroll and his team Dr. David Guynn and Dr. Gary Alt.
A comprehensive report such as this will take several weeks to review, but the Department of Natural Resources is ready, willing and eager to roll up our sleeves and get started. We look forward to working with the public, the Natural Resources Board, Governor Walker, Dr. Kroll, Wildlife Management professionals, Legislators and the Conservation Congress to find ways to make deer hunting even better in Wisconsin.
I want to thank Dr. Kroll and his team for their efforts. All along we’ve had the same goal, to make sure Wisconsin leads the nation in deer management and that our rich deer hunting tradition remains strong.”
STATEMENT FROM GOVERNOR'S OFFICE:
Madison—Today Governor Walker’s office released the final Whitetail Deer Trustee report. Governor Walker announced that he will work with Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Secretary, Cathy Stepp, and her team to review the report and move forward with implementation.
Along with the release of the final report, Governor Walker released the following statement:
Today’s report marks the conclusion of an independent study aimed at evaluating our current deer herd management practices. Moving forward we need to act on the report to enhance Wisconsin’s rich hunting tradition.
While DNR staff has worked hard, we need to do more to ensure hunters and conservationists have confidence in the department’s ability to manage the deer herd. Dr. Kroll and his team have gone through an exhaustive process to receive and evaluate comments from the public. The input incorporated into this report from hunters and conservationists will help us restore trust in the DNR’s ability to enhance Wisconsin’s hunting heritage as we move forward with implementation.
I look forward to working with Secretary Stepp and her team to follow through on Dr. Kroll’s report.
Last year Governor Scott Walker signed Executive Order #44, which created a Whitetail Deer Trustee position to independently and objectively review and evaluate Wisconsin’s deer herd management practices.
MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Gov. Scott Walker's deer trustee says Wisconsin wildlife officials should quit establishing local population goals, let landowners hold site-specific hunts on their property and establish better connections with the public.
Walker's administration hired Texas researcher James Kroll to evaluate the Department of Natural Resources' deer management. The administration released Kroll's final report on Tuesday.
The study found the DNR's population estimates aren't precise enough for individual management zones, site-specific hunts would give the state valuable biological information on kills and better DNR outreach would help restore the agency's credibility with hunters.
He concluded the report by taking hunters to task too, saying they want a deer herd so large the landscape can't support it.