ASSIGNMENT 13: ‘Deer Czar’ sets record straight on privatizing hunting land

By: Aaron Dimick Email
By: Aaron Dimick Email

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- After months of studying the white tail deer herd and talking with hunters, the state said it expects Wisconsin’s Deer Trustee to submit his highly anticipated report Thursday.

The so-called “Deer Czar” was hired by Governor Scott Walker in Nov. 2011 to study problems in the state’s deer management and make recommendations.

In a special Assignment 13 report, WEAU 13 News talked with Dr. James Kroll in an exclusive interview.

Kroll has gotten lots of names in his career.

Deer Trustee, Deer Czar, he’s even branded himself “Dr. Deer” because of his experience as a deer consultant.

But one name, “Dr. Dough” as in cold hard cash, has concerned Wisconsin hunters with talk circulating that he plans to privatize public hunting land.

Because of these accusations Kroll said he wants to set the record straight.

WEAU talked with Dr. Kroll as he was finishing up his Deer Trustee report in his home state of Texas.

Dr. Deer said there’s lots of unhappiness between hunters, landowners and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

“They didn't feel like they were having input, being listened to. They were tired of going to meetings and feeling like the conclusion was drawn before they got there,” Kroll said.

Kroll traveled the state this spring, hosting several town hall meetings with hunters and landowners.

In their initial report, Kroll and his team of experts said the DNR has mismanaged chronic wasting disease and the whitetail deer population.

“In some areas, there are more deer than they say there are and some areas there are less deer than they say there are,” Kroll said.

He said it’s better to take a harvest management approach.

“And that is how many deer do people want harvested and put together management that allows them to harvest that,” Kroll said.

The deer expert recently posted a video on his Dr. Deer website to set the record straight on an interview he did a decade ago.

In February 2002 he talked with “Texas Monthly” magazine, calling game management “the last bastion on communism”, even calling national parks “wildlife ghettos”.

Kroll said while he regrets saying those statements, they’ve been misused.

“That was something that I really hated that they took out of context of my meaning,” Kroll.

And in the midst of heated recall elections, Kroll said democrats used those comments as evidence that he would recommend privatizing public land in Wisconsin.

“I'm not a political animal and it's a shame that I got drawn up into the nastiness of that election. It will never be my intent to privatize deer hunting in Wisconsin,” Kroll said.

But some democrats like Jim Bailie of rural Rusk County say there’s no denying the fact that Dr. Deer has built his career on private deer management.

“I can tell you the direction he's going, that’s called high fences, manage it intensely, a few rich people shoot out the big bucks, few of the people that can afford to pay lesser bucks will shoot out the does,” Bailie said.

The avid hunter, wildlife biologist and former school teacher said Kroll’s $125,000 paycheck could have been spent in Wisconsin.

“DNR has to base their ideas on what they do on scientific well-documented research. Dr. Kroll’s basing it on his Texas background. The animals here need more research done on them,” Bailie said.

Only 3 percent of hunting land is public in Texas compared with Wisconsin’s 17 percent.

Though Kroll has been tight-lipped on what his final recommendations will be, he maintains his areas about private hunting will stay in the Lone Star state.

“We're on the dawn of a new age for deer management in Wisconsin and it will spread throughout the United States when it's all implemented,” Kroll said in a video posted on his website.

Kroll is finished with his work in Wisconsin but said he’ll do more consulting if needed.

The Wisconsin Department of Administration said while the report is being submitted Thursday, it won’t be made public for another couple weeks.

Gov. Walker’s Press Secretary Cullen Werwie said after Walker receives the report he’ll review it and evaluate the impact of the recommendations.

“After that he will work on a plan to implement the recommendations that strengthen Wisconsin’s sporting heritage and improve deer herd management practices,” Werwie said.

The DNR sent a statement saying in part:

“Our commitment is to make Wisconsin the leader in deer management and we look forward to working with Dr. Kroll and his team to achieve this goal. We want the same thing that Dr. Kroll and his team wants – which is to have the best managed deer herd in the country. Dr. Kroll’s report identifies some of the same key issues that we have identified and have been working on. We look forward to working with Dr. Kroll on solutions that will tackle these challenges.”

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