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Gas Pains

Tom grew up in Milwaukee, bartended in Wauwatosa in the '70s and moved here in 1984.

Commentary, observations and musings about the outdoors, life in general and maybe Tosa politics and personalities will be the order of the day. He savors a lively debate as much as terrific cooking.

Scott Walker and Deer Management

Hunt'n, County Executive Walker

See that fella in the picture below...

That is the next Governor of Wisconsin.

Huh?   How do you know this?

Just a hunch.   A confidant hunch.

Yesterday I went over to West Town Archery to take-in the fanfare over the candidate purchasing his Patron License and listen to his comments about the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.  Aside from the guys at West Town, one additional guy on the range and a nice fella I met from Walker's Sportsmen Coalition I was the only member of the public there.  Otherwise it was just the mainstream media.

Like most sportsmen, I’m tired of sitting in a deer stand all day and not seeing any deer, said Walker.  As governor, I will name a ‘Whitetail Deer Trustee’ to monitor the health and population of the deer herd. That way, we take the politics out of the forest and put the deer back in.

Oh brother. 

I don’t know about you but am I the only one who thinks that this sounds exactly like mixing politics with wildlife management?

Here is what I know:

  • Deer are not distributed uniformly across the landscape.
  • The DNR manages Wisconsin’s wildlife resources for multiple constituencies.
  • Hunting should not be easy.
  • Nobody is entitled to see deer.
  • Deer counting and management is complicated.  It does not lend itself easily to simplistic sound bites or a one-size-fits-all approach. 

Allow me to elaborate.

With regard to the distribution of the deer herd I understand the frustrations that hunters can feel.  Success in bagging a deer hinges upon many factors.  Principally, whether or not you are hunting on private versus public land, how much scouting you do and the amount of time expended in the pursuit of your quarry.  Food, cover and predation also factor into the equation.

Where I hunt virtually all of the surrounding lands are privately owned.  Access is controlled so hunting pressure is nothing like it might be for a heavily-hunted public hunting ground.  Sure, we have an occasional wolf but we don’t have packs of them running around.  The landscape is a mix of agricultural land and extended tracts of forest and swampland.  All of this conspires to make for some prime deer habitat.  The consequence of all of this is that we have a surplus of deer. 

Yes, you heard me correctly.  We have a surplus of deer.  They've really become quite problematic.

It is no coincidence that I see deer all the time and hunting success rates are higher compared to other deer management zones.

Deer hunting in one part of the state can be a completely different experience than in another part of the state. 

You see - it is complicated.

The DNR is charged by statute with managing Wisconsin’s wildlife resources for everyone.  Not just for the minority of people who happen to be hunters. 

Let me give you an example. 

The forest products industry contributes $20 billion annually to Wisconsin’s economy and directly employs more than 65,000 residents.  And just like Jill and me - the majority of Wisconsin’s woodlands are owned by ordinary families.  As we look forward to a commercial thinning we would like to think that we're a tiny cog in that giant economic engine.

Forest regeneration is directly impacted by deer numbers. Thus the DNR has to wrestle all the time with the economics of deer damage to Wisconsin's herbivory.

Why is this?  Because a $20 billion enterprise is not chump change. 

Truthfully, I don't believe for one second that either Barrett, Neumann or Walker have clue-one about woodland management but if some Deer Trustee thinks he’s going to be doing me a favor by putting more deer in my forest you will have picked a fight with the wrong customer.  I am not at all amused by the prospect of a Republican Governor negatively impacting my personal economic situation. 

Like I said – it is complicated.

My wife has a saying – If hunting was easy it would be no different than shopping.

It took me four entire days of hunting before I shot a turkey last April

Four freak’n days.  

It took Lawyer five days.  Including a royal soaking in the rain. 

That is a singularly inefficient way to acquire one’s Thanksgiving dinner.  But when I cook that bird in November it’s going to taste mighty good because I earned it the hard way.  Lawyer would concur.

My pal Sid hasn’t gotten a deer in years.  He hunted hard for three years before he finally bagged a turkey.  Braumeister didn’t get a turkey this spring and he has yet to harvest his first deer with a bow.  I didn’t shoot a deer with my bow last year.

Yet you will hear no bitching about any of this under my roof.  I and my hunting compadres persevere because we understand the difference between hunting and shopping.  And we don’t need a stinking Trustee because we accept that it is complicated.

If hunting was easy anyone could do it.

I never set foot in my boat or take to the woods or the field with my bow or a gun with any preconceived notion that I am going to be successful in the pursuit of my next meal.

The truth of the matter is sometimes the fish aren’t biting, the deer are hunkered down and the birds won’t flush.  That’s how it works.

The bow season opens in a couple of weeks.  I’ve been scouting and canvassing in preparation for this and am not going to be the least bit deterred if I spend the whole damn opening day sitting in a tree stand without seeing a deer.

This old hunter is happy to be alive and spend time outdoors alone with his thoughts.

I have no sense of entitlement about hunting or fishing.  The way I figure it if I spend X number of days in the woods, or X number of days on the water or walk X number of miles with my dog I’ll get my fair share.

Which is why I would like to offer some friendly advice to the next Governor.

Stick to really important matters like reigning-in taxes and creating a healthy business environment so this fine state gains permanent, family supporting jobs.  And families can afford to take time-off and hunt.

We need another deer counter like a hole in the head.

Hire some additional wardens instead.  We’re at the bottom of the heap nationwide in enforcement personnel.

Finally, dump your Crawford County deer camp and come over to mine. The addition of a Governor should liven-up the evening bull sessions.  You’ll see deer too.

I’m serious.

Your neighbor - Gas.

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