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.
Some time ago I vented a bit over the failure of the State Legislature to override Governor Doyle’s veto of a measure to return the appointment power of the DNR Secretary to the Natural Resources Board.
Awhile later, one of my readers - a fellow that goes by the handle StubbornOldMan - suggested that I was possibly dismissive of the hunting or fishing prowess of a candidate for governor. That exchange occurred when I vented some more.
Understand my circumstances. I was peeved.
Nevertheless, I got to thinking that maybe StubbornOldMan had a point.
And maybe I was wrong.
So in the interest of seeking the truth and settling the score I sent an email to each of the respective candidates for governor. I introduced myself. I told them I published a blog on the WauwatosaNOW homepage and that my 58 readers would probably be interested in learning if the candidates hunted and fished.
No, I wasn’t interested in discussing anything to do with trains.
Jobs or the budget?
I had absolutely no interest in talking about the damn bridge.
I had important stuff to discuss like hunting and fishing.
I also had to settle a bet.
Wouldn’t you know it? I had an opportunity to speak with all three candidates.
Here is what I learned.
Mark Neumann has been a hunter since he was a kid. At age thirteen he shot the biggest buck of his life - a ten-pointer - using his granddad’s model 1895 Savage. His family’s traditional hunting camp is located in Florence County. He took-up bow hunting twelve years ago and enjoys it more than gun hunting. He has hunted elk on public land in Colorado, geese, duck and pheasant and has always had Labrador retrievers in the household. The current pooch is a chocolate lab named Yowser.
He fishes when time allows and once caught a musky on a cheap rod with a Zebco reel.
I asked the candidate how he felt about the Governor’s power to appoint the DNR Secretary. Neumann explained that he had no particularly strong feelings except that as a general rule the power to appoint cabinet level positions should be reserved for the Governor. He further explained that any appointee of his would be sympathetic to the views of hunters and anglers.
I asked him to share with me where he thought the DNR needed the most improvement.
Deer management - was his response. We saw no deer last year.
I’m thinking – I’ve certainly heard that plenty of times in the last four months.
When asked to share what he thought the DNR does best, Neumann paused.
Nobody’s ever asked that question so I guess I haven’t thought much about it.
Reflecting further on the subject he continued by explaining that like any large organization the DNR has both great people and not-so-great people.
Asked if he had anything further to add – the candidate shared with me a story about his time in Congress when Newt Gingrich wanted to hold everyone over in extended session. Neumann apparently took more than a little heat and criticism for skipping town so that he could be back in Wisconsin to take his son deer hunting.
That's a cool story that speaks volumes.
Scott Walker took to hunting as an adult. His buddies introduced him to firearm deer hunting in Crawford County and bow hunting in Grant County. And yes - he has done some pheasant hunting.
He hasn’t fished recently but did as a kid. He’s an Eagle Scout and spent plenty of time canoeing, boating, hiking and camping.
With regard to other outdoor pursuits a pop-up camper was a compromise between his spouse’s tastes for a motel versus his desire to tent camp. The family has made the circuit of many of Wisconsin’s State Parks.
When asked about his position on the Governor’s power to appoint the DNR Secretary Walker was emphatic about the appointment power remaining with the governor and not the Natural Resources Board (NRB). Direct accountability - was cited as the reason. He further explained that he was predisposed to splitting the DNR into two agencies possibly leaving wildlife management under the auspices of the NRB.
I asked Walker to share with me where he thought the DNR needed the most improvement. Consistency was his response. Whether dealing with an administration bureaucrat or a warden he wanted to see predictable implementation of the administrative code.
I inquired about what he thought the DNR did a good job of doing and he quickly suggested that it was education. Whether it was educating the public, conducting a hunter safety program or promoting Wisconsin’s hunting and fishing resources – the agency did a good job of getting the message out.
Asked if he had anything further to add he said - I’d like to see more deer instead of wild pigs.
I used the opportunity needle him about getting a couple of deer each of the last three years but admitted I had to travel all the way to Texas to hunt hogs.
Tom Barrett does not hunt. He is supportive of hunters however.
He is a life-long fisherman. Walleye mostly. He's traveled to Ontario seeking the wily walleye. I've always figured walleye anglers to be a cult-like sort. Hour upon hour of effort to catch one fish. But he does enjoy pan fishing. His most favorite hangout is Vilas County. Over a lifetime of fishing he’s had the opportunity to leave three pairs of eyeglasses on the bottom of Little St. Germain Lake.
Milwaukee’s Mayor also cross country skis so he's probably not a complete klutz. He enjoys snowmobiling and he and his family frequent the state's parks.
I asked Barrett about the appointment of the DNR Secretary and he told me he supported returning the appointment power to the NRB. He was rather firmly of the belief that citizen input and involvement was important.
When asked where the DNR needed improvement Barrett brought up the subject of deer management. As Governor he would like to see the DNR not only do a good job of controlling the deer population but do a better job of addressing hunter concerns.
Asked what he thought the DNR did a good job of doing his response was - you could either thank or blame the DNR for all of the wonderful outdoor recreational opportunities to be found in Wisconsin. From the Mississippi River to Lake Superior to the shores of Lake Michigan and all of Wisconsin’s inland waters – the people of Wisconsin care for the environment and the DNR does a pretty good job of protecting the resources entrusted to it. As he put it - We owe that to our kids and grand kids.
I asked Barrett if he had anything further to add and he shared a pretty funny fishing story but I have been sworn to not write about it so it will remain a secret.
Some takeaways from this little exercise:
I still like the idea of returning the appointment of the DNR Secretary to the NRB.
That’s where it was from 1928 to 1995 before it became a political appointment. That’s a long time and it worked reasonably well. However you need a better reason than simply that’s the way it has always been.
In my view election cycles are too short a period of time for long term resource management decisions to be made properly. And since 1995 the revolving door position of Secretary has been filled by a succession of individuals lacking any significant amount of wildlife resource experience.
Hunters and anglers deserve better which is why virtually all of the hunting and fishing organizations support a change.
As for deer management I don’t think it is the DNR’s job to make sure that I see deer. That’s my job. I work harder at it than the average hunter so I usually see more deer. But I would agree with the candidates that there is room for improvement. Even if it just means improving communication.
Finally, presume nothing.
On occasion the reader is right and the blogger is wrong. As it turns-out all three of the candidates take time to recreate outdoors and a considerable portion of that time includes hunting and/or fishing.
So I suppose my pal StubbornOldMan is entitled to some gloating over me being corrected on this matter. However, since no actual wager was made he’ll not gain financially. And I’m OK with that. I’m usually wrong about one or possibly two things over the course of a year so there’s a chance it might happen again.
Besides, I had an opportunity to talk with each of the candidates just like regular fellas. Sure, Neumann and Walker and I might disagree on the appointment process for DNR Secretary. And Barrett doesn't hunt. But neither does most of Wisconsin's population.
So big deal.
I'd be happy to sit in a boat with any of them or kick-up some birds with the dog.
I might think of something else to discuss with them before the election so I’m hopeful they’re receptive to chatting over the phone at a future date.
I’m thinking that maybe I should talk to Jim Sullivan and Leah Vukmir about some issues I have rolling around in my head too.