I suppose I have a love/hate relationship with Wisconsin. Beyond the great people and beautiful countryside, the Badger State undoubtedly has one of the most incredibly genetic deer herds in the country. Every time you step into the woods, you stand a chance at killing a true whopper–in both body and rack size.
But I have to admit, as a nonresident, I absolutely hate the Earn-A-Buck requirement that has been in place in roughly a third of the counties. Hunting with an outfitter in Buffalo County my first time there several years back, I didn’t find many–okay, any–visiting hunters who were a fan of it. And while it was a moot point in my first two trips there since I never had a chance for a shot at a bruiser, it cost me a nice 8-point this past fall, the first–and only–deer I got a shot at in three days of bowhunting.
I know, I know. I can hear all of my friends in Wisconsin shaking their heads and saying, “Well, Doug, you’re not a resident so what you say doesn’t really matter anyway.” Fair enough. Far be it for me to be one of those outsiders who thinks the world should change for him. I’ve never asked that and until now, have remained publicly silent on the issue.
But I have to confess, with the program recently coming under fire from no less than the state’s own hunters, I feel a little freedom to speak up. I’m no longer the outsider seeking to change the ways of the locals; I’m an outsider lending my support for the revolution being conducted by the locals. Heck, there’s even a forum on the Web called Earnabucksucks.com. That pretty much says it all.
Overall harvest numbers were down 22 percent in Wisconsin this past year. Not to put too fine a point on the matter, according to most of the guys I spoke to “the season sucked.” The DNR is talking putting a one-year moratorium on the Earn-A Buck program. Nothing would make me happier.
I don’t want to really wade into the fray on what Wisconsinites should do in managing their deer herd. That is up to the state’s hunters. It’s not up to me. I can always simply choose not to hunt there if I am that opposed to the rules. But it does seem that if the DNR wants hunters to take more does, limit them to a single buck and allow them to simply shoot does whenever. Serious hunters won’t likely quit hunting after they shoot their single buck. They’ll keep hunting and likely shoot a few does. Want more does taken, then don’t limit them on does. It’s as simple as that.
Heck, even a guy on a week-long outfitted hunt, if he takes a buck and still has a few days to kill, will likely be happy to spend his time on a stand and do his part to help reach management objectives.
Regardless of what the DNR decides, I hope they’ll listen to input from state sportsman. I also hope Earn-A-Buck becomes a thing of the past.
I’d love to hear what others have to say on the topic, whether you’re a resident of Wisconsin or not. Should Earn-A-Buck become a thing of the past or do you think it is a good program?