The Unknown Future of Wisconsin's Deer Herd

Last fall Wisconsin hired James Kroll, a.k.a. Dr. Deer, as the new "Deer Trustee" for the state. Kroll's responsibilities will be for putting together recommendations for future management of Wisconsin's deer herd.

Kroll's preliminary report featured more on his team and past deer issues rather than what the future management plan would look like.

There are many things that Kroll and his team could suggest. Some think there will be a change to the state's sex-age-kill formula that is currently in place for estimating deer populations while others think antler restrictions might come into play.

Some of the deer data the DNR uses, like wintering ranges, is more than a decade old. Kroll will most likely recommend updating this data. Other possibilities could include antlerless tags specific for private and public lands and decreasing deer predation by coyotes, wolves and black bears.

One of the more interesting conversations that's sure to spark some debate will be around whether or not mandatory deer check stations should be replaced in favor of using an online and phone registration process. Using an online or phone system should save the DNR money in the long run, but will the data still be as accurate? If the DNR does go to an online system, it would still be beneficial to have a two- or three-week mandatory check in during the peak of the rut when many deer are killed so biologists can ensure the herd is healthy.

Another hot topic will be Kroll's recommendation on how the DNR, hunters and landowners could work together to better manage the deer herd. Some groups think the deer population needs to increase while others, like farmers and homeowners, have crop damage and extensive shrub damage from deer.

There's no question that Wisconsin has some big bucks - it sits on top of the record books when it comes to the number of record whitetails taken over the last ten years. The real question now is whether or not Wisconsin will continue to be a top producer following the new management plan set out by Kroll and his team. Hunters will have to wait and see, the next report is due July 1st.