People have mixed feelings about elimination of in-person deer registration
Robert Chamberlin will miss seeing the big bucks being registered by deer hunters at his business, Donna's Gas and Grocery in Orfordville.
He thinks others will, too.
“I think a lot of people, especially in small communities like this and other towns like this, like to be able to see the deer,” Chamberlin said. “Just the basics of hunting, people like to sit and talk about it.”
The state Natural Resources Board on Wednesday voted to eliminate the requirement that hunters register deer in-person at registration stations, which often have been taverns, convenience stores or other businesses.
Instead, hunters will register their deer online or by phone.
Shawn McCarten, owner of Janesville's It's a Keeper Bait and Tackle, doesn't like the change.
“They shouldn't mess with the deer hunters of Wisconsin,” McCarten said. “It's one of the biggest traditions in the state, and it's a shame a lot of the old traditional things have gone away.”
His business was a registration station this year.
Delavan's Lakeside Bait and Tackle won't see much of a difference after the changes go into effect, said John Mikurt, part business owner.
The convenience store this year was Walworth County's only deer registration station.
“The majority of people that do come in and register deer just come in and register deer … Sometimes they but a bottle of pop, that's pretty much it,” Mikurt said.
McCarten thinks his business will take a hit.
“We'll feel it,” McCarten said. “A lot of people will come in and buy hand warmers, and I sell accessories … It's not going to be a huge impact, but it will be an impact.”
DNR officials hope remote registration will be more convenient for hunters who are miles from the nearest registration station, and the change could save the DNR as much as $182,000 a year.
Opponents warn that remote registration could lead to underreporting, less data for the DNR and loss of business at local establishments.
Chamberlin has mixed feelings.
“The convenience may be better for some doing it online, but I think it's good to be able to see the deer that are coming in from the hunter.”
He said seeing the deer provides some confirmation hunters are following regulations, such as the former earn-a-buck program that allowed hunters to shoot a buck only after shooting an antlerless deer.
Wisconsin is one of three Midwestern and Eastern states that have paper registration. State turkey and geese hunters register their kills by phone.
Wisconsin wildlife officials plan to pilot the remote registration in at least one county during the 2014 season. Then work out the kinks and implement it statewide for the 2015 season, said Mike Foy, DNR wildlife biologist for Rock County.
Foy said officials don't yet have much more information.
It is unclear how the change may affect collection of tissue samples from deer to check for chronic wasting disease.
“We are going to let the vast majority of people know that nothing is going to change this year for them, unless they're in a pilot area,” Foy said.
He hopes the DNR will have more information to share at the spring fish and wildlife hearings.