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James B. Nelson
By James B. Nelson November 7, 2013

Appointment came earlier, new system is poised for introduction

As a candidate in 2010, Gov. Scott Walker complained that the Department of Natural Resources "mismanaged" the state's deer herd and vowed changes after he heard complaints from some hunters about declining deer kills and overly aggressive deer management policies.

Two years ago, Gov. Scott Walker appointed James Kroll, a Texas deer management professor, as a "deer czar." Now, Kroll's recommendations are poised to take effect.

Kroll worked with two other outsiders to create a $125,000 report, which was completed in June 2012. Soon after his report was issued, Kroll told a Green Bay television station that a goal of the report was to make hunters more involved in deer management. The changes would put less emphasis on science, doing away, for instance, with the establishment of deer population goals in favor of population "objectives," according to a report by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel outdoors writer Paul A. Smith.

"What is going to have to happen here is hunters are going to have to make the transition from hunter consumers to hunter managers," Kroll said. "We are making them part of the management process."

That's a big change from the present system, where the DNR uses population estimates to balance the desire of hunters to bag a deer with the concerns of others, including farmers who suffer crop damage from the herds and safety advocates worried about the number of car-deer accidents.

Kroll's report was discussed at a series of 35 public hearings around the state that will end Nov. 8, 2013. Final recommendations will be made by the DNR staff to the Natural Resources Board, perhaps as early as December 2013.

Although the board hasn't taken final action, Walker promised to hire an outside expert to revise the deer count system. That's taken place, and there are big changes coming.

We rate this a Promise Kept.

James B. Nelson
By James B. Nelson October 4, 2011

Deer czar appointed, now on to the promised review

Gov. Scott Walker on Oct. 3, 2011 named James C. Kroll, a deer management professor from Texas, as the state's new whitetail management trustee.

That is, the "deer czar.”

A news release from the state Department of Administration said that Kroll will "provide the state with an independent, objective, and scientifically based review of Wisconsin"s deer management practices.”

Kroll's recommendations could have a considerable impact on deer hunting -- an important part of Wisconsin culture and tradition -- in future years.

For years, the state Department of Natural Resources, with input from the Conservation Congress, has worked to balance the desire of hunters to bag a deer with the concerns of others, including farmers worried about crop damage and safety advocates worried about the number of car-deer accidents.

Kroll is a professor at Stephan F. Austin State University where he is also the director of the Institute for White-tailed Deer Management and Research.  He uses the nickname "Dr. Deer” to promote his blog, television appearances on hunting shows and magazine articles. The news release announcing his appointment called him the "world's foremost expert in modern deer herd management.”

Asked about that assertion, DOA spokeswoman Carla Vigue offered this: "I should have included a qualifier ‘one of the."" As in he is ‘one of the world's most foremost experts in modern deer herd management.' ”

She added:  "He has published nearly 300 technical and popular articles on this topic and has appeared in many books, magazines, journals and television programs as a respected expert.”

The state provided this resume for Kroll.

Among the most notable items are his work with the Campbell Group, an organization which provides "hunting club management assistence.”

The resume says Kroll holds a PhD in from Texas A&M University but doesn't list his area of study.

Kroll's web site says he has spent "35 years debunking popular misconceptions about America's
favorite big game animal -- the white-tailed deer.” It adds that Kroll "has helped landowners from the Gulf of Mexico to the Canadian border manage deer. His cutting edge research includes the use of infra-red triggered cameras as early as the late 1970s.”

State spokeswoman Vigue said Kroll had some experience in Wisconsin, advising private landowners. However, Kroll"s 37 page resume provides no indication of any work in Wisconsin.

During the campaign last year, Walker promised to "appoint a Whitetail Deer Trustee, an outside independent expert to revise our deer counting system."

Walker's positions on deer management have been guided, in part, by Greg Kazmierski, a member of the Hunters Rights Coalition, a lobbying group and longtime critic of the DNR.  Kazmierski owns Buck Rub Outfitters Ltd. in the Town of Delafield, a store that caters to bow hunters. Earlier this year, Walker appointed Kazmierski to the Natural Resources Board.

Kazmierski urged Walker to hire a deer czar. As a member of the DNR board, he will play a key part in putting Kroll's recommendations into place.

Deer trustee Kroll was hired by the Department of Administration -- rather than the DNR whose work he will review -- but he will be paid by the DNR. His contract is for $125,000. His report is due June 2012.

So where does that leave the promise?

During the campaign, Walker promised to appoint a deer trustee to "revise” the state's deer counting system -- moves that could dramatically affect the deer hunt in upcoming years. With the hiring of Kroll, Walker has completed the hiring part of that promise.

We'll see what revisions come from Kroll's work.

Until then, the promise remains In the Works.

Our Sources

James B. Nelson
By James B. Nelson September 12, 2011

The position is coming ... just not in time to weigh in on the rules for this fall's hunt

We're days away from this year's first wave of deer hunters hitting the woods.

The bow season begins Sept. 17, 2011, and that makes it a good time to look at Gov. Scott Walker's promises regarding some of the most controversial matters facing the Department of Natural Resources.

During the 2010 campaign, we rated Mostly False a claim by Walker that the DNR has mismanaged the state's deer herd and "as a result the deer population has dwindled.”

Walker said the DNR had engaged in "political games" and "put bureaucrats in Madison ahead of hunters of the state."  We found that Walker's statement left out critical information: The size of the deer herd, itself an estimate, is down by design, not by mistake. The goals are based on a system built on input from across the state and attempt to balance the concerns of hunters against those of farmers and drivers.

In his criticism of the DNR, Walker promised that he will "appoint a Whitetail Deer Trustee, an outside independent expert to revise our deer counting system."

DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp discussed the "deer czar” during an Aug. 30, 2011interview  on Wisconsin Eye. Walters asked if the person would be appointed soon.

"It is getting closer, yes,” Stepp said.

"We"re working to get an outside professional to come in,” she added.

"We"re going to have somebody completely independent of our agency to come in and we're going to lay it all out and say, ‘Here it is. This is what we've been doing for so many years. Tell us where it's good, tell us where we need support or shoring up, or maybe do we need to take a different tact.' ”

Stepp said the department has been working to involve hunters at a greater level in its discussions about upcoming seasons. "The hunting community has felt cut off from decisions and the direction of the agency,” she said.

Host Steve Walters asked if the trustee's recommendations be in place in time for the fall.

Stepp responded: "That's what we're hopeful for, yeah.”

This, however, isn't the way the hunting season works. The Natural Resources Board set this year's antlerless quota and deer hunting regulations in April 2011. So any recommendation from a new appointee will not have any effect on the this year's hunt.

The DNR recommended sharply increased antlerless deer quotas, even before the deer czar's arrival. In 2010, the quota was 245,600. This year it's 344,180.

That, of course, doesn't mean hunters will kill that many deer. In 2010, hunters took 185,211.

"We won't kill 344,000 antlerless deer this year,” the department's acting deer biologist Jeffrey J. Pritzl said in an email. "IF the percentage stays the same as last year, we MAY kill 75% of that quota and kill somewhere in the neighborhood of 250,000 to 260,000 antlerless deer this year.”

We asked the DNR for a job description for the deer trustee, including who he or she would work for and how much the job would pay. Agency spokesperson Bill Cosh sent us to the governor's office. Walker's communications director Chris Schrimpf told us: "It's not quite ready yet, but it will be very soon, so unfortunately I don't have many details right now.”

Clearly, this promise is In The Works.

Our Sources

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