Big rule changes are on the way for hunters in Wisconsin, including the widespread elimination of the in-person deer check-in stations that have long characterized the sport of whitetail hunting in the state.
The closure of the check-in stations - which is supposed to take effect by "next year," though it isn't clear whether that means for the coming 2014 hunting season or for 2015 as a whole - is part of a new plan to cut Department of Natural Resources spending. According to the Wisconsin State Journal, it will also improve the deer hunting experience and streamline the entire system into a more cohesive and efficient beast.
Read About Other Deer Regulation Changes
The decision is based on a plan submitted by James Kroll, a researcher from Texas who Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker hired in 2011 to review the policies and operating procedures of the state's DNR. In addition to ditching check-in stations, Kroll recommended a sizable reduction in different deer management units throughout the state - from 134 to 72 - as well as the creation of county committees that will advise the DNR on setting deer population control goals on a local level.
Kroll's hope is that, with these new regulations and guidelines, the DNR will be able to more efficiently keep track of deer population trends throughout the state, in turn giving itself more usable information to set deer management goals and keep herds in control.
Still, while all of Kroll's recommended changes - which were unanimously approved by the DNR last week - will be felt throughout the deer hunting community, it is inevitable that the closing of in-person deer check-in stations will be the most controversial shift among hunters. Wisconsin's unique check-in system has long lent a rustic, timeless allure to the state's deer hunting tradition.
For years, taverns, bars, restaurants, and convenience stores have doubled as deer reporting stations. Hunters would bring their kills to one of these stations, have their data recorded by a registered employee, and then gather with other hunters to tell the tales of their successful hunts over snacks, dinners, or drinks.
For many hunters, the in-person check-in system always provided a fun, communal celebration for a successful day in the field. In turn, the DNR got what it wanted from the transaction, collecting information about kill numbers and deer genders, ages and potential diseases.
Opponents to Kroll's recommendation to close in-person deer check-in stations fear that hunters will neglect to report their data correctly - if at all - even if they are permitted to do it online. They also say that the change kills a tradition that has long been cherished by Wisconsin deer hunters. Tavern and bar owners have expressed distaste for the shift as well, not surprising given how much revenue some rustic backcountry establishments undoubtedly make from groups of hunters coming to have their kills recorded.
Still, while many hunters will undoubtedly miss the communal check-in process, others will be glad to have a more convenient mode of registering their kills. In some cases, hunters had to drive dozens of miles to the nearest check-in station, simply to do something that could be done in five minutes online. Such hunters will be saving a lot of time and money thanks to Kroll's recommendation.