No 2019 buck tag. That could be life for the Buffalo County, Wisconsin, deer hunter this season. If the Buffalo County Deer Advisory Council gets its way, that is. They voted 4-1 (in favor) of the proposal last week.
According to Paul A. Smith and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, a proposal would limit the 2019 harvest to antlerless deer only. Their reasoning? The council believes this will somehow reduce the overall population, which they claim is well over capacity within the county.
“Highly controversial in the hunting community at large, perhaps nowhere would such a proposal arouse more emotion than in Buffalo County, regarded by many as the No. 1 trophy-buck destination in North America,” Smith said.
Exactly right. Buffalo County has one of the richest deer hunting traditions in the country. In fact, Wisconsin as a state has more record-book bucks recorded than any other. Drill down on Buffalo County, and it’s pretty much king.
Earn-a-Buck, which was removed in 2011, was the most successful program Wisconsin has used to reduce the overall population in the past. That initiative was vastly unpopular, and this new option is even more radical in the eye of most hunters.
“In addition to raising the ire of hunters and outfitters, it is also likely to focus attention on the failure of current hunting regulations to control burgeoning deer herds, despite the best intentions of local residents,” Smith said.
He went on to say that despite 2018’s goal to decrease the herd population, it increased by 12 percent instead. The council feels that they have made many attempts to reduce the herd size within the last few years to no avail, and feel the antlerless-only option is their last resort.
Hunters aren’t the only ones against this radical measure, though. Outfitters who rely on hunters, farmers who lease land, and local businesses that benefit from tourism are (seemingly) largely against the proposal.
Two other counties have considered this measure, however briefly.
“Two other CDACs - in Waupaca County in 2016 and Door County in 2017 - gave preliminary recommendations for an antlerless-only season, but backed off after severe pressure and issued final recommendations for more normal regulations,” Smith said. As such, the Buffalo County CDAC is the first to issue a final recommendation for the measure. The DNR and NRB are scheduled to review it soon; the board typically sets deer regulations at its May meeting. State officials have been [slow] to change the local recommendations; fewer than 10 have been overruled since the process started in the last decade. If the antlerless-only season were implemented, no hunter, whether with bow or gun, could shoot a buck in Buffalo County this year.”
“Given the failure to reduce the deer herd with last year's regulations, the council felt it had no choice but to choose the antlerless-only season,” Smith continued.
According to Smith, Noll said they made the decision “even with the knowledge that CDAC members elsewhere had received death threats after voting, even on a preliminary basis, for an antlerless-only season.”
"What good is a tool where CDAC members must fear for their lives if they vote for it?" Noll said. "I'm very proud of the courage that our committee has. Each member has an intense desire to do what is best for the resource."
But many still disagree with them.
To read the full report from Smith and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, go here.
Whitetails make the hunting world go round. Josh Honeycutt, deer hunting editor and "Brow Tines and Backstrap" blogger, knows a fair bit about killing mature deer. He was raised up hunting the river bottoms of Kentucky. And he still hunts there—among other places—to this day.
Follow along as he shares his adventures, experiences and knowledge of the white-tailed deer.