Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Buck standing among roses in garden © Michel@NWLENS, Flickr, Creative Commons

Reader Sally Schroeder believes deer have found a refuge in cities where they devour garden flowers, bird seed and trees.
© Michel@NWLENS, Flickr, Creative Commons

October 2012

We asked – readers answered!

Fostering a healthy conversation between hunters and non-hunters.

Last October, we ran a story about the dilemma conservation agencies face from declining hunter numbers. Hunting license revenues have traditionally funded a large proportion of wildlife conservation programs and we asked readers to write in with suggestions for how such programs could be funded in the future.

"Well, readers definitely responded and they accurately identified many of the challenges that hunting participation faces," said Keith Warnke, DNR's Hunting and Shooting Sport Coordinator. "From declining habitat quality – which won't support as many deer as in the past – to a growing number of other recreational activities, to a deer population which is lower than it was several years ago, all these issues challenge current and future hunters.

"In our efforts to promote the hunting heritage, it's important to recognize that there are challenges, but there are also opportunities. Working hard to kill a deer is something hunters are clearly committed to. But as factors in our lives change – including land ownership and access, amount of free time, costs, expenses, and job commitments – the balance of value in hunting is shifted in some hunters' lives and they may drop out. Our role is to popularize the tremendous contributions to conservation that hunting has made and will continue to make and to develop opportunities for those interested in hunting to get started."

Warnke adds, "It will take continued active participation from Wisconsin citizens to maintain our conservation heritage and readers' comments were filled with ideas and suggestions all of which will make a large contribution to the efforts to ensure the next generation of hunter-conservationists."

So here they are. Our aim was a healthy conversation between hunters and non-hunters. We think it's a start. (Note: some letters have been edited for space.)


Regarding the sad deer hunters, I wish those hunters could sit in our backyard here in Rock Island, Ill. Yes, in the midst of the city. We have had as many as eight or 10 deer back there as we live near a ravine. They have a regular path through our yard, which we refer to as "the garden of eatin'" – they devour roses, hostas, impatiens, lilies, tulips, petunias and have trimmed our apple tree up as far as they can reach. We cannot even put out birdseed any longer, as they will eat that too. One morning recently, I opened my bedroom blinds, and there was a stag three feet from the window, calmly eating our rose bush in our front yard. Last summer a doe and twin fawns trotted down the middle of our street. They are not afraid of people at all. Our city is looking into coming up with a solution, but so far nothing has happened. I think the deer have found a refuge in the cities.

Sally Schroeder
Rock Island, Ill.


I don't have to wonder how outraged hunters would be if they walked into the Department of Natural Resources to buy hunting licenses and found only "saving" licenses. That is how deprived I am to find only killing licenses. According to the October article inviting non-hunter input on funding, "The primary principles that evolved were wildlife ‘belongs' to the public, and the scientific management of game species is funded by users, specifically hunters and anglers." Read that as wildlife belongs to all citizens, but 10 percent of the public has structured the Department of Natural Resources for their exclusive control by licensing only their exploitation to fund it.

It is a bad partnership when non-hunters pay for 90 percent of the $1.66 billion purchase of our state and county parks and Stewardship lands, only to have it prioritized to the 10 percent killing the wildlife we want to see. It is a bad partnership to have zero say in governing our own wildlife and public lands because we do not kill wildlife. Funding game animal killing as a central paradigm is grossly unfair to the 90 percent and to the balance of nature.

The Department of Natural Resources has a responsibility to open up the powerful secretive annual statewide election that is supposed to elect representation for all citizens. For 80 years, the Conservation Congress has deliberately privatized this election to 5,000 avid hunters and trappers, excluding the general nonhunting public. All 360 delegates have always been from the rod and gun clubs. This election is the center of citizen power and only hunters understand it.

Follow the money. Just as only saving licenses would be unfair, only killing licenses are a disaster. General public funding tied to democratic representation for all citizens is the remedy.

The problem has been that hunters and trappers have not wanted to give up their exclusive power to democratize the funding and power-share fairly. We wildlife appreciators are willing to legislate our $175 million to the Department of Natural Resources or a parallel agency, only if it is tied to first-time democratic representation.

Patricia Randolph


The article was salutary. With but one exception; namely, trophy hunting should be discouraged. What farmer or rancher would send his best breeding stock straight to the slaughterhouse? Natural predators, such as wolves, bears and cougars also cull the weak and infirm, thereby helping to preserve healthy herbivores. Next time you see a particularly magnificent specimen within shooting range, please do not shoot it! Save your ammo for a less well specimen, such as a puny one with an asymmetric rack. Take its carcass home and make it into food. That way, you will help preserve a healthier population.

Andres Peekna


I have hunted since 1958, deer hunted since 1973 (in Wisconsin since 1984), and I have been a hunter education instructor since 1973 (1973-1993 in Iowa, 1994-present in Kansas). As an outdoor educator I have always emphasized the "eco-redneck" philosophy. While I am a hunter, I am also a part of all that is the out-of-doors. I have always emphasized the "respect of" and "responsibility to" that one needs to develop to be a part of the outdoors – the land, the landowner, the animal hunted, the critters who also share the woods. I am supported by a cadre of instructors – volunteers all – who also believe that the hunt is part of the whole, not the end-goal, and who donate thousands of hours to see to it that their view is expressed to new, prospective hunters.

Those who feel the way I do can volunteer to educate the next generations. I know Wisconsin has a hunter education program. That is the way you can have the greatest impact, and it is YOUR responsibility to pass on your beliefs and values – as a parent, a hunter and a lover of all that is the outdoors.

As to the outdoor media, they are selling a product much like all media and extremism apparently sells. It is an act, and should be viewed as such. I value the interaction with a chickadee sitting on my rifle barrel as much as the thrill in taking an 8-point whitetail with my handgun, all are part of the experience of the outdoors that I cherish.

Dick Fultz
Manhattan, Kan.


Most hunters embrace Leopold's "land ethic," especially in the area of Quality Deer Management (QDM). QDM is not just about "big bucks," it is about promoting healthy deer herds by creating openings and increasing the overall biodiversity. While hunters enjoy time outdoors, being close to nature and spending time with family and friends, the motivation to being out there in the first place is to harvest game, whether it is a deer, turkey or grouse.

While "land ethic" is important let's talk about another important facet to the land and that is "water ethic." Take a look at lakes Monona and Mendota, the Crawfish, Rock and Bark rivers which are in pathetic shape. Aldo Leopold would be disgusted with the management of our waters. Talk about trophy hunting, local fishing clubs and the Department of Natural Resources have established a "trophy fish" mentality where the harvesting of edible fish is restricted on many waters to allow "trophy" populations. Fishermen want to eat fish just like hunters want to harvest game. It is time the DNR managers recognize this and make an effort to manage for the majority and not the minority. We need to improve the productivity of public lands and to establish a "water ethic." That would make Aldo Leopold proud!

Bruce Markert
Sun Prairie


I'm afraid your promotion of recreational hunting will have limited success due to a lack of financial incentive. I was born in 1940 and lived on a farm until I was six. On the farm I never saw a wild animal – not a deer nor rabbit nor grouse nor goose. My dad didn't hunt but I suspect the neighbors needed to keep food on the table. Growing up, I can remember hunters talking about the price of a deer license versus the value of the meat. In later years, hunting was valued for the companionship and tradition. Even in today's difficult economy, people spend a much smaller percentage of their wages on food than when I was a child, giving them more income to spend on recreation. Two of my grandchildren live in a rural area. Outdoor recreation among teenagers seems to revolve around ATVs and snowmobiles. Perhaps it is time to think seriously about alternate funding for conservation.

Helen Hoar


I am a retired forester who served for 34 years with a national multiple use management federal agency and tried to seek election to the Conservation Congress and provide non-hunting input to that organization. Of course, I failed as have others of the public who are not hunters, trappers or fisher people. Hunting and fishing should continue but something needs to be done to permit other voices to be heard and included in determining wildlife management by the Department of Natural Resources and the Legislature. Please allow democracy in your magazine and allow other voices to be heard.

Gaylord Yost


I have been a hunter of both deer and waterfowl since 1968 when I returned to my home state of Wisconsin. For the first eight years of my hunting I was privileged to hunt on the Shawano/Waupaca County line; PRIME deer country! I would see deer all the time in herds of 25 and more. I don't recall hearing of "deer management" in those years. With all of the deer management I have experienced in my years, the herds are declining in number. I am not a "trophy" hunter, although I have shot two nice 10-point bucks which I had mounted. I love venison and we use it. My concern is the few deer I see now. I went bow hunting on Nov. 11, all day and never saw a deer. Snow on the ground, full moon, no deer. For all the "deer management" there seem to be fewer deer. In my estimation, that is why there are fewer hunters. "Deer management" to me is making sure there are deer to hunt. One of the best things you did was including onthe deer registration form the question "how many deer did you see?" If you keep asking that question, noting the county where the hunter is, you will get a pretty accurate count of the deer out there. I sit in my stand from an hour before dawn to sundown and stay fairly alert all day, as do most "serious" hunters. I appreciate it when you ask for the opinion of hunters; keep it up.

P.S. I did my part in perpetuating the number of hunters; I have two sons who hunt with me, and now two grandsons, ages 11 and 7. They will be with us opening day!

Pastor Bob Rosenberg


I wrote you earlier in the month in response to your concern regarding fewer numbers of hunters. Thought I should give you a report on our 2011 hunt. I was in my stand at 5:45 a.m. opening day with my 11-year-old grandson. My eldest son was in his stand with his 7-year-old son at the same time, and a friend was in another stand with his 12-year-old son. One deer was seen by my son's friend early in the day. That was it for three hunters on opening day.

We were back in our stands Sunday by 6 a.m. (Although I am a preacher I have taken opening day as a vacation Sunday because I have enjoyed hunting.) We sat until 10:45 a.m. and no one saw any deer. My son and I hunted Thanksgiving morning from 6 a.m. until 11 a.m. and saw no deer. I sat all day Friday, Nov. 25; saw no deer. I sat Saturday afternoon and Sunday afternoon until sundown; saw no deer. During all my "sitting" I heard very few shots which said to me, no one was seeing deer.

This was the worst deer hunting in my entire life. I'm glad the kill was up; it means other hunters had a good experience. Almost all of the guys I know who hunt in many different counties had a similar experience. My point is when I don't even SEE deer it isn't any fun. If this continues, there will be one fewer hunter in the woods.

Pastor Bob Rosenberg


I'd like to comment on one of the questions asked in "Wisconsin's hunting heritage." The question is "Most of the stories we read are about quality deer management that push towards trophy hunting. They don't do service to the concept of hunters as conservationists, do they?"

Young buck standing in vegetation © Herbert Lange
Reader Don Katterhagen advocates passing up killing young bucks to give them a chance to develop in later years.
© Herbert Lange

Please don't confuse QDM with trophy hunting. They are two very different things. Trophy hunters spend a lot of time and money (sometimes lots of money) to try to kill the largest antlered whitetail that they can. Sometimes even behind high fences. Nothing to do with conservation. QDM hunters spend a lot of time and money (sometimes lots of money) to try to grow the healthiest deer herd they can. They do this by working the soil in food plots, planting trees for both wind breaks and shelter, as well as fruit trees, and monitoring total deer numbers, noting how many bucks to does, keeping accurate numbers on age of deer killed, weight and sex. They advocate the passing up of killing young bucks, to conserve the "chance" that they will get older, larger, and yes, support a larger set of antlers. All hunters want a chance at that.

I invite readers to go to QDMA, especially if you are a skeptic of QDM as conservationist. Hit on "QDM defined."

P.S. I've killed one quality buck in 10 years of QDM on 80 acres, and 32 antlerless.

Don "Katty" Katterhagen
Rice Lake


Why in the world would you publish two letters (Greg Sebold and Michael Hron, February 2012, Readers Write) from disgruntled hunters [complaining] about things they obviously don't understand? Worse yet, you did not publish an answer from one of the many wildlife management professionals available in the Department. You did nothing but give credit to the whining, sniveling malcontents that now dominate public forums with their shrill vitriol.

Tom Bahti
Green Bay


I have been hunting and fishing for more than 40 years, and was a trapper for over 20.

My father and I hunted and fished to complement our larder. We enjoyed our time together afield (and separately) immensely, but we also enjoyed eating what we brought home. There was no "catch and release," no "I will only shoot this specific deer" or animal. We were, and are, meat hunters. We could not afford to fish or hunt purely for the joy of doing so. I firmly believe that we would not have done so even if we could have. We were simply natural predators doing what comes naturally.

My father grew up on a northern Wisconsin farm and he and his family knew the nature of living off the land. Their farm not only provided needed crops, it also was the natural setting from which they hunted many birds and animals for food, and trapped many others for their fur. I believe my father and his family's connection to the land and their deep appreciation for and understanding of the natural world is lacking in too many of today's "sportsmen."

Diminishing resources and hunting opportunities have led to a greed mentality among too many hunters. This should not be confused with legal limits which allow for the safe consumptive exploitation and continuation of resource populations, but the attitude that leads one to believe the resource is theirs. I believe this attitude and behavior must be addressed by the hunting community if non-hunters are to believe hunters are real conservationists.

Also, my father and his family, and I and mine, in all our combined years of hunting have never "harvested" an animal. We killed and ate them, pure and simple. Hunters should not play semantics in an effort to be politically correct and avoid insulting perceived sensitivities. We do hunting (and fishing and trapping) an injustice by trying to sugarcoat the outcome of the consumption of any natural resource. Broken down to its essence, you may harvest crops but if you intend to eat an animal you must kill it first. We, as hunters, are a part of the natural world. There simply is no denying it, and explaining that to future hunters will help them understand the hunter's role in nature. Hunters do not trespass upon the natural world, they become a part of it.

Gary Polar
New Franken


It takes quite a stretch of the imagination to regard yourselves as "land stewards" when "continuous open season" on coyotes allows "hunters" using GPS-collared dogs to run down lactating mothers, leaving orphan pups to starve to death in our harsh Wisconsin late winters. What sort of "tradition" is this to teach a child? Apparently you think we have so many coyotes – who fill the niche vacated by once-extirpated wolves – that this cruelty is warranted. Apparently, we also have "too many" ‘possum, skunk, weasel and snowshoe hare – also "unprotected" – which coyotes happen to eat. Anyone who reads Aldo Leopold knows his "land ethic" has nothing to do with trophy hunting, or hunting for entertainment. It's after shooting a wolf that he realizes our "traditions" concerning top predators is wrong – and he dedicates the rest of his career to proving, and teaching it. If you're hunting deer for meat – and why else would you teach a child to kill an animal? – it doesn't really matter whether it has antlers, or not. If "A land ethic also involves caring about the creatures that inhabit the land and the laws and administrative rules that govern their protection" (The Face of Wisconsin Hunters: Courting a Land Ethic, Wisconsin Natural Resources, Feb. 2012), at some point in our evolution we will have to make a distinction between trophy hunting and hunting animals for subsistence, and address those "laws and administrative rules that govern their protection."

Laura Menefee
Sturgeon Bay