MADISON — Wisconsin hunters could bag a buck without worrying about taking a doe first under a Republican bill that would dramatically scale back the state's contentious earn-a-buck requirements.
The measure would eliminate requirements that hunters must kill an antlerless deer before they can take their first buck. It also would push the state back toward a more simplified deer season structure by generally prohibiting early season gun hunts before the traditional nine-day November hunt.
The Assembly Natural Resources Committee is scheduled to take up the bill at a public hearing on Wednesday.
If the proposal becomes law, it would be a victory for the state's hunters who have complained for years about earn-a-buck and early season hunts.
The state Department of Natural Resources has insisted earn-a-buck and the extra hunts are key to keeping the state's deer herd under control. But hunters say earn-a-buck forces them to pass up trophy bucks and the layers of hunts are too complicated and put too much stress on deer.
Gov. Scott Walker said on the campaign trail last year the state should end earn-a-buck and herd-control hunts.
Sen. Terry Moulton, R-Chippewa Falls, one of the bill's sponsors, said the key to herd control is hunter participation but earn-a-buck and the extra hunts are draining enthusiasm. "In order to get your biological results, you've got to address the social aspect of hunting. If you don't get hunters to buy into the system, you're not going to get the deer. This is something I think the hunters have been asking for."
Under the bill, anyone could kill a first buck without having to kill an antlerless deer. However, the DNR could require a hunter to kill an antlerless deer before taking a second buck.
The agency generally would not be allowed to establish gun seasons ahead of the November hunt. The bill carves out a number of exceptions, however, including for youth, mentored and disabled hunts and in chronic wasting disease zones.