Hunters, you can leave your tags at home
Rule change does away with carcass tags for deer, turkeys, and geese
By Ben Gruber
When Gov. Scott Walker put his signature on the 2017-2019 state budget, he eliminated the tagging requirements for deer, turkey, and goose harvests. That is right. You no longer will be required to affix or validate a tag upon killing deer or turkeys, but you will still be required to register them via phone or online just as before. When it comes to the geese, you will no longer be required to phone in your daily harvest but rather will be asked in the annual small game survey. I am not certain what will be the requirement in regards to validating the goose harvest tag.
These changes are effective immediately upon the signing of the budget, so all are in effect. Many of us already have deer and turkey tags, and it sounds like they will still be valid for use this year. Do not be surprised to find confusion around this at deer camp, and I would not be surprised if there is still confusion among the wardens.
Quite frankly, I am not opposed to these changes. I am not concerned that it will increase poaching. My concern is in the process.
There is a very real — and very effective — process in our state for addressing changes in regards to game laws and conservation. And when Rep. Joel Kleefisch of Oconomowoc slipped his little pet project into the budget, he circumvented the public process. The Wisconsin Conservation Congress, conservation groups, hunters, nonhunters, and all citizens were cheated of the opportunity to have input.
I would say that the DNR was also cheated of the opportunity to weigh in, but the current administration has castrated and forced the DNR into silence, and it has not been allowed to have an opinion for years now. There certainly was no emergency that warranted such a shady deal, and the state budget is no place to be creating or changing legislation.
I have never thought our DNR was perfect, and admittedly there have been things with which I have disagreed, but I do have confidence that as a whole it does have the best interests of the resources at heart. I do not feel the same about our politicians, regardless of their party. This is just another example of sketchy backroom politics with a personal agenda, a state representative exploiting a loophole in government process because he was frustrated by having to put his deer tag in a Ziploc bag.
To try and summarize, you will not need to tag your deer or turkeys this fall, but you probably still will have the tag. If you have not already purchased it, it might be pretty confusing when you try to since this change was made after the season already started with no input from the people who sell the tags or from the folks who enforce the regulations.
If you have questions, there is some information online at the DNR’s website. You may or may not find help inside the printed regulations regarding this since the change was implemented well after the regulations were printed.
If you have a tag, you will not be getting into any trouble for using it and validating it just like you would have before. You will still need to phone in or go online and complete a registration on your animals. It is important to be legal, and it also would be important in the future should we someday consider using science in our natural resources management in Wisconsin.
Finally, let us try not to fault the DNR for this one.
Ben Gruber can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.