Irate deer hunters flocked to the Capitol on Wednesday. In a hearing room that was packed with blaze orange and camo clad hunters, DNR Secretary Matt Franks says his agency is listening. "We have heard, loud and clear, the disappointment and frustration of many deer hunters, with the 2008 hunt," Frank said. "Hunters saw and harvested fewer deer. I have personally talked to hunters and conservation groups who expressed concerns about the accuracy of the DNR's herd estimates, our management policies, and whether or not the DNR is listening to them. We are listening."

Hunters are irate about a 2008 hunt which saw harvest numbers plummet 22 percent in spite of DNR assurances of a near record herd. Frank said that while many deer management units were above management goals going into last fall's hunt, it's equally obvious that many others were well below goals even before hunters went into the woods. Frank was subjected to a grilling by skeptical lawmakers like Abbotsford Republican Representative Scott Suder, questioning the agency's deer management science. "If, as you state, the science is good, why did you go ahead them and cancel Earn-a-Buck? Because it seems to me, if the science is bad, why haven't you gone ahead and corrected the science?" Frank told Suder that the recently announced one year moratorium on the unpopular program will address "a lot of concern about keeping Earn-a-Buck in place during a time when there's concern about making sure that we have an accurate count."

Sheybogan Republican Senator Joe Leibham said DNR needs to work on its listening skills. "It seems that there's flaws in that public participation process as well," Leibham said. "Why else are there hundreds of people here today, because they feel that the DNR has been non-responsive, and unwilling to listen?" Leibham noted that some hunters want the legislature to take over the authority for managing the state's deer herd. "It's not the best thing for the management of the deer herd to have 132 legislators micromanage this very important issue," he said. 

AUDIO: Frank testimony, Q&A (45:00 MP3)

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