Wisconsin loves to talk outdoors.
From deer hunting safety and regulations to whooping cranes to aquatic invasive species, and even blue-green algae and phragmites/purple loosestrife, the state’s outdoors population has a lot to say, a lot of questions to ask.
So it’s no surprise that the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources‘ “Ask the experts” online chat series has been hugely popular. The DNR typically hosts a few chats a month, depending on what’s going on outdoors in the state, and anyone who is on the DNR’s online and email list is alerted beforehand to the chats and allowed to participate.
These days, a focus is the state’s hugely popular firearms deer hunting season, which opens Saturday and runs through Nov. 29. And Monday’s chat on “Deer hunting safety, regulations and more” was among the more popular chats of the year.
Scheduled from noon to 1 p.m., the first question actually came a minute before noon and the last at 1:04. In between, dozens of deer hunters rattled off a barrage of more than 80 questions, covering an array of deer hunting topics.
The DNR was ready, with a representative from most every sector on hand, and answered questions promptly and, it seemed, thoroughly.
DNR reps on hand Monday were Trish Nitschke, moderator; Scott Loomans, rules and regulations specialist; John Motoviloff, wildlife biologist and regulations; Bob Nack, wildlife section chief; Adam Murkowski, big game wildlife biologist; Christine Priest, wildlife biologist; Tim Marien, wildlife biologist; Meredith Penthorn, big game communications; Matt O’Brien, administrative warden; Sawyer Briel, public affairs manager for the fish, wildlife and parks division; Linda Oliver, customer service administrative policy advisor; and Adrienne Casper, customer service training officer. All contributed to Monday’s question-and-answer chat.
Questions ran the gamut of all things deer hunting, from “Are there still antlerless permits available?” to “How can I donate money to the food pantry donation sites for their processing expenses?” to even a question that didn’t really pertain to deer hunting — “Are there still some feral hogs running around the state? Can a non-resident dispatch one with a small game license?”
But the most-asked question Monday involved electronic registration — along with bear registration, deer registration is fully electronic this season, meaning all hunters who harvest a deer in Wisconsin are required to register the animals online (gamereg.wi.gov) or via the phone (844-426-3734 and follow the prompts). The DNR said it successfully tested the concept last season.
In other states that have gone to electronic registration, because the process is new and very different and involves technology, which can be intimidating, there has been some anxiety among hunters. So Monday’s chat no doubt proved to be beneficial.
One guest asked, “How has the e-registration been going so far? Is there anything I should know going into it so I don’t run into any problems?” Casper, the DNR customer service training officer on hand for the chat, answered by saying that it’s “been going well this year” and spelled out the entire process in some detail.
Later, another guest reported mixed results with the registration system in the past. Oliver, DNR customer service administrative policy advisor, promptly walked the guest through the part of the process that was giving him trouble. The same guest then asked, “What is going to happen when 50,000 people want to register their deer on opening weekend? How come the system has not been debugged in the eight weeks it has been in operation?”
Priest, DNR wildlife biologist, quickly answered, “We will have staff available at the customer service call center to help with any issues that occur during the registration process. The system has been updated with improvements since it was initialized.”
Starting Saturday, we’ll know more about that and other questions posed Monday.
And feral hogs?
“I am not aware of any feral hogs that are persisting on the landscape at this time,” answered Loomans, DNR rules and regulations specialist. “A non-resident can shoot them with (possession of) a small game license.
“Note that a deer hunting license only authorizes deer hunting.”