Wisconsin Conservation Congress Votes in Favor of White Deer

The Wisconsin Conservation Congress Spring Hearing results are in and voters have shown once again that a majority of residents want to keep white deer protected.

The hearing, which tests the waters of public opinion on conservation issues, was held online this year from April 12-15. The number of people voting, 12,641, was up from most previous years, but down from last year when a record 64,943 people voted.

The results for the question “Would you support legalizing the harvest of white (not albino) deer statewide?” were a mixed bag. Although an overall win, the 200-vote margin was down considerably from 2014 when hearing participants voted overwhelmingly against a similar proposal.

Voters this year were asked if they were “a resident of the county” or if they “recreate in the county.” More “residents” voted in favor of hunting white deer, while a much higher percentage of “recreators” (virtually the entire northern and southern portions of the state) voted against the white deer proposal.

The regional difference in attitude and voting is striking, although somewhat understandable, since most of the push to hunt white deer is coming out of the central part of the state.

A group of hunters in this area have been very active in promoting white deer hunting. They have considerable reach in the hunting community and they are persistent (see “Groundhogs Day” article below).

On the plus side, the final vote tally shows that a large number of hunters, who constitute most of the WCC voters, are still against shooting white deer. The white deer proposal was one of only two of the 57 resolutions on the WCC questionnaire that were rejected by voters.

The WCC chair, Tony Blattler, who is in favor of hunting white deer, expressed frustration at the results. Hunters undoubtedly hoped for a better response to bolster their argument for a change in Wisconsin law. Although the results weren’t as resounding as in 2014, they were definitely a disappointment for the pro-hunting group.

The majority vote against the hunting proposal sends a strong message to the DNR Board and lawmakers to keep white deer protected, but it was a vote that was too close for comfort. Despite 81 years of no hunting, white deer protection cannot be taken for granted.

Two big questions continue to weigh heavily in this hunting debate:  What will happen if these extremely rare deer can be hunted, and will a head mount on the living room wall really be the best use of a resource that so many people absolutely love seeing and watching?

Wisconsin needs to think much deeper about the consequences of removing protection from the most popular members of its deer herd.