A legislative committee on natural resources will hold a public hearing Thursday on a bill that would prohibit the Department of Natural Resources from making rules stipulating the beginning of the deer season, causing some outdoorsmen to say they are concerned too much power is being given to lawmakers.

The bill would end the Earn-a-Buck program, which requires hunters to shoot an antlerless deer before shooting a mature male and restricts the DNR’s ability to establish a fall deer season beginning before Thanksgiving. The bill’s co-author, Rep. Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst, said the bill was drafted to please hunters who were unhappy with the DNR’s programs to manage the deer herd size in Wisconsin.

“Hunters have been saying for some years that T-zone [antlerless] hunts and Earn-a-Buck should end,” Tiffany said. “For whatever reason that translation did not go through the DNR, so [the other co-author] and I thought it was time to put together the framework.”

Tiffany said in 2009 all 72 of Wisconsin’s counties voted to end the October antlerless hunts and Earn-a-Buck programs during the Conservation Congress, a body which allows outdoor enthusiasts the ability to choose rules for the upcoming year that are then decided on by the Natural Resources Board, which sets policy for the DNR.

For some reason it did not get done, he said.

But the Natural Resources Board voted this year to end the programs included in Tiffany’s bill, which Sen. Terry Moulton, R-Chippewa Falls, co-authored. 

Tiffany said he knew about the board’s vote, but the decision would only hold for a year and he wanted to use the power of the Legislature to cement the changes in law.

Some hunting enthusiasts think that is going too far.

“This gives [lawmakers] free reign to do whatever they want and it may not be in the interests of the hunting public,” Wisconsin Deer Hunters Association President Mark Toso said. “They have outside lobbyists who aren’t hunters or experts and lawmakers aren’t scientists; they don’t get it when there are too many deer it causes long term habitat damage.”

Still, the bill does allow the DNR some flexibility to override the bill’s provisions in instances where an early hunt is necessary to stop the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease.