The man who brought the “County Deer Advisory Council” process to Wisconsin’s deer hunters in 2014 is the same man now doing the most to cripple it in its cradle.
That should surprise no one. That’s what Greg Kazmierski does.
Kazmierski has been the chaos fairy of Wisconsin deer hunting for over 30 years. Unfortunately, he mutated from public nuisance to public menace in 2011 when Gov. Scott Walker put him on Wisconsin’s Natural Resources Board, the seven-citizen group that sets policy for the Department of Natural Resources. He’s currently the NRB’s vice chair, and self-anointed deer czar and deer whisperer.
Kazmierski thinks no biologist matches his affection for whitetails and his insights into managing them. Even so, he’s a primary reason the DNR hasn’t addressed chronic wasting disease the past decade. Nor will he entrust deer management to the state’s 71 nine-person County Deer Advisory Councils and their DNR and forestry advisers. That’s odd, given that CDACs were his idea.
Therefore, for the second straight year, Kazmierski torpedoed several Northwoods CDACs with no warning or consultation before the NRB’s meeting June 23. And because three toadies on the NRB indulge Kazmierski’s deer quackery, the Board voted 4-3 to support his plan to cut the CDACs’ recommended antlerless quotas on public lands by 50% in Bayfield, Douglas, Iron, Oneida, Langlade and Sawyer counties this fall.
Among those humoring Kazmierski was the NRB’s chair, Frederick “Squatter” Prehn, who refuses to leave the Board even though his six-year term expired May 1. Kazmierski’s other rubber stamps are NRB members Terry Hilgenberg, Shawano; and Bill Bruins, Waupun.
That same quartet violated Wisconsin’s open meeting laws by agreeing before the June 2020 meeting to approve Kazmierski’s plan to cut the combined public-land quotas in 11 Northwoods counties by 5,650 antlerless deer. Kazmierski didn’t share that plan with the other three NRB members until at or just before the meeting.
DNR Secretary Preston Cole urged the NRB to delay that vote, noting that Kazmierski’s “11th hour” changes gave them no time to review his accompanying 16-page report. Instead, the NRB voted 5-2 to OK Kazmierski’s cuts. After all, Prehn claimed he had spoken to several of the affected CDAC chairs, and assured the NRB the chairs were fine with the changes.
That was a lie, unfortunately. My phone calls and emails to all 11 CDAC chairs soon showed none spoke to Prehn. In fact, several were angry the NRB changed their recommendations. After my Freedom of Information Act request showed Prehn, Bruins, Hilgenberg and Kazmierski had carried out an illegal “walking quorum” before the June 2020 meeting, Prehn finally called the July special session Cole suggested.
The NRB then withdrew Kazmierski’s cuts for four of the 11 counties. They also agreed to work with the DNR to ensure they didn’t repeat their fiasco in 2021.
So, imagine Cole’s surprise June 23 when Kazmierski dumped this year’s plans on them during the NRB meeting. And, once again, Kazmierski never consulted with the CDAC chairs in the affected counties, even though five of the six — Bayfield, Douglas, Langlade, Oneida and Sawyer — were also on his hit list in 2020.
Three of those CDAC chairs — Kevin Schanning, Bayfield; Alan Horvath, Douglas; and Rick Olson, Sawyer — confirmed Kazmierski never spoke to them. They also wonder how Kazmierski, a Waukesha resident, somehow knows their county — and its deer, forests and hunters — better than their CDACs do.
Quick refresher: Each Wisconsin county (except the Menominee reservation) has a deer advisory council. And each nine-member CDAC has local representatives for hunting, farming, tourism and other interests. The councils also include nonvoting DNR deer biologists; and local, county, state or federal foresters to offer scientific insights and analysis.
The 71 CDACs gather local comments and suggestions each spring about their county’s deer herd to craft preliminary recommendations for public review. After that, the CDACs analyze the feedback, and file final recommendations with the DNR by mid-May.
The process is thorough. And yet there sat Kazmierski at the NRB’s June 23 meeting with a five-page “analysis” showing some counties’ public-land hunters don’t shoot bucks at the same rate as those on private lands. He also scolded the DNR for not sharing such “metrics” with the CDACs.
Hmm. If those metrics are so telling, why didn’t Kazmierski present them in June 2020 and demand the DNR include them during the 2021 CDAC process?
Kazmierski then suggested the NRB cut the antlerless quota 50% for all six counties, rather than revising quotas to match each county’s varying habitats and herd sizes. He never explained, though, how his cuts will balance buck-kill percentages on public and private lands.
Instead, Kazmierski again accused the CDACs of caving into foresters’ complaints of deer overabundance in many areas, and browse-damaged habitats on well-managed county forests. Prehn even labeled foresters’ reports “anecdotal,” even though neither he nor Kazmierski has spoken to experts like Mike Amman, a Bayfield County forester who Kazmierski routinely criticizes without naming.
No wonder, then, that Secretary Cole angrily asked Kazmierski: “How many times do we need to explain as an organization that unless you put a fence around it and keep deer out, you will have browsing? … We said last June we would get to these CDACs early and often, and be in the room when they started having those conversations. Am I right, Doc (Prehn)? ... We said we would work with them to get this done, but here we are at the 11th hour again, and we didn't do what we said we were going to do. … I'm not going to get my ass handed to me because the Board’s (broken promises) to these … CDACs committees.”
After hearing Cole’s frustration, a prudent, principled person would balk at any Kazmierski recommendation. In fact, a rational person would recall the NRB’s embarrassing 7-0 vote in February to approve Kazmierski’s recommendation that doubled the number of wolf tags for Wisconsin’s impromptu wolf season. That absurd decision helped send the wolf kill 82% over the legal quota.
But no. Prehn, Bruins and Hilgenberg pushed through Kazmierski’s incompetent deer agenda, once again insulting the diligent, intelligent, unpaid work of about 50 CDAC volunteers in Iron, Bayfield, Douglas, Langlade, Oneida and Sawyer counties.
Before next June, the NRB should ask itself an obvious question: How good is this CDAC system if it can’t be trusted to run itself without Kazmierski’s amateurish interference?
For the second straight year, Wisconsin’s Natural Resources Board surprised six counties by slashing their antlerless deer quotas without first consulting the committees that recommended them. — Patrick Durkin photo