June 6, 2023

New Jersey and Wisconsin Deal With "Earn-a-Buck" Programs

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New Jersey and Wisconsin are two states that run what they both call an Earn a Buck program. It works this way: A hunter must first shoot a doe in order to be eligible to bag a buck. Hunters don’t care for the rule because they get frustrated when they go out hunting and have to watch as big bucks pass their way and they haven’t gotten a doe yet.

When the states created the program, it was a way to get hunters to kill does to reduce growing deer populations and it seems quite effective but it is also having negative affects. In New Jersey it has gotten to the point where the state is losing too many hunters out of frustration. Their program worked well in reducing the herd but as numbers fell, hunters were having a harder time bagging that first doe and many never got a chance at a buck. Officials there feel it is time to scrap the program in order to increase the number of interested hunters.

In Wisconsin, it doesn’t appear to be as simple. The debate is still raging about deer population estimates, the effectiveness of their Earn a Buck program and the involvement of the state’s legislature in setting seasons and creating laws.

Not all of the wildlife management zones in Wisconsin have the Earn a Buck program in place. Only those with overgrown deer populations. A proposal to add another season in the northern part of the state in early December, met with a huge opposition from the snowmobile clubs.

It appears that in Wisconsin there are too many trying to set laws to govern hunting. The state legislation is trying to get bills passed on setting season dates and lengths as well as change up the Earn a Buck program. One bill being proposed would issue two antlerless deer permits to a hunter that could use them at his or her own discretion and not force them to take a doe first before a buck. The same bill would open up an early season muzzle loader hunting for antlerless deer only.

The DNR of Wisconsin stands firmly behind their Earn a Buck program as it stands and believes it is the best and most effective way to control the population of deer.

Tom Remington