"Definitely an impact:" New DNR tagging process may cause walk-in stations to lose business

WAUKESHA COUNTY -- The first day of the gun deer hunting season is now in the books. Opening weekend has traditionally been a boon for local businesses catering to hunters, but a change in the deer registration process has some worried about losing customers.

Ox & Cats Sports Bar & Grill

Freshly fallen snow made for an ideal start to the gun deer hunting season.

"No luck in the deer department," said John Dobron, hunter.

Even for those who came home empty handed.

"You could see all Mother Nature at her best," said Dobron.

FOX6 News found John Dobron at Ox & Cats Sports Bar & Grill; it's traditionally been a hunters' hangout.

Ox & Cats Sports Bar & Grill

"People would come in with their deer, we would take the doe's ear, tag the deer for them, do all the writing of the paperwork -- pretty much everything," said Samantha Pagenkopf, Ox & Cats Sports Bar & Grill employee.

A lot of those hunters would stick around with their friends and families to buy food and drinks too. But this year, hunters are required to register their deer harvests electronically. Some worry about the impact the change could have on places like Ox & Cats Sports Bar.

"It's normally crazy here and with bow hunting, so far, I mean we probably only have like ten bucks on our wall. You know, years before that there would probably be hundreds by now, so definitely an impact," said Pagenkopf.

The DNR says the shift will allow them to track the harvest in real time. But they're also expecting it to impact traffic at the old walk-in stations.

"Probably expect a 2/3 decline at the walk-in stations, which is what Minnesota's experience has been," said Tim Lizotte, southeast Wisconsin DNR area wildlife supervisor.

Ox & Cats is providing a computer and phone for hunters to register, in hopes they'll still stop in.

 Dobron hopes to be one of them.

"It was always tradition to come down to the bar or the corner gas station up north. If I am to get a deer, I'll be coming down here to register it," said Dobron.

Hunters have a few options this year for how to register their harvest. The first is to phone it in, the second is to go online and do it yourself, the third is to find an in-person registration station -- someplace that provides a phone or computer on-site for that purpose.