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Reminder: spring hearing is online starting Monday, April 13

Input on deer season options, crossbow changes sought by NRB

A series of questions from the state’s Natural Resources Board seeking input on deer hunting season frameworks highlights the 2020 Department of Natural Resources annual spring fish and wildlife hearings and Wisconsin Conservation Congress annual spring county meetings, which will be online only this season due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The online input option will be provided through a link that will be posted on the Spring Hearing page (https:// html) and will go live at 7 p.m. on April 13. The online version will remain open for three days (72 hours). Results will be posted as soon as they are available.

The 2020 questionnaire can be viewed ahead of time at the internet link listed above.

The agenda for this year’s hearings and county meetings consists entirely of advisory questions submitted by DNR Wildlife Management, the Natural Resources Board and various committees of the Conservation Congress. The results of voting on the DNR-proposed questions will be used by the department in the development of future policies and rule proposals. Any rule change proposals that advance may re-appear for discussion and input at 2021 spring hearings. Conservation Congress advisory questions, if supported by the public, may also be forwarded to the DNR and the Natural Resources Board for future consideration.

Conservation Congress delegate elections will not be held this year due to in-person meetings being canceled. If a current delegate no longer wishes to serve, the seat will become vacant and the county chair can appoint someone to fill the remainder of the term. Citizen resolutions submitted prior to the April 6 deadline will also be able to be voted on by participants who reside in the county the resolution came from.

From the NRB

The Natural Resources Board is presenting six questions for public input regarding possible changes to deer hunting in Wisconsin.

The first (question 10 on the agenda) asks if voters favor extending the nineday gun deer hunting season to 19 days. The season would start as always on the Saturday before Thanksgiving and run through the Wednesday before the statewide December antlerless hunt begins.

“Wisconsin has one of the country’s shortest regular firearm deer seasons with just nine days of gun hunting for bucks,” the background information reads. “Providing additional firearm hunting opportunity that also includes bucks would increase excitement and participation in our premier hunt and may be important for the future. A longer season would provide days of highquality hunting with moderate hunting pressure, buffer impacts of bad weather on opening weekend, and generally expand hunting opportunities to more people.”

The next question asks if the public supports eliminating the antlerless-only firearm deer season if the 19-day gun season replaces the current nine-day hunt.

Question 12 will gauge support for a return of a no-hunting period before opening day of the gun deer season. Until 2002, the archery deer season closed on the Sunday prior to the firearm deer season and, except for waterfowl hunting, no firearm hunting was allowed for any species on the Friday before the gun opener. Three options are presented to voters, a two-day rest period, a five-day rest period or no change.

Question 13 asks if there is support for invalidating archery and crossbow buck tags during the gun hunt. Hunters could still use lesser weapons during the gun season, but could only fill gun buck harvest authorizations in that time. Currently, bow tags may be filled during the gun season.

The rising popularity of crossbows is a target in question 14, which may draw the most statewide attention of the bunch. It asks if the public supports shortening crossbow hunting to Oct. 1-31 and then reopening it for the rest of the archery season after the gun deer season. Those 60 and over or holding a disabled permit would continue to use crossbows for the full archery season. Crossbows could be used during the gun season to fill gun tags.

The board’s reasoning is that crossbow hunters are taking too many bucks and “the future of hunting depends on providing high quality hunting opportunities for people who use all the legal methods including firearm, bow and crossbow.”

“Starting in 2014, the legislature approved a trial crossbow season to run concurrent with the archery season,” the background information reads. “It allowed crossbow hunting for all hunters regardless of their age or physical abilities. Rulemaking authority to modify the season was also granted to the department at that time. In the 2019 season, 42% of the registered antlered buck harvest occurred prior to the opening day of the gun deer season. This has impacted the firearm season to the point that it may no longer meet the expectations that firearm deer hunters have historically had.”

Similarly, question 17, submitted by a Natural Resources Board member, asks if there would be support for closing the crossbow season on Nov. 1 and reopening it on opening day of the gun season.

The board asks in question 15 if the public supports eliminating the four deer management zones (Northern Forest, Central Forest, Central Farmland and Southern Farmland) and managing populations through public-land and private-land tags. Ten counties are currently split between forest and farmland zones.

Question 16, submitted by an individual board member, asks if there is support for the DNR working with the legislature to ban baiting and feeding of deer statewide.

There is one more question submitted by a Natural Resources Board member and it will gauge support for a two- to three-week spring bear hunting season.

“A spring bear season would distribute hunting pressure and could result in a higher quality fall season with less hunting pressure,” the background information states.

From the DNR

The Wisconsin DNR has only submitted nine wildlife management questions for input this year and six of those relate to potentially requiring non-toxic ammunition while hunting on state-owned or state-managed lands.

A seventh asks if non-toxic shot should be required statewide for dove hunting. It has been required on all department lands since 2008.

The DNR’s ninth advisory question will gauge support for a potential special raffle or lottery where the winner(s) receive several otherwise difficult-to-draw tags and authorizations and the proceeds would go to wildlife habitat management and restoration in Wisconsin.

Congress highlights

In some parts of the state, the first two of the 37 Conservation Congress advisory question may draw some attention as they gauge the support for Earn-A-Buck as a deer herd management tool in overpopulated counties. Earn-A-Buck was unpopular with many hunters after being eliminated by legislature after 2011, but it was effective as it showed antlerless harvests increased 0.8 antlerless deer per square mile and buck kills were reduced by 0.23 deer per square mile.

“No other herd management tool has been as effective at slowing, stopping or reversing herd growth in high density areas,” the background information states. Other Congress questions include:

_ Questions 21 and 22 which ask if there is support for giving the DNR and/ or County Deer Advisory Councils more authority to restrict deer baiting and feeding.

_ Question 24 which gauges support for a 16-day gun deer season that would start the Saturday nearest Nov. 15.

_ Question 27 which asks if voters favor starting the spring turkey season one week earlier than the current third Wednesday in April.

_ Question 30 which asks if there is support for the Congress, DNR and legislature to work together to create and fund a full-time shooting sports coordinator as a means of developing and managing a statewide shooting competition.

_ Question 31 which gauges support for a three-year experimental badger harvest season.

_ Question 47 which proposes a change in the muskie fishing season. The idea is to create a catch-and-release only season from the first Saturday in May to the Friday before the Saturday nearest Memorial Day. The harvest season would begin, as it does now in the north, the Saturday before Memorial Day.

_ Questions 53 and 54 which ask voters if they supports increased license fees for non-resident deer and bear hunters.