The corona virus threat has cancelled the Wisconsin Conservation Congress face-to-face spring hearings set for April 13 in the state’s 72 counties. Instead, the public can vote online on the spring hearing questions starting at 7 p.m. April 13 and lasting 72 hours (three days). See https://dnr.wi.gov/About/WCC/springhearing.html for more info, including the full questionnaire.
The first seven questions consider the use of non-toxic shot for small game, as well as turkeys and deer, and on state-owned lands. For background, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service banned lead shot nationwide in 1991 and has required non-toxic shot for all types of hunting on federal waterfowl production areas since 1998. I’m already starting to make the switch to non-toxic for all of my hunting because the dangers of lead shot are well known. If we truly call ourselves conservationists, this is something we should do. I’ve killed ducks, pheasants, doves and sharp-tailed grouse with non-toxic shot, and many years ago I killed two ruffed grouse with #4 steel when I forgot to empty the steel shotshells in my vest pockets. I was 40 miles from home and decided to hunt with the steel rather than drive home for lead shotshells, my normal grouse loads. When I miss using non-toxic shot, it’s not the shotshell’s fault — it’s my errant wingshooting skills.
Questions 10-17 concern deer hunting. Number 10 asks if the DNR should extend the current gun-deer season 10 days, starting the Saturday before Thanksgiving, making it 19 days total, and Number 12 asks if the DNR should establish a “no-hunting period” (except waterfowling) for zero, two or five days before opening day of gun-deer season. Number 14 would limit crossbow use to the month of October, except for hunters 60 and older and the disabled.
These proposals, if enacted, would expand opportunities for gun-deer hunters to the detriment of just about all other hunters, except perhaps waterfowlers. They would also negatively impact other non-hunting groups who like to recreate outside and don’t because they don’t want to get shot during gun-deer season. I get the DNR wants to attract more gun-deer hunters to raise revenue, and for sure gun-deer season is its cash cow. But the extended season might not attract more hunters, so the DNR needs to pursue other ways to increase revenue — raise license fees for instance.
As a grouse hunter, I’m biased when it comes to these proposals. At the extreme end, this could scratch 24 days of grouse hunting off the calendar, 19 days of gun-deer season plus five rest days to let things in the woods “settle down.” Sure, it’s legal to hunt grouse during gun-deer season, but not prudent. Plus, grouse hunting during gun-deer would upset many deer hunters. Grouse hunters, as well as other small-game hunters such as pheasant hunters, would also lose valuable hunting time, but we are a much smaller group than gun-deer hunters and evidently more expendable.
Question 16, the most controversial of the list, asks whether or not the DNR should ban deer baiting statewide. I think I’ll leave that one alone. That and the one about the experimental badger season.
Mark Parman writes from Seeley, where he lives and hunts with his wife, Susan, and their two English setters, Fergus and Jenkins.