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House approves wolf hunt, earlier fishing opener

Posted on April 5, 2012

Joe AlbertThe state House passed its Game and Fish Bill on Tuesday, shortly after the most recent edition of Outdoor News had gone to press. So here’s a recap of what’s in it, and what may unfold when lawmakers return to St. Paul following the Easter break.

  • Earlier fishing opener. The bill sets this season’s opener for May 5, rather than May 12. Lawmakers say the weather has been so warm that there’s no reason to wait another week. There are precious few details, though, so it’s not clear if it just applies to walleyes, or to northern pike (which open the same day), or lake trout (which also open the same day), or bass and muskies, which open in late May and early June, respectively.
  • Wolf hunting. The bill sets the wolf opener to coincide with the deer-hunting opener. Licenses will be distributed via a lottery system, and it’s likely the quota will remain at $400 wolves. Resident hunting and trapping licenses would cost $26. (Passage of the bill coincides with a new TV spot from a group called Howling for Wolves, which opposes the hunt. No word on who’s behind that group, but if you know, let me know.)
  • Eliminates the state’s venison donation program. Money from that program, including the voluntary donations deer hunters make, would go instead to funding a state walk-in access program.
  • Stiffens penalties for people who bait deer and kill trophy bucks.
  • Allows fishing and hunting license sales in the event of another state government shutdown.

The House Game and Fish Bill does not include increases to the prices of hunting and fishing licenses.

The Senate will vote on an omnibus bill that includes the fee increases and a Game and Fish Bill shortly after it reconvenes from the Easter break, according to Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen. The House and Senate bills will not match up, so a conference committee will be convened.

The plan seems to be to pass a bill from the conference committee that includes the fee increases, since the House hasn’t yet voted on them. Then, the House and Senate would need to pass the conference committee report. That could be interesting.

Additionally, the Senate is supportive of the earlier fishing opener, Ingebrigtsen said. He said something like: “I wouldn’t say we’re lukewarm on it. We’re hot on it.”

So it will be up to the DNR to decide whether it’s biologically feasible and then advise Gov. Mark Dayton, who could veto the entire bill.

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