State rep tackles deer season plan
By Dean Bortz Editor
Madison — A proposed bill from Rep. Scott Gunderson, R-Waterford, would create a new $24 muzzleloader license, limit October antlerless deer hunts to muzzleloader-hunting only, and get rid of earn-a-buck and December Zone T seasons.
Under Gunderson’s plan, the October four-day antlerless muzzleloader season would take place during the second full weekend of October, the same weekend that he has planned a two-day youth deer hunt.
In order to hunt the four-day muzzleloader season, hunters would need to buy a new $24 muzzleloader license. That license also would allow hunting during the 10-day muzzleloader season. Currently, hunters do not have to buy another license to hunt the muzzleloader season. That privilege is included with the regular gun deer license.
Gunderson said hunters will be willing to buy the new muzzleloader license because it will allow them to shoot a third buck. Now, hunters are allowed to shoot two bucks per year, one with a bow license and one with a gun license.
The proposed bill also would allow holders of a regular gun deer license to use a bow during the nine-day gun deer season, if they wished.
“Compare this to the (DNR’s) rule package - it’s going to kill more deer,” said Gunderson, noting that his bill requires the DNR to issue two free antlerless tags with each license.
“The DNR was clear - they told me their rule package probably wasn’t going to work (in controlling deer numbers), and they would probably have to come back (after two years) with different measures to control the herd. This package will kill more deer than the DNR rules. If people believe that, they should be able to support the bill. If not, they should be against this,” he said.
Gunderson was to have introduced the bill on Thursday, March 16. He hopes to get it into both houses quickly. If it’s going to be supported, he hopes to know that by late April. It would then have to be signed by Gov. Jim Doyle to become law. If that comes to pass, Gunderson said his idea could be in place for the 2006 deer season.
Two conservation leaders are opposed to Gunderson’s idea of using law to set deer season frameworks. George Meyer, executive director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, said Gunderson is setting a dangerous precedent. Steve Oestreicher, chairman of the Conservation Congress, was on vacation last week, but heard about Gunderson’s plan before he left. Oestreicher agreed with Meyer, and said legislators should have oversight, but leave all season framework and permit setting in the administrative rule process.
Gunderson said he is aware of the possible dangers of getting lawmakers involved in the setting of hunting seasons.
“That’s why this would be a two-year law,” he said.
“What scares me more is that the DNR and some deer-hunting groups thought that it was OK to throw the baby out with bath water with the DNR rule. We have to listen to hunters, hunting groups, and our constituents - we work for everyone and still listen to biologists. I do have concerns; that’s why this has a two-year sunset,” Gunderson said.
“This is a very dangerous precedent - it doesn’t matter what you hunt,” Meyer said. “What you have here is the judgement of the Legislature on deer management, rather than having the work of professional biologists and the Natural Resources Board.
“There are parts of this bill that are good, other parts that aren’t good, but to have legislators become new professional wildlife managers, that is extremely dangerous,” he said. “They could decide to set seasons and permit levels on any species. I think most hunters, even if they like parts of this bill, are deathly afraid of allowing the Legislature to come in and get into wildlife management. Right now, our legislative leadership is pro-hunting, but what about 10 years from now when we have tree-hugging environmentalists in leadership? If I were bear hunters or trappers, I’d be really afraid of this.”
The other concern is the possibility of other legislators “loading on” ideas as the bill passes through the House and Senate. Gunderson said he is aware of that possibility and will try to keep the bill as streamlined as possible.
“I'm not saying there won’t be any changes. I’m absolutely open if anything was missed, that’s why it’s out there. The language is not etched in stone,” said Gunderson, who is chairman of the Assembly Natural Resources Committee.
“As a committee, we evaluate ideas, amendments, then decide if it’s in the best interest of the bill. The bowhunters, the congress, the wildlife federation may come up with ideas also. No matter what the idea is, we have to consider it, but I think most people will take the lead from the committee.
“I don’t want that (politics getting in the way) to happen. If this doesn’t work out, if it doesn’t go in the right direction, it may not move forward. I have no intent to shove anything down anyone’s throat,” Gunderson said.