Madison Wildlife officials and conservation groups are
scrambling for political position in hopes of thwarting the kibosh
Rep. DuWayne Johnsrud’s put on a three-year experimental December
antlerless deer season.
“He’s telling sportsmen and landowners that they can’t gun hunt
in December and that’s wrong,” said Steve Oestreicher, Conservation
“What I see happening is an all-out war between gun hunters and
snowmobilers,” Oestreicher said. “Private landowners who want to
hunt in December, but can’t because of this latest action, will
tell snowmobilers to take their trails elsewhere and that’s
extremely unfortunate. All they wanted was four more days.”
Oestreicher and DNR officials Tim Andryk and Bill Vander Zouwen
are urging sportsmen to contact members of the Joint Committee for
the Review of Administrative Rules (JCRAR) in an attempt to nullify
Here’s what happened:
The Assembly Natural Resources Committee met Nov. 7. Johnsrud is
chairman of that committee and, earlier, voiced his displeasure
with the estimated $1 million spent on the Deer 2000 program and
the lack of results.
The committee rejected four recommendations from Deer 2000.
The committee objected to:
a three-year experimental statewide four-day December antlerless
deer hunt, saying that there would be too much impact on snow
recreationists and the economy.
the 4-day extension to the early archery season in Zone T units,
saying they wanted a quiet time in the woods during the week before
gun season, that bowhunters have it good already, and that
bowhunters are getting a few other extra days in the rule.
the dates of the October Zone T hunt, which was proposed to
start the Thursday after the pheasant opener each year. Their
objection includes the deletion of a few words that will give DNR
the flexibility to set the Zone T hunt any time in October. The
DNR’s proposal in the rule order would have the Zone T hunt fall on
the southern Wisconsin teacher’s convention about half the
“If the committee’s objection is successful, the DNR would have
to set the Zone T hunt dates each year by secretary’s order and
there would likely be debate every year over when it should be by
the various interest groups, even though the intent is teachers’
convention weekend,” Vander Zouwen said.
The committee did not object to the dates for the youth deer
hunt, so, in some years the youth gun deer hunt would be a
different weekend than the Zone T hunt.
the rule simplification that would require all deer to be
registered in the unit of kill or adjoining unit. Committee members
want to allow any deer shot during the gun season to be registered
anywhere in the state.
“The JCRAR has 30 days to take this up for review,” Oestreicher
said. “If they don’t do that, then the proposal is suspended for
three years, which is exactly what Johnsrud wants.”
“Deer hunters have to rally, call the JCRAR members and tell
them they’ve had enough of Johnsrud’s personal agenda. We spent
three years on Deer 2000, with many volunteers meeting twice a
month. That’s 72 meetings. The Natural Resources Board asked for
citizen input and we went out and got it. Now Johnsrud is ignoring
the citizens,” Oestreicher added.
Several times in the past few months Johnsrud has said the
state’s snowmobile industry is deeply concerned about its ability
to clear and sign trails if there is a gun deer season going on in
Proponents of the proposed three-year experimental December
season point out that bowhunters are in the woods through Dec. 31
and that a muzzleloader season has run into December each year
since the season began in 1991.
“We’re sympathetic to snowmobilers and hunters,” Vander Zouwen
said. “We have to find a way to get along. They say snowmobiling
has a $1 billion impact on economy. We know hunting has $1.5
billion impact, so there should be room for both.”
“We’ve talked to them ahead of (the Nov. 7 meeting), wanting to
find out if there is a way to get DuWayne to back off, but it
sounds like they’re going to follow through,” Andryk said. “I don’t
see how DuWayne can so cleanly separate snowmobilers from hunters I
think in many cases they’re the same people. I don’t see why user
groups can’t share the woods. We did last year in more than
three-quarters of the state during the first December Zone T
season. We had tremendous snow all over the state then and had
tremendous snowmobiling all through December, including during the
hunt. We ought to be able to work this out with landowners during
the proposed three-year period we’re asking for and if we can’t,
then the hunt sunsets.
“We’re hearing from landowners that if snowmobilers kill the
hunt, they’ll close their land to snowmobiling,” he said. “Trails
have been open during muzzleloader hunts and during last year’s
December Zone T. It shouldn’t be a problem. To reject it outright
without trying it really pits hunters against snowmobilers.”
Andryk said Peter Peshek, the lobbyist for the state snowmobile
association, has been pushing Johnsrud hard on the December deer
season. Wisconsin sportsmen may remember that name the Natural
Resources Board recommended Peshek for the position of DNR
secretary, but Peshek withdrew under fire and George Meyer
eventually was appointed.
Oestreicher said the December Zone T season was supported, two
to one, by Deer 2000 survey respondents.
Earlier, Johnsrud said the DNR could add more hunting days by
creating a 16-day season and forgetting about a December four-day
That wouldn’t solve a private land access problem, though,
Vander Zouwen said.
“One of the things about Deer 2000 is that we don’t have a good
way to get access to private lands to shoot deer. Quite a few folks
argue that landowners will let other hunters on after the gun deer
season to shoot antlerless deer. I think we would be missing a big
opportunity in December it may start out small, but as people can
plan around it and expect it, they will take advantage of it,” he
Vander Zouwen said the DNR will meet with Peshek and the
Association of Wisconsin Snowmobile Clubs to determine if there is
a way to evaluate the impacts of hunting on snowmobiling.
“But, there is no chance of getting the three-year experimental
hunt if the JCRAR doesn’t take it up in December. If we miss that
30-day window, our legislative process dictates that we wait three
years,” Oestreicher said. “Hunters have to contact the JCRAR
members and ask them to review this issue.”