CC: No to crossbows, earn-a-buck, Zone T

Editor

Madison — Voters at the April 11 spring hearings rejected
expanded use of crossbows, allowing the use of atlatl and dart for
deer hunting and the use of dogs for fall turkey hunting, but they
supported the Conservation Congress deer season framework idea that
would eliminate October Zone T and earn-a-buck.

And, despite a massive turnout by people opposed to legalizing
the shooting of feral cats, that Conservation Congress question
also passed.

One heavily publicized proposal — lowering the legal hunting
age from 12 to 10 — did not pass statewide, despite efforts by
Conservation Congress Outdoor Heritage Committee chairman Larry
Bonde and three national conservation groups to demonstrate that
10-year-olds safely hunt in many other states.

Now, the DNR and Conservation Congress must decide what to do
with all of the public input received from the spring hearings,
which attracted 13,281 voters in 72 counties. Those people voted on
a total of 74 questions that were either offered as proposed rule
changes by the DNR, or as advisory questions by the Conservation
Congress.

The recorded attendance of 13,281 was up from about 6,017 who
attended the hearings last year. The 20-year average is about 7,000
persons. In 1999 more than 30,000 people turned out for the
hearings to address a proposed dove hunting season, according to Al
Phelan, DNR spring hearing coordinator.

While the feral cat question attracted most of the statewide
media attention leading up to the spring hearings, sportsmen were
more interested in congress proposals that would change the deer
season framework, allow expanded use of crossbows for all small
game and big game, and lower the hunting age.

Deer season framework

The widespread use of earn-a-buck (EAB) during the 2004 season
outside of CWD units left many hunters grumbling about having to
kill does first. That prompted the Conservation Congress Big Game
Committee to offer an advisory question that asked whether hunters
supported the idea of doing away with EAB and October Zone T hunts.
Those tools would be replaced with two free antlerless tags for
each gun and bow license, and a December Zone T season north of
Hwy. 8 (the rest of the state already has a December Zone T
hunt).

Snowmobilers in some northern counties spoke against having a
December antlerless deer season, but the idea received statewide
support by a vote of 4,847 to 2,631.

The congress idea of eliminating the early Zone T and EAB
seasons passed in 54 counties by a vote of 5,741 to 2,705.

The congress idea of issuing free antlerless tags with each
license passed, 5,877 to 2,529.

Despite those votes, deer hunters should not expect any changes
for 2005, said Steve Oestreicher, Conservation Congress chairman,
and Kurt Thiede, DNR regulations specialist. Thiede said any change
for 2005 would require “emergency rule” action by the Natural
Resources Board (NRB).

Thiede and Oestreicher agreed that it would be very unlikely
that NRB members would change a deer season framework through
emergency rule.

“The idea received more support than any other deer season
framework question in the last six or seven years, but we will sit
down with DNR wildlife staff and have a discussion on this — work
out some details,” Oestreicher said. “From a congress standpoint,
we would like this season structure in place as soon as possible.
It probably won’t be 2005, but I do see it getting serious
consideration for the 2006 gun season.”

Oestreicher said the congress and DNR would have to work out
such issues as retaining the youth hunt, but moving it to a spot
earlier in October, and also figure out how to limit antlerless
permits in units that are at or below population goals.

“We also realize that the ag damage account is in financial
trouble,” he said.

The ag damage fund is fueled through sales of $12 bonus tags
($20 for nonresidents). If the DNR has to issue two free tags with
each license, the ag damage fund would take a hit.

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