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
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
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
“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
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
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
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.