NRB approves fish, wildlife rule changes

By Tim Eisele Correspondent

Elkhart Lake, Wis. — The state Natural Resources Board adopted
changes to hunting and fishing regulations that will go into effect
in 2007, if they pass legislative review later this year.

Meeting in Elkhart Lake on May 24, the board adopted changes
proposed by the DNR following approval of the questions at the
spring fish and wildlife rules hearings in April.

One of the regulation changes will make it illegal to use and
possess electronic calling devices for hunting waterfowl and
turkeys. These devices could still be used for non-hunting
situations, such as photography, but they could not be possessed
while hunting. Currently, it is illegal to use these devices for
hunting, but enforcement is difficult if a conservation warden does
not see a hunter actually using the device.

Several new rules will affect turkey hunting. One will extend
the daily hunting hours for spring turkey season until sunset,
rather than the current 5 p.m. In addition, a two-day turkey hunt
for youths ages 12 to 15 will be held the weekend prior to the
first regular spring season.

The fall turkey hunt will now run concurrently with the early
bowhunting season for deer, beginning the Saturday nearest Sept. 15
and continuing through the Thursday prior to the opening of the
nine-day gun deer season.

The issuance of leftover turkey carcass tags will be continued;
tags will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis with a limit
of one tag per person per day.

One change from what was presented at the public hearings is the
beginning of hunting in High Cliff State Park (Calumet County).

The original proposal that went to public hearings included a
shotgun deer gun season in the park, followed by a muzzleloader
season and a late archery season.

Kurt Thiede, DNR wildlife management regulations and policy
specialist, told the board the change was made when DNR staff met
with people who lived near the park.

“They were concerned about safety with the gun season and also
displacement of park users during the fall,” Thiede said. Letters
and a petition were presented opposing the hunt.

The DNR, therefore, recommended a limited-entry nine-day
muzzleloader-only season beginning the Saturday before
Thanksgiving.The DNR also will ask the village of Sherwood to hire
sharpshooters to reduce deer populations to acceptable levels.

John Welter, board member from Eau Claire, said he still would
like to see a bowhunting season, especially if there was the
possibility the DNR might have to help sponsor the sharpshooter
effort.

Dave Clausen, board member from Amery, said the parks staff is
working with the local residents to try to find the best
solution.

Other hunting regulations the board approved were:

  • Require a pheasant stamp for all pheasant hunters
    statewide;
  • Extend the ending date of the northern ruffed grouse hunting
    zone from Dec. 31 to Jan. 31, making northern season dates the same
    as the southwestern zone (there would be just two grouse zones,
    rather than three);
  • Allow the use of rifles for deer hunting in Kewaunee
    County;
  • Define the size of body-gripping type traps;
  • Allow the purchase of Class A bear licenses during the bear
    season, but not valid until three days after purchase.

Fisheries regulation changes the board approved include
increasing the minimum length of muskies from 34 inches to 50
inches in the Lake Winnebago and Fox River systems. Joe Hennessy,
DNR warm-water lakes and regulations specialist, said this change
will help the reintroduced spotted muskie population to thrive.

Some of the other fisheries regulations approved include:

  • Prohibit the use of devices that intentionally release lead
    weights when fish strike;
  • Simplify walleye regulations in Green Bay and Menominee River
    boundary waters to be consistent with Michigan, and establish a
    catch-and-release only fishery for lake sturgeon in the lower
    Menominee River boundary waters to be consistent with
    Michigan;
  • Prohibit the harvest of live freshwater mussels (commonly known
    as clams) from inland waters;
  • Eliminate the minimum length limit for sauger on the St. Louis
    River and revise the opening date for game fish season on the St.
    Croix River to the Saturday nearest May 1, to be consistent in
    Wisconsin and Minnesota;
  • Extend the sunset provision of Wisconsin, Lemonwier, and Yellow
    River experimental regulations for walleye and sauger from the
    Grandfather dam downstream to the Prairie du Sac dam (the
    experimental 15-inch minimum with a 20- to 28-inch no harvest slot
    will be extended until 2014, allowing the DNR to evaluate the
    regulation).

In other actions, the board approved a request by the DNR to
hold public hearings this summer for the 2006 migratory game bird
hunting seasons.

The specific bag limits and season dates won’t be known until
the federal framework is released in early August, with hearings to
be held the week of August 7-10.

Changes the DNR will recommend at the hearings include a
suggestion to begin opening-day shooting hours for the duck season
at 9 a.m., a change from the traditional noon opener. This is a
compromise from opening the season before dawn, while ducks are
naturally moving, but when crowds of activity at boat landings on
opening day could present safety concerns.

The DNR also will propose a “sunset” rule on the Horicon
Intensive Management Subzone, adjacent to Horicon National Wildlife
Refuge, for five years, thereby eliminating most requirements for
spacing of goose-hunting blinds.

The DNR also proposes changing the dividing line for the north
and south duck-hunting zones. The new dividing line would be a line
from Hwy. 41, in Green Bay, to Hwy. 10 west to Prescott.

The board also made a point, while approving resolutions for
four DNR employees who are retiring, of acknowledging the work of
Al Phelan, who worked for the DNR for 33 years, including many
years of working with the NRB and as the Conservation Congress
liaison.

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