WI: Turkey, crossbow, muskie, baiting top hearing agenda

Madison – Citizens across Wisconsin have an opportunity to share their opinions on proposed fish and wildlife rule changes, present new ideas in the management of Wisconsin's natural resources, and elect Conservation Congress delegates for their counties during the 2011 DNR Annual Spring Fish and Wildlife Rule Hearings and Wisconsin Conservation Congress annual county meetings that always take place the second Monday in April.

This year, the hearings and meetings will take place at 7 p.m. Monday, April 11 in every county of the state. Hearing locations and a full list of DNR-proposed rules and Conservation Congress advisory questions are posted on the DNR website. DNR conservation wardens, fish biologists and wildlife biologists, and Congress delegates will be available before the hearing to answer questions related to the spring hearing questionnaire.

The dual annual hearing and meeting is a keystone in Wisconsin's history of providing opportunity for citizens to share their opinions on proposed changes or new ideas in the management of Wisconsin's fish and wildlife resources, according to Ed Harvey, Conservation Congress chairman.

"The Spring Fish and Wildlife Rules Hearings are a uniquely Wisconsin tradition," said DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp. "Government works better with broad citizen input. I hope many Wisconsinites will dedicate their Monday evening to attending and providing input on a range of fish, wildlife, and environmental proposals that help shape and define Wisconsin."

This year's agenda contains 85 questions; 38 questions are DNR rule change proposals, and the remainder of are advisory questions proposed by the Conservation Congress or the Natural Resources Board.

During the DNR hearing portion, citizens will be allowed to vote on changes to fish and wildlife rules proposed by the DNR and NRB.

All votes recorded are advisory only and are presented to NRB members at their May meeting in a summary of public opinion.

Wildlife rules

Adjustments to waterfowl hunting zones have generated much discussion in recent seasons, but federal rules only allow states to change zones every five years. The DNR is now asking for indications of preference on potential zone changes designed to provide more late-season duck-hunting days in areas of later freeze-up, while minimizing the loss of mid-fall hunting elsewhere.

Proposals related to turkey hunting would extend each spring turkey-hunting period by two days to create seven-day periods running from Wednesday through Tuesday, and would renew the fall turkey season extension in zones 1 through 5.

Deer hunters will be interested in a proposal to eliminate the archery deer season closure during the November gun deer hunt. In an advisory question, the DNR will ask if sportsmen favor lowering the crossbow hunting age from 65 to 55. This question is separate from a Congress advisory question that will ask whether crossbows should be allowed during the archery deer season.

Still other rules would repeal blaze orange requirements in any future elk season unless a firearm deer season is open, and would add September hunting days to any future elk season. Five elk harvest tags will be issued to state-licensed hunters when the population reaches 200.

In response to the reappearance of cougars in Wisconsin, another question asks if landowners should be allowed to shoot cougars caught in the act of attacking a domestic animal.

Other questions, if supported, would allow the use of rifles for deer hunting in Waupaca County, and allow hunting in Copper Falls State Park.

Fish questions

Proposals aimed at increasing the number of bigger walleyes in southern Wisconsin waters and the number of bigger muskies statewide are among the top fisheries questions this year.

The current walleye bag and size limits on many southern waters would change under a proposal aimed at providing anglers more and bigger walleyes while simplifying rules, and boosting walleye natural reproduction.

Southern Wisconsin fish managers say the change would address heavy fishing pressure that removes many female walleyes from the population before they've been able to spawn for the first time. DNR fisheries surveys during the past 20 years have shown significantly better walleye populations on lakes with more restrictive length and bag limits, fish managers say.

"Our goal is to make walleye fishing better," said Ben Heussner, the Waukesha-based DNR fisheries biologist leading the issue. "Lakes that already have the 18-inch length limit and a daily bag limit of three have shown increases in yield, size structure, abundance, and natural reproduction."

Muskie size limits statewide would increase from 34 to 40 inches on 600 muskie waters under a proposal developed by DNR's muskie committee with input from muskie clubs and other anglers.

"Our goal is to provide bigger muskies, and we'll do that by better matching the biological potential of the fish and lakes to the regulation," said Tim Simonson, muskie committee co-chairman. Simonson said DNR data suggest that growth potential for muskies exceeds 40 inches on nearly all Wisconsin lakes, but that 60 percent of the fish kept are less than 40 inches. The result is there are fewer bigger fish left to reach their full potential, or contribute to reproductive success much beyond their first few years of adulthood.

Other questions, if supported, would require the use of quick-strike rigs when fishing with live bait 10 inches or longer, and increase muskie size limits to 50 inches on a handful of lakes in Barron, Oconto, Sheboygan, and

Sauk counties.

Audio slide shows and brochures providing more information on these proposals can be found online on the fisheries spring hearings questions page of the DNR website.

NRB advisories

NRB members placed two advisory questions of its own on the ballot, asking citizens if they favor requiring the use of non-toxic shotgun ammunition for all hunting/shooting activities on DNR-managed lands (with the exception of DNR shooting ranges), and if Wisconsin should ban deer baiting and feeding 10 days before and during the nine-day firearms deer season.

Conservation Congress

During the Conservation Congress portion of the meeting, citizens nominate and elect local delegates to represent their local interests on the Wisconsin Conservation Congress. They also will be able to express their support or non-support for ideas that could change fish and wildlife management policy.

"Citizens have the opportunity to weigh in on natural resources issues that may affect them. The Congress asks these questions to gauge the public's support, or lack thereof, on any issue," Harvey said. "It is a true grass-roots process that empowers the citizens of this state to shape natural resources policy."

The Congress will ask whether sportsmen support: the use of crossbows during the archery deer season statewide; the use of rifles in all current shotgun-only counties during the gun deer season; allowing trapping and hunting on state park lands; keeping the state wolf population goal at 350; and managing largemouth and smallmouth bass as separate species.

Citizens also may initiate changes to fish and wildlife policy by introducing ideas as resolutions at their local meetings. The Congress is a legislatively created advisory body to the DNR and NRB.

While written comments are not accepted on WCC advisory questions, citizens may submit written comment on the DNR-proposed rules. Written comments on the proposed hunting and trapping regulations should be submitted via U.S. mail to Scott Loomans, DNR Bureau of Wildlife Management, P.O. Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707. Written comments on the proposed fishing regulations may be submitted via U.S. mail to Kate Strom-Hiorns, DNR Bureau of Fisheries Management, P.O. Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707. Written comments must be postmarked no later than April 11.

The spring hearings questionnaire listing and discussing items scheduled for consideration during both the DNR and WCC portions of the evening is available on the spring rules hearings pages of the DNR website or by contacting any DNR service center or by calling Kari Lee-Zimmermann at (608) 266-0580.

Wisconsin Outdoor News staff members contributed to this report.

Categories: News Archive, Turkey

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