WI: Uncased gun law approved

Earn-a-buck law repealed

Madison – When the 2011 Wisconsin gun deer season opens on
Saturday, Nov. 19, hunters no longer will have to case their guns
while transporting them in a vehicle, nor shoot a doe before they
may shoot a buck in units with higher-than-desired deer
numbers.

Any hunter who’s ever placed an uncased firearm or bow on, or in, a
car, truck, or other motor vehicle violated state law and was
subject to receiving a citation from a conservation warden.

But now hunters no longer will be violating the law if they lay an
unloaded gun, or bow, in a car’s trunk, truck bed, or passenger
compartment of a truck, car, SUV, or have one in a boat or on an
all-terrain vehicle.

On Friday, Nov. 4, Gov. Scott Walker signed into law Senate Bill
228 (Act 51), which eases one of the nation’s most restrictive
gun-case laws. The bill cleared the state Assembly just a day
earlier on a bipartisan 65-31 vote.

The new law permits a firearm to be outside a case while in, or on,
a vehicle, but the gun must be unloaded. It also allows a person to
place or possess such a firearm that is loaded on a vehicle if the
vehicle is stationary. The law also defines stationary, when
referring to a vehicle, to include a vehicle with the motor
running, if the vehicle is not moving.

This definition also applies to stationary vehicles used by persons
hunting with disabled hunter permits.

Currently, no person may operate an ATV with a firearm, other than
a handgun (with a concealed carry permit), in his or her possession
unless the firearm is unloaded and cased. Under the new law, the
firearm may be outside a case but must be unloaded.

With some exceptions, current law states that no person may place,
possess, or transport a bow or crossbow in or on a motorboat or a
vehicle unless the bow or crossbow is unstrung or is enclosed in a
case. When the new law takes effect, the bow or crossbow may be
strung and outside a case, but a bow may not have an arrow nocked
and a crossbow may not be cocked.

The new law also will allow an ATV operator to have a bow in his or
her possession, and expands this provision to include crossbows. A
bow or crossbow may be strung and outside a case, but a bow may not
have an arrow nocked and a crossbow may not be cocked.

“Thanks to the governor’s quick action in signing this legislation,
hunters will be able to exercise safer handling of their firearms
already in the 2011 deer season,” said Carl Schoettel, vice
president of the Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association.

“Wisconsin’s gun-case law has been completely impractical and has
done nothing but penalize hunters for an irrelevant action, giving
Wisconsin the reputation of being unfriendly to hunters,” Schoettel
said. “Placing the firearm on or in the vehicle is often the safest
and most practical place. Hunters should not have to put their
firearm in the snow as they get out their gun case every time they
get back to their vehicle.”

The new law will take effect on the day after its date of
publication, as designated by the secretary of state, which may not
be more than 10 working days after the date of enactment, so it
should be in effect for the start of the gun deer season.

In its essence, the new law can be boiled down to a single
statement, said Tim Lawhern, DNR Division of Enforcement and
Science administrator.

“Unless otherwise prohibited, you can carry a long gun, uncased and
unloaded, in or on a motor vehicle in Wisconsin at any time,”
Lawhern said. The DNR has prepared a “frequently asked questions”
section on Act 51 that’s available on the law enforcement pages of
the DNR website.

While the law has changed, Lawhern said, there will be many people
who will continue to use a case to transport unloaded firearms in
vehicles, as hunters have been and will continue to be advised in
hunter education courses.

“It’s a great way to protect your investment in your firearms,”
Lawhern said.

As is always the case with a new law, Lawhern said, the first year
is an educational opportunity.

DNR Chief Warden Randy Stark has provided the state’s warden force
with instructions on the new law and its enforcement. Wardens will
use a mix of enforcement, communication, and education to help
hunters understand and comply with the new law, Lawhern said.

Here are a few things hunters might need to know about the new
law:

A caveat to the uncased long gun rule: The new legislation does not
change Wisconsin law regulating the practice of shining
(illuminating) wild animals at night with artificial light. It will
still be illegal to possess a firearm of any kind, loaded or
unloaded, while shining wild animals.

The new law allows individuals to hunt from a stationary
non-motorized vehicle, such as a hay wagon, so long as it is not
attached to a motor vehicle. Previously, hunting from any vehicle
was prohibited, without the distinction of whether the vehicle was
motorized or stationary. This change previously had been sought by
warden administrators.

“People used to have to take one or more wheels off the hay wagon
to comply with the letter of the law,” Lawhern said.

EAB dead

On Nov. 4, Walker also signed SB 75 (Act 50) that permanently ends
earn-a-buck and likely will make October antlerless deer hunts a
rarity.

This law prohibits the DNR from requiring a person who holds a deer
license to kill an antlerless deer before killing the person’s
first antlered deer under that license. It also places restrictions
on the DNR’s authority to establish seasons for hunting deer with
firearms.

And it generally prohibits the DNR from establishing a fall deer
firearms season that begins before the Saturday immediately
preceding the fourth Thursday in November (early season). However,
the prohibition does not apply if the DNR promulgates a rule that
limits hunting during the early season to certain groups of people,
including people who are under 16 years of age or people who are
learning to hunt.

The prohibition also does not apply if the DNR establishes the
early season because it is necessary to control the spread of
chronic wasting disease or other disease in deer; the early season
is limited to hunting only antlerless deer; the closing date for
the early season is on or before Oct. 15; and the rule authorizing
the early season expires 270 days after the effective date of the
rule.

Some hunters have long complained about early gun-hunting seasons
and earn-a-buck, which they say force them to pass up trophy
kills.

The new rule will be in effect when the state’s deer-hunting season
begins Nov. 19.

The bill passed the Legislature despite objections from some
foresters and conservation groups who said earn-a-buck is needed to
help control the herd and protect trees and other wildlife.

Eliminating earn-a-buck “is a reaction to overuse of the EAB
deer-management tool from the past seven, eight years,” said George
Meyer, executive director of the Wisconsin Wildlife
Federation.

Meyer added that without some herd control, the deer population
will grow too large and wreak havoc on crops in upcoming years.

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