Hearing voters favor more open-water duck hunting

Madison — Spring hearing voters heavily supported DNR ideas that would allow year-round fishing seasons, make an experimental split bobcat season permanent, expand open-water duck hunting to 14 large lakes, allow rough fish spearing, and allow the overnight use of trail cameras on state land.

Sportsmen also voted to support:

  • More strict license requirements for hunting guides;
  • Eliminate fish management zones if biologically unnecessary;
  • Maintain printed regulation booklets for fishing regulations;
  • Continue posting fishing regulation signs at the water;
  • Have border-water fishing regulations consistent with neighboring states.

The same voters rejected DNR ideas that would allow motor trolling statewide, place identical bag limits for a fish species statewide, place identical length limits for a fish species statewide, have identical season lengths for a fish species statewide, and eliminate fish refuges if fish species could be protected with lower bag limits and higher size limits.

  • Sportsmen also said “no” to:
  • Eliminating separate stamps and tags;
  • Eliminating less popular fishing licenses;
  • Issuing the same fishing licenses for the same fees regardless of residency;
  • Requiring the use of nontoxic fishing tackle on Escanaba, Nebish, and Pallette lakes;
  • Allowing the DNR to publish a list of refuges instead of posting refuges with signs.

Sportsmen also told the DNR they’d not likely use a smartphone “app” to access fishing, hunting, and trapping regulation information, nor do they rely on other anglers to learn about fishing regulations.
Interestingly enough, the majority of sportsmen (71 counties) also said they don’t look at fishing regulations before going fishing. In that vote, 3,151 sportsmen said they typically don’t read the regs first; only 361 sportsmen said they did.

All of the above votes were made on the DNR side of the agenda during the annual spring fish and game hearings that took place Monday, April 9 in each of the state’s 72 counties. The DNR’s ideas were offered as “advisory questions” this year – instead of proposed rule changes as in the past – because legal requirements of Act 21 passed by the Republican majority in the Legislature last year slows down the state’s administrative rule change process.
Unless changes are made to Act 21, the DNR will only be able to offer proposed rule changes every other year in odd-numbered years, according to Scott Loomans, the DNR’s wildlife regulation specialist.

Conservation Congress

All other advisory questions from April 9 were offered by the Conservation Congress, and some of those questions drew most of the public’s interest, including the sandhill crane hunt and a 25 mph speed limit on frozen lake/river surfaces.

The winter speed limit on ice was rejected by a margin of just 71 votes (1,971 opposed and 1,900 in favor), with 35 counties rejecting, and 33 supporting. The vote tied in four counties.

Sportsmen supported the sandhill crane season, with 2,559 voters in favor and 1,271 opposed. The idea passed in 64 counties, failed in four counties, and tied in three counties.

The Conservation Congress listed 54 advisory questions on this year’s agenda. Some of the measures favored by sportsmen were:

  • Phase out felt-soled waders (invasive species);
  • Archers in quota units must apply for antlerless permits;
  • Allow the use of rifles in all of Shawano County;
  • Allow trolling while positioning fishing;
  • Allow the sale of turkey bones and feathers;
  • Allow bowhunting on the closed area of Grand River Wildlife Area;
  • Increase trapping license fee by $2 to fund permanent trapper education position;
  • Spring closure for northern pike on Green Bay and tributaries;
  • Weapon option for deer, bear, and turkey (would allow the use of crossbow during archery deer season for those age 55 and older);
  • Allow a continuous open season for trout in “put and take” lakes;
  • Eliminate the late opening of largemouth bass season in northwest Wisconsin;
  • Require the DNR to notify the public about wolf depredation or attacks on livestock;
  • Allow statewide coyote hunting during the gun deer season;
  • Allow the use of Pittman-Robertson money for shooting ranges.

Just three Conservation Congress questions besides the winter ice speed limit failed to gain support statewide:

  • Consolidating jurisdictions for wetland management regulations;
  • Creating a public/private antlerless deer tag system;
  • A lower panfish bag limit.

Town hall forum

A total of 4,611 people attended the 2012 Spring Fisheries and Wildlife Informational Hearings, as they are now called, and Wisconsin Conservation Congress county meetings, but few of those sportsmen stayed long enough to participate in the new town hall meetings aimed at discussing rule simplification and the recruiting and retention of new hunters, anglers, and trappers.
The results of that meeting are being compiled by Kari Lee Zimmerman, the DNR’s liaison to the Congress.
The results of this year’s spring hearings will be reviewed at the Natural Resources Board’s May 23 meeting in Madison. Votes are non-binding and are presented to the Natural Resources Board as advisories.
Voting results are listed here.

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