GLIFWC OKs tribal night deer hunting in the north

Madison (AP) — A commission that oversees Chippewa tribes’ off-reservation rights last week quietly authorized tribal hunters to go after deer at night across most of the northern third of Wisconsin, sparking yet another clash with state wildlife officials.

Sue Erickson, spokeswoman for the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, told The Associated Press that the commission issued the authorization for tribal hunters. Each of the state's six Chippewa tribes must approve the plan before its members can take part, she said.

The state Department of Natural Resources prohibits hunting deer at night, contending the practice is too dangerous. DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp said the agency plans to file a federal lawsuit seeking to block the commission's order.

“We really believe this is not something they have the authority to do,” Stepp said. “This is one of those issues … we need to push back on.”

Under treaties signed in the early 1800s, the Chippewa ceded 22,400 square miles across northern Wisconsin to the government. A federal court ruling in 1991 found the tribes have the right to harvest at least 50 percent of the quota for any animal hunted in that territory.

Backed by the court ruling, the tribes run their own deer hunt in the Ceded Territory independent of the state’s bow and firearms seasons. The tribal season generally runs from late August until early January.

Erickson said the commission felt night deer hunting was justified because state legislation allows hunters to go after wolves at night. The wolf hunt has been a source of contention between the state and the Chippewa, who view wolves as sacred to their culture.

The commission tweaked the DNR earlier this year when it tried to lay claim to all the wolves in the Ceded Territory in an effort to protect them from hunting.

Erickson argued that the night deer hunting order parallels the wolf hunt legislation, prohibiting shining except at the point of kill.

“We’re not authorizing shining. We’re authorizing night hunting. That needs to be very clear,” she said. “If the DNR deems that safe, why is it not safe for the tribes to do it?”

Tensions have been running high between the DNR and the commission since September, when the commission authorized a tribal elk hunt despite DNR contentions that the group had to reach a consensus with the agency first.

The DNR’s Stepp said the commission and the DNR have been talking about possibly allowing tribal members to hunt deer at night, but Stepp said the commission again abruptly chose to act on its own.

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