Hearings agenda is full plate in 2013

Madison — Sportsmen will have a chance to vote Monday, April 8 on 99 rule change proposals and advisory questions that range from motor trolling to using dogs to hunt wolves to allowing crossbow use during the archery deer season.

That’s because the second Monday in April is always set aside for DNR and Conservation Congress spring fish and game hearings that take place in each of the state’s 72 counties beginning at 7 p.m.

Sportsmen’s votes are non-binding, but do weigh heavily in DNR, Natural Resources Board, and Conservation Congress decisions on proposed rule changes.

The hearings open with the election of Conservation Congress delegates in each county. The elections are followed by the presentation of the DNR’s proposed fish and wildlife rule changes. That’s followed by the Conservation Congress meetings where sportsmen can vote on Congress advisory questions and  introduce their own ideas for proposed rule changes. The list of hearing locations is available on the DNR website.

In many cases, the DNR’s proposed rule changes have come from sportsmen’s resolutions or previous Conservation Congress advisory questions that received support at earlier hearings.
DNR wildlife questions

A total of 33 DNR wildlife questions and proposals will be up for consideration at the spring hearings. Questions/proposals would:

  • Expand open-water hunting opportunities on various waters;
  • Offer options for training hunting dogs for wolves;
  • Increase the pheasant hunting fee at Bong SRA;
  • Eliminate the closed season at Mecan Springs refuge;
  • Allow overnight placement of blinds and treestands on DNR land;
  • Simplify trapping regulations with more consistent opening dates;
  • Reduce the size of the Horicon Zone;
  • Simplify firearms deer-hunting regulations by allowing the use of rifles statewide;
  • Simplify pheasant-hunting regulations by eliminating the requirement to tag harvested birds at stocked hen/rooster pheasant-hunting areas;
  • Simplify mink- and muskrat-trapping regulations by creating more consistent opening dates;
  • Establish that hunting hours apply to people who are training bear dogs at times when the bear season is also open (under 2011 ACT 28, bear dog training is now allowed during the season);
  • Establish a four-day trap check requirement, instead of a daily requirement, for certain types of weasel traps;
  • Establish a controlled dove hunt at Bong State Recreation Area in Kenosha County in order to improve hunter satisfaction by reducing hunter interference;
  • Expand the area where rifles are allowed for firearms deer hunting in Outagamie and Shawano counties.

DNR fish questions

The DNR will offer 32 fisheries questions/proposals, many of which previously passed through the process on the Conservation Congress side. One proposal would prohibit the use of lead sinkers, weights, and jigs weighing less than 1 ounce or that are less than 1 inch in any dimension on Escanaba, Nebish, and Pallette lakes. All three lakes are experimental waters in Vilas County.

According to DNR Fisheries Policy Specialist Kate Strom Hiorns, this is the first time for a limitation on lead tackle. A similar question on the WCC side of the questionnaire passed by a slim margin in 2010 – 1,980 in favor and 1,818 against.

Other DNR fisheries proposals would:

  • Simplify rough fish spearing seasons;
  • Apply Northern Bass Zone catch-and-release season to smallmouth bass only;
  • Allow motor trolling on all inland waters (Congress advisory in 2012: 1,928 in favor, 1,576 against);
  • Apply alternate bag and size limits using public notice and information meetings;
  • Speed up ceded territory bag and length limits adjustments (currently third week of May);
  • Apply 54-inch muskie limit on Lake Michigan;
  • Shift the hours to legally spear sturgeon on lakes Winnebago, Butte des Morts, Winneconne, and Poygan from 6:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. to 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., and shift the daily deadline for sturgeon spearers to register their fish from 1:30 to 2 p.m.;
  • Make permanent a protected slot limit on walleyes, sauger, and hybrids where there is a daily bag limit of five fish and the minimum length is 15 inches, but fish from 20 to 28 inches may not be kept and only one fish over 28 inches is allowed on the Wisconsin River north of the Prairie du Sac dam in Columbia County up to the Grandfather Dam in Lincoln County and several of its tributaries;
  • Apply a three-fish daily bag limit and 18-inch minimum length limit on walleyes, sauger and hybrids; a one-fish daily bag limit and 18-inch minimum length limit on largemouth and smallmouth bass; and a one-fish daily bag limit and a 32-inch length limit on northern pike on Park Lake and the Fox River upstream to the Hwy. 33 bridge;
  • Apply a daily bag limit of 10 fish and no minimum length limit on catfish and open the catfish season year-round on Yellowstone Lake in Lafayette County.

WCC questions

In addition to the DNR rule proposals, the Conservation Congress has a variety of advisory questions to gauge public support on various issues, including a proposal to eliminate backtags for deer hunters, expanding the definition of artificial lights for predator hunting, possible changes to the concealment rule for waterfowl hunting, and a proposal to require the registration of non-motorized boats.

During the Conservation Congress county meetings, county residents have the option to run for a seat on the Conservation Congress and to elect delegates from their county to represent their views regarding natural resources issues on the Conservation Congress. Also, individuals have the opportunity to bring forth new issues of a statewide nature to the attention of the Conservation Congress through the citizen resolution process. Information about the spring hearing process is available on the Conservation Congress pages of the DNR website.

Several items on this year’s questionnaire address bag limits on several Wisconsin waterways.

“We’ve been getting calls for restrictions on panfish in some of our lakes,” said Joe Weiss, of Spooner, Conservation Congress Warm Water Committee chairman. “The concern is about an overharvest of bluegills and crappies.

“They’re targeting the large panfish during late ice when they’re most vulnerable,” Weiss said. “It gets closer to the spawn time, and they seem to congregate. With the technology we have today, they’re easier to find and are being exploited.”

The questionnaire will ask for support of reduced bag limits on bluegills and/or crappies from 25 to 10 on Allequash Lake in Vilas County, Lake Wausau in Marathon County, and Chequamegon Waters in Taylor County.

Other Congress proposals for the spring hearings:

  • Start all trapping seasons on the same date;
  • End the December antlerless deer hunt;
  • No long require backtags for deer hunters;
  • Expand the use of crossbows;
  • Allow hunting feral pigs year-round with any hunting license;
  • Liberalize rules for using minnows on VHS waters;
  • Change the pheasant opening time to 9 a.m.;
  • Transfer a Class A bear license to an armed forces service member or Purple Heart recipient;
  • Support the DNR proposal to open state parks to hunting and trapping from Oct. 15 to the Thursday prior to Memorial Day;
  • Allow trapping on National Park Service-owned land along the Namekagan and St. Croix rivers;
  • Increase nonresident deer license fees;
  • Introduce year-round coyote hunting.

NRB advisory questions

NRB members added three advisory questions – about crossbows and hound hunting of wolves – to the fish and wildlife questionnaire.

NRB member Dave Clausen wanted to ask: “Would you favor legislation to prohibit the use of dogs to hunt wolves and training dogs to hunt wolves?”

NRB member Greg Kazmierski added two questions involving the use of crossbows during the archery deer season.

One question asks if hunters of all ages should be allowed to use crossbows during the full archery deer season with an archery deer license.

His other question asks if the state should separate crossbows and bows by creating a separate crossbow license and then allowing crossbow use only for the first four weeks of the season, ending before the rut.

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