Statewide rifle use in; treestands, trolling out

Madison — Sportsmen voted against statewide three-line motor trolling and overnight treestand placement on state land, but did support other DNR proposed rule changes that included: a 54-inch muskie size limit for Lake Michigan waters; earlier walleye and muskie bag limit increases in the ceded territory; statewide rifle use during gun deer season; open-water waterfowl hunting on 12 lakes; and expanding the bobcat hunting and trapping zone.

The voting took place Monday, April 8 at spring fish and game rule hearings in each of the state’s 72 counties.

The main event was the 65 proposed fish and game rule changes offered by the DNR. The proposed rules above were included. Then came three advisory questions from the Natural Resources Board (NRB) and 31 advisory questions from the Conservation Congress.

Crossbows and dogs

NRB member Greg Kazmierski had placed two crossbow questions on the list. Both failed to game popular support, but his “full inclusion” question came far closer to passing than his “separate license, one-month” question.

Under full inclusion, a hunter of any age could buy an archery deer license and use a bow or crossbow to hunt the entire archery season. That idea failed by a vote of 2,277 yes votes to 2,479 no votes, but it passed in 43 counties, failed in 28 and tied in one.

Kazmierski’s second question would create a separate license and season for bow and crossbow hunters, with crossbow hunters limited to a one-month season from the September archery opener to mid-October. All ages could participate.

That idea bombed with 1,263 yes votes, and 3,395 no votes. It passed in only two counties and was rejected in 70.

Kazmierski said he has no plans of bringing back other crossbow proposals, not even the “55 and over” idea that received popular support the past couple of years. He said crossbow proponents allowed that idea to die by not getting legislators to support that change.

Kazmierski did say that Wisconsin Bowhunters Association officers and a Hunters Rights Coalition lobbyist met with legislators following the spring hearings to continue working on crossbow law changes.

Kazmierski said he did not know what was discussed.

NRB member Dave Clausen placed a question on the spring hearings that asked whether dogs should be used for hunting wolves, and whether hunters should be allowed to train their dogs to trail wolves.

His question was narrowly supported, 2,631 to 2,494, but it was only supported in 24 counties. Voters in 48 approved of the use of dogs to trail wolves, whether for training or hunting.

The three NRB questions are not proposed rule changes. The DNR will take the wolf question under advisement as it works on a permanent wolf season rule, but crossbow changes require legislation, so sportsmen who want changes to the crossbow rules must take that issue to their senators and Assembly representatives. The DNR will not be taking action on crossbow hunting.

Congress questions

Sportsmen supported Congress advisory questions that allow panfish limits to be set by species; expand state park hunting and trapping beyond the limits set by the NRB in December; end the December antlerless deer season; allow trapping on National Park Service lands; create a statewide bobcat season; and allow year-round coyote hunting.

Sportsmen rejected just four of the Conservation Congress’s 31 questions: doing away with the backtag requirement for deer hunting; requiring the registration of canoes and kayaks (non-motorized watercraft); allowing 14- and 15-year-olds to participate in youth hunts without a mentor; and allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to participate in all youth hunts (except waterfowl).

Voters did support the idea of eliminating various state fish and wildlife stamps for 16- and 17-year-olds.

Conservation Congress delegates will review advisory questions votes at the body’s annual convention that will take place in Eau Claire this year from May 9-11.

Motor trolling vote

Heading into the spring hearings, the DNR had considered several trolling proposals, including a one-line-per-person idea, but instead went with the three-line-per-person rule change that appeared on the April 8 agenda.

That question failed by a vote of 2,391 yes to 2,775 no. It did receive support in 44, but was rejected in 27 counties and tied in one county.
There has been no word yet as to how the DNR will proceed from here.

DNR Bureau of Fisheries Director Mike Staggs said hearing results will now go to the NRB for review at the board’s May 22 meeting in Madison.

“Any (DNR) recommendations would not be finalized until we hear from the Conservation Congress at their May 9-10 meeting. I’m sure there will be much discussion of these particular proposals between now and then,” said Staggs.

At least two fishermen and resort owners who oppose motor trolling will also continue working on the issue. John and Brenda Dettloff traveled from their home in Hayward to Madison (John) and Milwaukee (Brenda) on April 8 to address the trolling issue before an urban audience.

The Dettloffs are weary of hearing the DNR say the agency needs to implement the trolling rule to simplify fishing regulations – that’s been the most common response from DNR Natural Resources Staff Specialist Tim Simonson, who works on muskie management.

“I think this is a personal agenda by people in the (DNR fisheries) bureau,” said Brenda Dettloff. “They’re using the governor as sort of a scapegoat because he has asked for simplification where it makes sense. But the governor also has people in place who he expects to do their job.”

Larry Slagoski, of the Wausau area, is president of the Wisconsin Musky Clubs Alliance, the largest muskie fishing group in the state. Slagoski said the Alliance is staunchly opposed to expanding any trolling rules.

“No lines. Not three, not one – no lines. That’s my personal opinion,” said Slagoski, in reference to several resolutions that came in from individual fishermen across the state on April 8. Some of those resolutions offered a compromise of one-line trolling, or one-line trolling only with an electric motor.

“That one line with an electric motor would allow fishermen to drag a sucker while casting, but we don’t need that,” said Slagoski. “The game wardens handle position fishing differently. If the game wardens would all get together and agree on how to handle that, we wouldn’t need any changes.”

In Vilas County, retired DNR fish biologist Lloyd “Duke” Andrews, of Minocqua, gave an impassioned plea opposing motor trolling, citing increased muskie harvest and increased muskie hooking and release mortality on a fishery that is already stressed by unlimited off-reservation winter and open-water muskie spearing by the state’s six Chippewa tribes.

For the complete list of votes for the 2013 hearings, visit http://dnr.wi.gov/About/WCC/Documents/spring_hearing/2013/2013_StatewideResults.pdf.

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