Putting the resource first comes easy for most Wisconsin hunters, fishermen and trappers
Sometimes non-hunters think that the only thing that hunters are interested in is shooting as much wild game as they can.
That a non-hunter may harbor that belief is understandable knowing that some hunters have advocated for hunting seasons on sandhill cranes and tundra swans – something that non-hunters just can't understand and probably never will – and many backed the hunting season on mourning doves, a game bird that had previously been protected in Wisconsin, but not in most other states.
Not all hunters have advocated for those additional hunting seasons, and the rationale behind new seasons varies with each species.
But anyone who attended the June meeting of the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board heard the real feelings of sportsmen when Al Shook, chair of the Conservation Congress Migratory Bird Committee, addressed the board about a proposed early teal hunting season in Wisconsin that was later approved by the board beginning this fall.
Wisconsin is being offered an early teal hunting season for the first time in 50 years. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would allow the state to open a season for 16 days and allow shooting from a half-hour before sunrise to sunset.
Al Shook, making his comments to the board on behalf of the migratory committee, said the committee had changed its support for the proposed early teal season from the original 50/50 split to supporting it 60/40, but the committee was concerned about the impact on the waterfowl resource.
“We don’t want to over-harvest or damage the resource,” Shook said.
In light of concerns by the congress’ migratory committee and the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation Waterfowl Committee, the state recommended an early teal season for only seven days – instead of the 16 available – with shooting hours on opening day open beginning at 9 a.m. to help hunters better identify ducks.
In addition, shooting the other six days will be delayed and open at sunrise, rather than an half hour before sunrise, and will end each day at 7 p.m., rather than sunset.
“I never heard anyone seriously ask for the 16-day season, and the committee decided on the seven-day season as the teal populations have never been this high,” Shook said.
The Conservation Congress committee even considered making the end of shooting hours a half-hour before sundown, to help be sure that hunters would not mistakenly shoot wood ducks.
Shook said that the committee was in favor of the early teal season, but he noted that Minnesota was balking at the idea and likely will not participate in the early teal hunt.
A similar show of concern over resource use took place at the May board meeting when John Detloff, of Hayward, appeared on the topic of motor trolling. He told the board that although he guides fishermen for muskies, he encourages people to respect the waters and was very much against allowing even one line for trolling in the 17 counties that opposed motor trolling in 2013.
“It will put additional stress on many of our already fragile muskie and walleye fisheries,” he said.
Sportsmen's opinions differ and there are groups and individuals who are “me-oriented” and often want seasons that cater to their own interests. But that is not true of all hunters, trappers and fishermen, and fortunately the majority of them put their first concern on what’s best for the resource.
That’s a tradition among outdoorsmen that goes back to the early 1900s, thanks to other outdoorsmen like Teddy Roosevelt, George Bird Grinnell, and Ding Darling.