Hunting age, no backtag, blaze pink bills advance

Madison — Wisconsin may soon join dozens of other states that have no minimum hunting age and instead would allow parents to decide when their child is physically, mentally, and emotionally ready to become an active participant.

By a 3-2 vote Jan. 7, the Senate Committee on Sporting Heritage, Mining and Forestry approved SB 301, which takes aim at eliminating the minimum age at which youths can participate in mentored hunts in Wisconsin.

Tens of thousands of kids age 10 and older have participated in the mentored hunting program since it began in 2009, and they’ve proved to be among the safest hunters in the woods, statistics indicate.

Critics of the bill say they believe that’s due to the one-gun, -bow, or -crossbow rule between the mentor and beginner, helping the youth focus on safety. But SB 301 not only opens mentored hunting up to any age, it would allow the mentor to also carry a firearm, bow, or crossbow.

Meanwhile, AB 291, allowing bright pink clothing to join blaze orange as a legal color for hunters during gun deer seasons, and SB 289, eliminating deer and bear backtags, both appear headed to Gov. Scott Walker.

And, when Wisconsin regains the ability to manage its gray wolf population, AB 700 would move the season opener back to the first Saturday in November.

Here’s a closer look at those and other bills of interest to hunters and anglers. 

AB 291

The pink clothing bill was introduced July 29, and a public hearing was held Oct. 14 before the Assembly Committee on Natural Resources and Sporting Heritage recommended passage in a 14-1 vote.

A second public hearing was held Jan. 6, and the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Small Business and Tourism approved the bill by a 7-2 vote Jan. 15. It passed the Assembly in November and the Senate Jan. 20.

Jon Gafner, of Jon’s Sport Shop in Oshkosh, said if there were any changes made, fluorescent yellow and green would seem to be natural additions. But pink? 

“What’s next, a pink cheese-head?” Gafner said. “If they came out and said 25 percent of sales go to women’s breast cancer research, now that’s a different story.”

Rep. Nick Milroy, D-South Range, is one bill sponsor. 

“We’ve been seeing pink camo clothing and outdoor gear becoming more popular, and I thought this might be a good way for creating an opportunity for these manufacturers for recruiting and retaining these hunters,” Milroy said.

His initial hope was that a portion of the proceeds would go toward nonprofit groups that are specifically into retaining and recruiting new hunters, but Milroy said that idea didn’t go over so well.

“They didn’t want to place a mandate,” he said of his fellow legislators. “Even though we don’t have that component, this might give more opportunities to people and make manufacturers look at a target market more, and come up with some charitable donation ideas on their own.”

SB 289

The backtag bill was introduced Oct. 6, and a public hearing was held Dec. 9. The Senate Committee on Sporting Heritage, Mining and Forestry recommended passage by a 4-1 vote Jan. 7, and the bill is available for scheduling.

In its fiscal estimate, the DNR said the bill would have an indeterminate impact on the expenditures of state and local law enforcement who may be required to spend more time investigating complaints where the identity of the suspect is no longer established by an observed backtag.

Additionally, the estimate stated that the requirement to visibly display a backtag creates an apparent deterrent for hunting without a license. Removal of the requirement to display a backtag may alter, indeterminately, the number of hunters who elect to comply with the hunting license requirements. 

Hunters have been required to wear backtags while hunting deer in Wisconsin since 1942, the mid-point of World War II.

AB 700, and more

Once Wisconsin regains the ability to manage wolves, AB 700 would change the date on which the annual open season for wolf hunting and trapping begins from Oct. 15 to the first Saturday in November. A public hearing on the bill was held Jan. 20.

SB 338, relating to interfering with hunting, fishing, and trapping and providing criminal penalties, and AB 527, authorizing a person to shoot to kill an animal wounded by certain hunters, both have been referred to the Committee on Rules.

Some other bills in various stages of the legislative process include SB 147, relating to unattended decoys left in water; AB 640, relating to the regulation of aquaculture and fish farms; and SB 543, relating to special registration plates for a number of groups, including the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Whitetails Unlimited.

Check out the text of these and other hunting and fishing bills and amendments at

The public may also view legislative and public testimony at hearings on any bills – archived or live – by searching By watching, you can hear what various legislators, DNR officials, representatives of various groups, and concerned citizens have to say.

Categories: Hunting News

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