In Wisconsin, Apostle Island blackpowder deer season may return

Madison — The Assembly Committee on Natural Resources and Sporting Heritage on Dec. 6 took the first step toward reinstating a regular muzzleloader deer season on the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.

Committee members heard from eight citizens at a public hearing that day supporting Assembly Bill 626, which would allow the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to establish a fall deer season using muzzleloading firearms that begins prior to the regular nine-day gun deer season.

Co-sponsors Rep. Beth Meyers, D-Bayfield, and Sen. Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst, explained that such a season had been in effect since 1985, but the legislature’s passage of Act 50 in 2011 unintentionally eliminated the season.

Legislators, with that Act 50, ended earn-a-buck, but also specified that no gun deer season could begin “before the Saturday immediately preceding the fourth Thursday in November,” unless the following apply:

  • The rule authorizes the hunting of only antlerless deer;
  • The rule provides for a closing date for the fall open season that is on or before Oct. 15.

In writing the 2011 Act 50, legislators overlooked the October muzzleloader deer season on the Apostle Islands that had been created in cooperation with the National Park Service to trim high deer numbers on the Apostle Islands.

Until Act 50 came along, the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore was just one of a handful of national parks or national lakeshores where hunting was allowed.

“This bill is a solution to a unique problem that has strong public support,” Meyers said.

Tiffany noted that the bill has strong bi-partisan support.

Robert Krumenaker, superintendent of the Apostle Islands for the National Park Service, told the committee that allowing the season in October was advantageous, because travel by boat to the islands in November can be treacherous.

Fred Strand, of Iron River, Bruce Prentice, of Ashland, and Scott McKay, of Rhinelander, all supported the proposed season.

Others testifying in support of the season included Larry Bonde, of the Conservation Congress, and George Meyer, of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation.

Scott Pitta, of Wisconsin Dells, added that the season would help manage the growing deer population. Pitta applauded the cooperation shown by the National Park Service and DNR on this topic.

The committee then considered Assembly Bill 665, authored by Rep. Nick Milroy, D-South Range, and supported by 46 other legislators. AB 665 would allow any person to make a voluntary contribution to the DNR to be used to cover the cost of a hunting or fishing license for disabled veterans.

The DNR currently issues reduced-cost licenses to veterans with a 50-percent or greater disability.

Milroy said that these citizen contributions would be voluntary and a way for people to show appreciation to disabled veterans.

Lee Fahrney, of Blanchardville, served 23 years in the U.S. Air Force. He said this could help veterans enjoy quality time in the outdoors.

Meyer said this provision would offer good opportunities for disabled hunters in a fiscally sound way. He pledged to help publicize and support the fund and said, if passed, the DNR would also need to publicize the fund.

Bonde backed the bill, noting that it would have no negative impact on the DNR’s Fish and Wildlife Account.

Assembly Bill 711 authored by Rep. Rob Stafsholt, R-New Richmond, would eliminate the requirement that a person hunting bear or wolf with a dog carry proof the dog had a rabies vaccination.

Dog owners must have dogs vaccinated against rabies and attach a vaccination tag to the collar of the dog, except if the dog is out hunting or being trained. However, hunters using dogs for bear or wolf hunting must have proof of the vaccination on their person, while other hunters using dogs, for instance for small game, are not required to carry the same proof.

Rep. Joel Kleefisch, R-Oconomowoc, said that this bill will reduce red tape for hunters and put things on an even keel for hunters with dogs.

Al Lobner, of the Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association, said the requirements for bear hunters currently are discriminatory.

Lucas Withrow, of Broadhead, agreed saying, “We don’t want to be singled out that we have to have paperwork in our pocket. It doesn’t make sense.”

Pat Quaintance, of Bayfield, is a retired DNR conservation warden. Quaintance thought the requirement was a hindrance for bear hunters.

Meyer said the current requirement is discriminatory and it was time to fix the problem.

The committee did not vote on these bills, but plans to hold another meeting Dec. 20, when a vote could be taken.

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