Monday, February 6th, 2023
Monday, February 6th, 2023

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Wisconsin’s spring fish and game hearings coming April 13, but in a different way

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Based on the deer season being down a ton last year, the writer doesn't see many hunters voting to extend the season, which could deplete the herd and end the muzzleloader season.

The annual spring fish and wildlife hearings and the Wisconsin DNR and Conservation Congress Meeting will still be held on Monday, April 13 at 7 p.m. but they will be online only and delegates will not be voted on. All delegates will instead serve another term.  The hearings offer citizens a chance to vote on a variety of questions that pertain to the way we hunt, fish, and trap in Wisconsin.

Questions one through seven involve requiring use of non-toxic shot on state-owned lands for certain species. Reasons for exploring the use of non-toxic shot include unintended lead poisoning of game and non-game species, lead build-up in areas with concentrated hunting, and potential human health risks. The USFWS has required non-toxic shot use for all types of hunting on all waterfowl production areas nationwide since 1998.

I could see this one going either way. There’s no question that getting rid of lead is a good idea in terms of the environment but people have been using lead since the beginning so it may be tough to convince some hunters that there is much impact from the material. In addition, synthetic shot is quite a bit more expensive than lead and not readily available for all gauges or calibers.

Question 10 asks to extend the current nine-day firearm season by adding 10 more days.

They feel that providing additional firearm hunting opportunity that also includes bucks would increase excitement and participation. This proposal would extend the current firearm hunting season for bucks and antlerless deer so that it would run until the day before the current December firearm antlerless-only hunt begins. If passed, these 10 days would eclipse the muzzleloader season.

Based on the deer season being down a ton last year I don’t see many hunters voting to extend the season, which could deplete the herd and end the muzzleloader season.

Question 13 asks if  hunters would want archery and crossbow buck tags not to be valid for use during the gun during the firearm season. Until 2002, the archery deer season closed five days prior to the traditional nine-day firearm deer season and did not reopen until five days after the firearm season closed. This put emphasis and focus exclusively on our premier firearm hunting season and likely also prevented illegal activity such as filling archery deer tags with deer harvested using firearms.

I hunt a smaller piece of property during gun season, so we have one person using a rifle and the other using a crossbow for safety reasons, so I’d hate to see this change. But, I also remember the old days and how it kind of built up excitement when you had to stop hunting five days before the season.

I could see this one passing.

Question 16 asks if baiting should be banned for the entire state of Wisconsin whereas right now it’s banned in 52 of 72 counties. Research has indicated that supplemental feeding increases deer concentration and interaction at feeding sites and promotes the accumulation of disease-causing agents at specific sites through the repeated deposition of saliva, urine and feces. They feel a statewide ban on baiting and feeding will help protect the health of the deer herd and could slow the spread of disease.

This one is always almost a 50-50 split. Heck, I know guys who hunt way up north who’d never see a deer without the bait keeping the deer in the area. I know plenty who hate baiting, too.  I see this one passing in counties that don’t allow baiting and not passing in counties that currently do.  With 52 counties already banning baiting I’d bet a statewide ban is coming.

Question 18 asks if hunters would like to see a spring bear hunt established. Spring bear hunting is popular in several Western states with seasons normally being held in May and June. If spring hunting were allowed, it would continue to be illegal to shoot a cub or a sow with a cub.

I think this will pass as it will simply reduce hunting pressure in the fall.

Question 20 is asking if hunters would support legislation that would return authority to the DNR to utilize Earn-A-Buck as a herd management tool in overpopulated counties?

Granted, none of the question on the survey become law instantly if they pass, but I’m not sure this question needed to occupy any space on the questioner itself.  EAB was perhaps the most criticized rule the legislature has ever come up with and I can’t imagine bringing it back, especially after we just had a deer herd kill that was down about 30 percent from the previous year.

The link for providing online input will be posted on the spring hearing webpage at or go to DNR.WI.GOV and search keywords “Spring Hearings.” The online input option will go live at 7 pm on April 13, the same time the spring hearings always begin, and will remain open for 72 hours.

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