More hunting and trapping in state parks next year

As of Jan. 1, hunting and trapping will be  allowed in all state parks, trail and other natural areas, but in a much reduced level compared to the original intent of the Sporting Heritage Bill. Tuesday the Natural Resources Board voted to allow hunting and trapping in state parks from November 15th to December 15th and also from April 1st through the end of the third turkey season of the spring.  The porting Heritage Bill (Act 168), signed into law in April, originally recommended opening parks for hunting and trapping from Oct. 15 through the Thursday prior to the Memorial Day weekend. Since this is a significant departure from the original intent of the bill, this may not be the last word on the issue.

The NRB voted to limit the original bill in large part due to the overwhelmingly negative public response.  Of the 2,033 public comments the DNR received, were 1,949 opposed to the bill and 64 people from all over the state registered to speak at the meeting – a new record. According to the DNR, many of the people who objected to the bill even threatened to boycott state parks.  After seriously considering  the comments of the numerous advocates for both silent sports and for hunting, the NRB unanimously voted to limit hunting and approved only dog-proof traps.

Unchanged are the provisions that prohibit hunting and trapping within 100 yards of a designated use area such as a campground, picnic area, trail or beach, or where there are public safety concerns, or to protect unique habitat.

Depsite the record hours of public testimony opposing the bill, prior to the vote, the author of the amendment, Rep. Jeffrey Mursau (R-Crivitz) continued to defend his bill to the NRB:

“My amendment changed arbitrary closures; reversed the presumption all state parks automatically closed to hunting. Hunting, fishing and trapping are constitutional rights in the state of Wisconsin. Regardless of what you hear today, peace and quiet are not constitutional rights.

The NRB also directed the DNR to begin work on an emergency rule to prohibit shooting across state trails and trails within park boundaries.  This may prove to be a huge challenge to the DNR.  

The law goes into effect on January 1st 2013.  It is unclear at this time if the ruling of the NRB will stand, so the Bike Fed will continue to keep attention on the issue.  Some concerns our members still have with the implementation of the law are the duration of the archery season and the logistics of enforcing the 100 yard buffer zones around the designated special use areas. Stay tuned to this blog for more information on how the WDNR implements the NRB’s recommendations and on the reaction from the state legislature.

For the official DNR news release – click here:

4 thoughts on “More hunting and trapping in state parks next year

  1. If I read his comments right, it sounds like Rep Mursau has his undies in a bunch. Did anyone remind him that biking alone brings in far more money every year than the most hallowed deer hunting? And all silent sports combined dwarf the amount of monies into state coffers from hunting? In every other walk of life and political process the 900 pound gorilla gets its way…but not here it would seem….

    “Hunting, fishing and trapping are constitutional rights in the state of Wisconsin. Regardless of what you hear today, peace and quiet are not constitutional rights.” ya, but NOT being shot at because you made a twig snap as you walked down a trail should also be considered a Constitutional Right..of sorts anyway…

    I am not against Hunting, I hunt occasionally myself, and am glad all state parks are not automatically closed during hunting, but hunters and hunting advocates must acknowledge that there are some places they just cannot hunt. And a multi use trail system has to be one of them. I still say 100 yards is not far enough away for a rifle hunter…

    It will be interesting to see how this all shakes out…

    • Hey Ralph,

      As a hunter myself, I am proud of Wisconsin’s stellar hunter safety record, but I also understand the feelings of non-hunting parks users. I can’t imagine myself accidentally shooting someone. Like most good hunters, I am extremely careful to only take shots on deer that have a very high percentage chance to kill. Because of this, in all my years of hunting deer, I have never needed more than one bullet to drop a deer and I have never missed. I’m no Annie Oakley, I just pass on anything but a sure shot.

      Like I said, even if every hunter followed the same guidelines I do, it is still reasonable for non-hunters to have state parks to use where they don’t have to worry about people with guns, bows or traps. Wisconsin is a big state and we have plenty of space for all of us. When I first started hunting, before I was lucky enough to find a friend with private land in Ashland County, I hunted in Black River Falls State Forest. I also hunted in the southern Kettle Moraine State Forest, public lands that have been open for hunting for years.

      Again, speaking as a hunter, I never had any difficulty finding public land to hunt on with the old system where the local land managers made the decision on hunting.

      Wisconsin has been a great state for bicycling AND hunting for years. As a bicycle advocate I work every day to make it a better place to ride a bike. I understand hunting advocates are doing the same, but when the public speaks as loudly as they have on this issue, advocates need to know when they have lost and move on unless it really is an issue of constitutional rights. In this case our Wisconsin State Constitution does indeed guaranty the right to hunt, but it also allows for “reasonable restrictions.”

      That is why I can’t pull out my .22 caliber pistol and shoot the rabbits in my garden on 59th and Garfield in the City of Milwaukee. Similarly reasonable restrictions have been in place in our state parks for years. I think the Sporting Heritage Bill is trying to fix what was never broken.

      • I am a former Expert Mt and Cat 2 Road biker, I also hunt. I now bike with a twin tandem (family of 4 on one bike) and I hunt Turkey, Deer, Pheasant, Duck, Geese…. My first experience was biking in the Northern Kettle and seeing a deer and then seeing a hunter. I talked to the hunter and pointed him in the direction of a buck. I was wearing NO blaze orange, had a white helmet and was going quite fast to the point I startled the hunter. Now at this time I was around 16 yrs old and didn’t think hunters would be on or near the trails but I didn’t know and didn’t have any way at the time to check (Internet was very minimal at the time). I think this should be reviewed as places I go on state land to hunt you don’t normally go to enjoy hiking, biking, and the outdoors. It is land set up for hunting. They are expanding areas to hunt on farmers land with leases which is a win/win. I also know some camping areas are in large need to thin the coon population and other animals that are left unchecked due to the use of the property.
        I think parks need a minimal acres to even be considered and “sectioned off” area that users are aware of the activity that allowed. Hartman State Park does a Great job of this, but I wouldn’t like it expanded to say High Cliff State Park I don’t see any purpose to add hunting in this location unless it was limited to archery/cross bow or nothing greater then x size pellets.
        I also think expanding use of a Crossbow and allow them to use either weapon for Deer for example should be allowed in limited areas.
        Don’t forget people enjoy our parks and state land year round… If they don’t feel safe they won’t come back. Balance is needed and I love your closing statement… “I think the Sporting Heritage Bill is trying to fix what was never broken.”

  2. One question on hunting on state trails. Will there be restrictions to hunting on state trails that run next to highways or active railroads? For example, several sections of the Military Ridge trail are parallel to 4 lane US 18/151. The La Crosse River Trail runs next to a busy Canadian Pacific rail line for its entire 21 miles.

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