Tuesday, April 11, 2006

WISCONSIN NEWS: Hunters reject political meddling in deer management

(Ed. note--I was really glad to see Gunderson get spanked here.)

By Ed Culhane
Appleton Post-Crescent staff writer

KAUKAUNA — Hunters and other sportsmen voted statewide Monday on state Rep. Scott Gunderson's proposal to bypass the normal rules process and set deer seasons by statute.

The question appeared as a submitted floor resolution in each of Wisconsin's 72 counties during the annual spring fish and game rules hearings and annual county meetings of the Conservation Congress. Gunderson, R-Waterford, had forwarded the resolution to every county.

Ballots at the county hearings will be tabulated electronically and the results released Wednesday afternoon, state officials said.

Representatives of the Outagamie County delegation to the Conservation Congress predicted Gunderson's resolution would be soundly defeated.

"I think there's going to be backlash on it because they (hunters) don't want legislators doing game management," Dennis Neuman of Seymour, a county delegate, said after the meeting.

Ralph Fritsch of Kaukauna urged his fellow hunters to send a message to Madison.

"This is not a resolution," said Fritsch. "This is Assembly Bill 1129. If that bill passes, this will take precedence as the first time legislators have dictated to hunters what their deer seasons will be. Vote 'no' and tell Gunderson to stick this thing where the sun doesn't shine."

Two hunters spoke against the resolution at the Outagamie County meeting. Don Rogalski of Bear Creek, a member of the Wisconsin Bowhunters Association, introduced his own resolution calling for the restoration of deer hunting seasons previously set by the state Natural Resources Board.

Those seasons offered hunters a two-year moratorium on the unpopular early Zone T gun hunts — four-day, antlerless-deer-only gun hunts in October in areas of the state with too many deer — in favor of expanded Zone T gun hunts in December. Hunters have complained for years that the October gun hunt disrupts the early bow season and changes deer movements before the traditional nine-day November gun season.

But the rule was suspended by the Natural Resources committees of the state Assembly and Senate, based on an objection by the Association of Wisconsin Snowmobile Clubs, a group that objects to gun hunts north of State Highway 8 during the second week of December. The joint Committee on the Review of Rules and Regulations will hold a public hearing on the issue April 18.

Gunderson then submitted a deer season structure in the form of a state statute. It eliminates October Zone T hunts statewide, forbids late season Zone T hunts north of State 8 and creates a new 4-day muzzleloader hunt in October. Most statewide hunting and conservation clubs have taken positions against Gunderson's bill, including the Wisconsin Muzzleloader Association.

No one spoke in favor of Gunderson's bill.

The meetings take place simultaneously in every county, giving sportsmen the opportunity to vote on proposed changes to fishing, hunting and trapping seasons and to weigh in on Conservation Congress resolutions that will be considered by that group's study committees.

The Outagamie County meeting went quickly, with little or no discussion on most of the more than 75 questions on the ballots. Even the perpetually divisive issue of whether the practices of deer baiting and deer feeding should be partially or completely banned drew no testimony.

The question of creating a deer season in High Cliff State Park did spark commentary.

Jeff Samida of Sherwood said that despite public meetings at which neighbors of the park expressed concerns about the proposed gun hunt, none of their ideas appear in the proposal.

"We've had quite a few suggestions," Samida said. "It doesn't seem like it's changed one iota."

When it was pointed out that hunting takes place safely in other state parks, Cheryl Dewing of Sherwood objected, saying High Cliff was different.

"They don't have the proximity to homes that we do," Dewing said. "That's why we object. It's a safety issue."

Others at the meeting named parks in urban areas with hunting, but the Sherwood residents were not appeased.

"This is not a hunting area, this is an urban park," said Mary Pat Thomson.

Ed Culhane can be reached at 920-993-1000, ext. 216, or by e-mail at eculhane@postcrescent.com.

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