Thursday, April 13, 2006

WISCONSIN NEWS: Support for restricting deer feeding and baiting


WAUSAU, Wis. - Outdoor enthusiasts at annual conservation hearings split on whether the state should outlaw the baiting of whitetail deer, though they strongly supported restricting the practice before and during the fall hunt.

The issue came up in five questions posed to about 5,300 hunters and anglers who attended the annual spring Conservation Congress hearings in all 72 counties Monday night. The state Department of Natural Resources released results of the questions Tuesday.

The change that got the most support -- 62 percent -- was posed by the Natural Resources Board.

The question asked hunters whether they would support legislation to ban deer baiting and feeding across the state 10 days before and during the nine-day deer gun hunt in late November. It also asked whether the board should submit the proposal to the state Legislature for consideration before next fall's hunt.

The vote -- 3,198 yes and 1,977 no -- gets forwarded to the Natural Resources Board.

"I'm very pleased to see that one pass," said HerbertBehnke, the longtime board member who proposed it before his recent retirement. He said legislative opponents of restrictions on the practice are prone to listen to special interests, including feed sellers who have a profit motive.

The vote was closer for a question on whether the state should outlaw deer baiting all the time. The DNR said 2,785 voted yes and 2,233 voted no.

Jim Otto, 50, a deer hunter from Harshaw, said that vote probably broke down along lines of hunters who hunt on public land supporting the ban and hunters who hunt on private land opposing it.

Hunters stalking deer on public land say they don't see as many deer as they used to and blame baiting and feeding on private land for holding the deer there, Otto said. "It is a never-ending debate. I don't expect much will change."

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