Friday, December 14, 2007

WISCONSIN NEWS: Deer Baiting #1 Season Violation for 4th Straight Year

by Pat Durkin, Green Bay Press-Gazette

With the U.S. dollar worth less than its Canadian counterpart, maybe some people no longer gasp and clutch their chest when handed an unexpected bill for $530.

Some of us might even smile and pay up if it secured two premium tickets to a Green Bay Packers playoff game.

One thing $530 doesn't do, however, is deter everyone from illegally baiting and feeding deer, which usually means exceeding the 40-acre limit of 2 gallons of shell-corn or bad apples.

For many folks, a $530 fine must be an acceptable risk. What else can you conclude when 331 citations during the November firearms deer season made illegal baiting the No. 1 offense on the Department of Natural Resources' "Top 10 Violations" list the fourth straight year?

This was also the fourth consecutive year illegal baiting citations increased since the Legislature in 2003 rescinded the DNR's statewide ban, which the agency imposed after chronic wasting disease surfaced in February 2002.

Those 331 baiting violations are a 30 percent increase from 254 in 2006, a 50 percent increase from 221 in 2005, a 120 percent increase from 150 in 2004, and a 336 percent increase from 76 in 2003.

In similar fashion, deer-feeding citations increased the third straight year, jumping to No. 3 with 82 offenses, an 82 percent increase from 45 in 2006 when it ranked No. 7. Further, baiting/feeding violations accounted for 413 (47 percent) of the 881 citations on the DNR's top 10 list.

Roughly speaking, the difference between baiting and feeding is baiters intend to shoot deer after luring them into range with handouts. In contrast, feeders like to watch deer on their property, and hope the free food keeps "their deer" nearby so others can't shoot them.

Meanwhile, citations for transporting a loaded gun in a motorized vehicle held the No. 2 spot for the fourth straight year, with 120 offenses.

Another perennial violation, transporting an uncased gun, dropped from third in 2006 to No. 4 with 80 citations.

That means the No. 2 spot is within reach of deer-feeders. After all, citations for transporting a loaded gun averaged 111 citations the past five years. With just a few more phone tips from concerned citizens, deer-feeders could overtake road-hunters in 2008.

Eye on the prize, and all that.

These dismal numbers for baiting and feeding look even worse when noting the practices are allowed in only 46 of Wisconsin's 72 counties. They're banned in the DNR's South-Central district and most of its Southeast District because of CWD. Baiting and feeding are minor problems there, accounting for 45 (11 percent) of the 413 citations statewide.

For further reference, DNR wardens wrote only 87 baiting citations statewide in 2002, the one year it was illegal throughout Wisconsin. Of course, apologists often blame the DNR for Wisconsin's baiting/feeding problems.

Some even fault conservation wardens for not enforcing the 2-gallon limit, but seconds later claim wardens overlook safety infractions to "harass" baiters/feeders.

The numbers don't support either claim. The four most common safety violations since 2003 are transporting loaded guns, 553 total citations (an annual average of 111); transporting uncased guns, 444 (89); hunting within 50 feet of a paved road's center, 300 (60); and shooting within 50 feet of a road or across it, 300 (60).

During November's gun season, citations for those offenses were 120, 80, 62 and 46, respectively, with citations up from 2006 in two categories and down in two.

Meanwhile, pitiful souls often beseech the DNR to ban baiting and feeding, even as they receive the $530 ticket. They must have forgotten the Natural Resources Board voted for statewide bans in 2003 and 2007, but was ignored both years by the Legislature.

Until baiting/feeding opponents apply heat to lawmakers to rescind the 2003 law written by Rep. Scott Gunderson, R-Waterford, passed by the Legislature, and allowed to stand by Gov. Jim Doyle, baiters shouldn't expect salvation from anyone but themselves.


Thursday, December 13, 2007

IOWA NEWS: State Ponders Emergency Hunt Extension

Iowa's recent stretch of lousy weather will likely give deer hunters another shot at bagging a trophy this year.

The Natural Resources Commission meets Thursday morning to decide whether an emergency hunt is necessary. Poor weather made this years deer season difficult especially for those in southern Iowa.

Now the DNR is hoping to make it up to hunters. "Hopefully, provide a better opportunity for the hunter to harvest a deer," said State Conservation Officer Randy Schnoebelen.

The DNR says they are about 34,000 deer short of last years harvest and their target. The emergency hunt would be open to anyone with an unfilled first and second season shotgun tag, or a youth hunting tag.

If the commission approves the special season it would be the first of its kind in Iowa.

The DNR says a new computer tracking system is helping them keep closer tabs on the hunt. "It's so immediate, the data is right there, in years past the harvest reporting was done the old fashioned method," said Schnoebelen.

There is another catch. Sportsmen will only be able to take antlerless deer. If the commission approves the emergency hunt, the special season will be held the following weekend.

It's expected that the Natural Resources Commission will announce details of how folks can get special hunting licenses after they make their decision.