Outdoors: Northern deer hunters suffer setback
The bad news just keeps rolling in for northern Wisconsin deer hunters.
Still feeling the impacts of past overharvest, severe winters, hands-off forest management and predation by wolves, coyotes and bears, the camo and blaze orange whitetail fanatics up north just can’t catch a sustained break.
A mostly-mild winter in 2014-2015 and plans for increasing timber harvest on public lands are indeed positives. But sandwiched between them were a pair of federal rulings that have angered and frustrated many hunters and landowners.
The first was last December, when a District judge in Washington, D.C., ordered the wolf hunting and trapping season to stop; the second came earlier this week, a decision by U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb in Madison that will allow Chippewa Tribal night deer hunting on public lands in the Ceded Territory of northern Wisconsin beginning Nov. 1.
With certain stipulations, tribal members are already allowed to hunt deer day or night on reservation land.
While the DNR doesn’t approve of the off-reservation ruling, agency officials are working to get the word out to those who might live or spend time in the affected areas.
Nearly a quarter-century ago, in 1991, Crabb had ruled that night deer hunting was too dangerous; she stated that the DNR’s ban on night hunts also applies to the tribes off reservation. She came to the same conclusion in December, 2013, after the Chippewa renewed their push for a night hunt on public land.
The tribe had argued that DNR used sharpshooters at night in the CWD zone, and night hunting for wolves. Both of those have since been scrapped, but some private sharpshooting firms still target deer after hours in metro areas.
Anticipating a positive ruling from Crabb in 2013, more than 70 tribal members had qualified for a nighttime deer-hunting permit from the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission. They had to pass a proficiency test, and would have been able to get a permit if they submitted an adequate shooting plan.
They didn’t get the decision they wanted, but on Tuesday — nearly a year after a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago disagreed with Crabb’s decision and ruled in favor of the tribes, sending the issue back to District Court — Crabb reversed, ruling that the tribes’ new regulations are stricter than the state’s when they allowed sharpshooters to try to reduce deer populations in the CWD zone, or proposed allowing wolf hunting at night.
The tribe’s rules state that hunters must pass a training course, be able to hit a small target 8 out of 10 shots in the dark, use hunting sites with earthen backstops, and submit shooting plans with safe zones of fire.
The judge’s decision opens the door to a tribal right lost when the U.S. government took ownership of more than 22,000 square miles of land as part of treaties in 1837 and 1842.
For a map showing the more than two-dozen counties impacted by the decision, visit http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/fishing/images/ceded/mapced4.gif. For a map showing all the Ceded Territories in Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota, see http://www.glifwc.org/map.html).
No more back tags?
Wisconsin deer hunters have had to wear back tags since 1942, the mid-point of World War II.
If state Sens. Terry Moulton, R-Chippewa Falls, and Rick Gudex, R-Fond du Lac, have their way, this could be the last year they’ll be issued.
The men introduced Senate Bill 289 last week, an act to repeal current law requiring that the DNR issue a deer back tag that must be attached to the hunter’s outermost garment. Bear back tags would also be eliminated.
While it’s too early to know how fast the bill will move, even if fast-tracked and signed into law, hundreds of thousands of back tags have already been issued for this year’s deer hunts.
If the law is passed, it wouldn’t be necessary to wear those tags the rest of the season, but it could be just as likely that the bill might not move fast and — if successful — instead begin with the 2016-17 seasons.
Through Monday, 74 Door deer (38 bucks) and 63 in Kewaunee County (30 bucks) were reported from the weekend youth deer hunt.
The archery count was up to 156 (56 bucks) in Door County and 121 (53 bucks) in Kewaunee County. The crossbow kill stood at 139 (61 bucks) in Door and 95 (47 bucks) in KC.
Statewide, more than 26,000 deer have already been tagged, 5,500-plus in the youth hunt, more than 7,700 so far with crossbow and more than 13,000 a month into the archery season.
• Thousands of birds have been stocked on public and private land by sportsman’s clubs and the DNR in anticipation of Saturday’s pheasant hunting opener.
Kevin Naze is a freelance outdoors writer. Email him at [email protected].
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press Gazette: Outdoors: Northern deer hunters suffer setback