Parents may get to decide when kids can hunt
If legislators have their way, Wisconsin will join dozens of other states that have no minimum hunting age and instead will allow parents to decide when their child is physically, mentally and emotionally ready to become an active participant.
By a 3-2 vote last week, the Senate Committee on Sporting Heritage, Mining and Forestry approved SB 301, which takes aim at eliminating the minimum age that youths can hunt in Wisconsin.
Tens of thousands of young guns age 10 and older have participated in Wisconsin’s hunting mentorship program since it began in 2009, and they’ve proven to be among the safest hunters in the woods.
Wisconsin Wildlife Federation Wildlife Committee Chairman Ralph Fritsch said he believes that’s due to the one-gun rule between the mentor and beginner, helping the youth focus on firearm safety.
But SB 301 not only eliminates the 10-year-old minimum and opens it up to any age, it would allow the mentor to also carry a firearm.
The U.S. Sportsman’s Alliance — a nonprofit group that aims to protect and defend hunting, fishing and trapping — said that data over much of the past decade shows that mentored hunters have been about five times safer than regular licensed hunters. Additionally, the group says only four states have a one-gun restriction in mentored hunts.
Meanwhile, a bill to eliminate back tag requirements for deer hunters appears likely to pass, and “blaze pink” is getting additional public hearings soon. These and a number of other hunting-related bills are still going through the legislative process.
Get a closer look at all hunting and fishing bills and amendments at https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/2015 or view legislative and public testimony at hearings on any bills — archived or live — by searching http://www.wiseye.org.
Many of the recent hunting-related bill public hearings have been in the Assembly Committee on Natural Resources and Sporting Heritage, or the Senate Committee on Sporting Heritage, Mining and Forestry.
By watching the testimony, you can see what various legislators, DNR officials, representatives of various groups and concerned citizens have to say.
Cold snap here
A couple days hovering near the freezing mark were expected late this week before the mercury plunges again. The 15-day forecast looks to be just a little warmer than usual for January, but definitely cold enough — six nights of single digits, and five more between 10 and 16 degrees for lows — to make ice.
Some anglers have been walking out on area rivers and inland lakes. Dyckesville and protected areas from Little Sturgeon to Sturgeon Bay are also starting to attract walk-out anglers.
As always, use extreme caution on the ice, and don’t risk offshore exploration where wave action has made a dangerous mess of developing ice.
No ice should ever be considered “safe ice,” but the greatest risks for breaking through are typically early and late in the season.
Safety experts recommend you carry ice picks, rope and an ice chisel, and don’t go out alone. Check thickness at regular intervals, as conditions can change quickly as you move away from shore.
Before heading out, inquire about conditions and known hazards at a local bait shop or resort.
Fresh powder earlier this week was perfect for coyote, fox and cottontail hunters, but the long-term forecast looks far less promising for hunters (though nice for those of us already tired of shoveling).
Feed the birds
Winter is a great time to offer sunflower seeds, suet and other treats to help wild birds during cold weather.
Havegard Farms Bird Feed Outlet Store near Sturgeon Bay has everything you need, including seed, suet, feeders and advice; many local grocery and hardware stores also carry their products.
Bird feeding naturally leads to bird watching, one of the most enjoyable backyard pastimes for millions of Americans.
While adults enjoy the relaxation and peacefulness afforded by watching birds, the feeding, feeder cleaning and providing shelter for wild birds is also an excellent opportunity to get children involved.
Kevin Naze is a freelance outdoors writer. Email him at [email protected].
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press Gazette: Parents may get to decide when kids can hunt