Crossbows, chronic wasting disease hot topics at hearing

Over 100 citizens gathered to provide feedback to DNR

Ross Bielema Leader Correspondent

Photo by Ross Bielema Delegates of the Shawano County chapter of Conservation Congress, from left, Mark Conradt, of Waukechon, Duane Beyer, of Wescott, Brian Heins, of Bowler, and Kevin Marquette of Shawano, lead their portion of the combined Conservation Congress and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources spring hearing Monday night in Shawano Middle School. Also pictured are meeting moderator DNR conservation warden Clark Delzer, right, and conservation warden Mark Schraufnagel, at board.

Crossbows for deer hunting and chronic wasting disease prompted the most comments from the 110 sportsmen and other wildlife lovers attending Monday night’s combined Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and Conservation Congress hearing at Shawano Community Middle School.

Similar meetings were taking place at the same time in the state’s 71 other counties during a spring ritual aimed at gauging the public’s opinions on a wide variety of proposed regulations changes and other suggestions, including some generated by citizens through Conservation Congress, the only grassroots advisory group for the DNR and its Natural Resources Board.

A total of eight citizen-generated resolutions were read and discussed, including two by Shawano County Conservation Congress delegate Duane Beyer, of Wescott, on the topic of CWD.

“CWD is starting to get out of hand in the state,” said Beyer, who was re-elected to his second two-year term on the congress. “Give some more power to the DNR over these deer farms. Right now, they are handcuffed.”

Many people attending were surprised that the U.S. Department of Agriculture, not the DNR, regulates the state’s game farms, which have been the primary source of CWD. Less than half the game farms with deer participate in a voluntary program that includes such safeguards as double fencing, one of the suggestions Beyer recommended mandating.

Without double fencing, there’s no way to inhibit wild deer from coming into nose-to-nose contact with potentially CWD-infected farm deer, said DNR senior wildlife biologist Kay Brockman-Mederas.

Other suggestions in Beyer’s resolutions included prohibiting the movement of CWD-contaminated deer between game farms and total harvest of all deer on a game farm if CWD was found.

Most of those who spoke about a controversial question to shorten the season for crossbow deer hunters, proposed by Natural Resources Board member Greg Kasmierski, were in favor of keeping the season as is and allowing crossbow use during the full archery season, as well as the firearms season.

Beyer noted the crossbow makes it easier for a variety of hunters to continue hunting, and also can be used by young hunters. One hunter noted the same arguments now being used against crossbows were used in the 1970s against then-new compound bows, which eventually became the bow of choice for most deer hunters who were introduced to the sport with recurves and longbows.

Another spring questionnaire topic drawing comments was a plan to end “party” firearms deer hunting, which allows one hunter to shoot a deer that can be tagged by another. DNR conservation warden Clark Delzer, of Shawano, who moderated the meeting, said a hunter must be within sight or sound of another hunter in order to shoot a deer for that person.

At least one comment noted that some hunters use the deer licenses of spouses or children who aren’t even in the woods, but party hunting “is a culture” in Wisconsin and a part of tradition here, even though most other states do not allow the practice.

In other business at the meeting:

• Brian Heins, of Bowler, a Shawano County Conservation Congress delegate unanimously re-elected by voice vote to another three-year term, is also chairman of the county’s Deer Advisory Council. He announced that the council recommended three free antlerless deer licenses per paid license, an antlerless license quota of 7,300 in the Farmland Zone and 4,200 bonus antlerless licenses, including 750 for public land and 3,450 on private land (the recommendations were set at the March 21 Shawano County DAC meeting). The public online comment period for DAC recommendations ends Thursday.

• A few commented on the proposal to reduce the daily walleye harvest limit from five to three fish in the Lake Winnebago system, including the Wolf River. One Shawano angler recommended a slot limit for fish 13 to 18 inches and not allowing fishing during the spawn, but the latter “would create a civil war,” he said. Angler Roy Sanders, of Clintonville, said some area waters like Green Bay could provide bigger fish for trophy anglers, but the Wolf River system was perfect for providing eating-size walleyes and there was no reason to lower the limit.

• Warren Schmidt, of Marion, offered a resolution that would allow a statewide open season on wild turkeys from mid-April through mid-May. A few residents suggested this could cause safety concerns, especially on public lands. John Hoeffs said turkey hunting is intended to be a “quality hunt,” and not a “wide open” situation like the firearms deer season. Most turkey hunters are wearing full camouflage, making them difficult for other hunters to see them.

Although the results of the questionnaires are non-binding, they serve to provide public input for Natural Resources Board decisions. Results of the statewide questionnaires are expected to be available on the DNR website later this week.