Local residents weigh in on DNR questions

Shawano and Waupaca County residents followed the lead of the rest of the state on most conservation issues voted on Monday night, but broke ranks on a few others.

The non-binding ballot votes on the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and Wisconsin Conservation Congress proposed regulations changes serve to advise the DNR and Natural Resources Board on public opinion.

Results posted on the DNR website show that 6,893 sportsmen and other wildlife lovers attended the joint meetings held in the state’s 72 counties. That included 110 enthusiastic hunters and anglers at the Shawano Community Middle School meeting and 146 equally passionate sportsmen at Waupaca High School.

A total of 54 counties rejected a proposal by Natural Resources Board member Greg Kasmierski, who runs an archery shop in Pewaukee, to reduce the crossbow season. The overall vote was 3,164 opposed and 2,660 in favor.

Kasmierski contended that crossbows had given deer hunters an unfair advantage over gun and compound bow hunters, and that crossbow hunters were a threat to the traditional gun hunting season because many gun hunters were beginning to favor hunting with a crossbow during the archery season.

Both Shawano and Waupaca County sportsmen sided with the state’s majority, opposing any plan to shorten the crossbow season. Shawano County voted 64-33 against the proposal, while Waupaca County voted 82-46 against it.

Waupaca County Conservation Congress delegate Scott Bestul conducted his own research on crossbows vs. compound bows many years ago, finding that crossbow bolts lost their energy quickly and produced less penetration than a compound bow beyond 35 yards.

A leading bowhunting magazine said the length of the power stroke determines the overall energy generated by the weapon, and crossbows have much shorter power strokes than compound bows. Both weapons produce nearly the same velocity.

Another hot topic generating many comments was another Natural Resources Board proposal that would eliminate “party” or group deer hunting. Under current law, a hunter within sight or sound of another hunter in his party may shoot a deer to fill the other hunter’s tag. Most states do not allow this practice, and some argue that it encourages some hunters to shoot deer for family members or friends who may not even be in the field.

Tradition won out, with 64 counties rejecting the idea, and a statewide vote of 3,708-2,124 against it. Shawano County meeting attendees voted 70-30 against it and Waupaca County attendees voted 80-47 against it.

Chronic Wasting Disease is a huge issue affecting the state’s deer herd and on the minds of most hunters as the always-fatal disease continues to spread. A plan to restrict the transportation of deer harvested in a CWD-affected county to within the county or an adjacent CWD-affected county only was soundly supported in 50 counties.

The statewide vote was 3,102-2,617 in support. Shawano County sportsmen supported the plan, 55-42, while Waupaca County sportsmen voted 73-55 against the measure.

Walleye fishing is hugely popular on the Lake Winnebago system, which includes the Wolf River and all its tributaries. A plan to reduce the daily bag limit from the current five walleyes to three was overwhelmingly supported, with 63 counties in favor and a statewide vote of 3,366-1,816 in support.

Shawano County attendees narrowly defeated the measure, 49-42, while Waupaca County residents narrowly supported it, 66-62. Two fishing-related proposals — to review both the panfish and gamefish regulations on the Mississippi River — received unanimous 72-county support. A total of 66 counties supported a plan to ban whole or live fish for bait on setlines or bank poles in the Lake Winnebago system to reduce flathead catfish mortality rates. Shawano County sportsmen supported the idea, 46-44, while Waupaca County voters rejected the plan, 75-41.

Trappers in the state had a good night Monday, getting virtually everything they hoped for. That included a return to a three-zone mink and muskrat season (backed by 67 counties, including Shawano and Waupaca), allowing nuisance wildlife trappers to use lure and bait for trapping furbearers in the offseason (backed by 71 counties, including Shawano and Waupaca counties), allowing trapping within 15 feet of beaver dams on private land (71-1 yes, including Shawano and Waupaca) and allowing trappers to keep raccoons incidentally caught in beaver sets during the closed season for raccoons (72-0 yes).

Sportsmen typically are willing to help fund their own activities, and proved that Monday when 49 counties supported a $5 annual fee for all users state fishery, wildlife, natural areas and leased public hunting grounds ages 16-64 and using the money to support fish and wildlife habitat management and infrastructure on those properties (Shawano County residents voted 59-39 against; Waupaca County residents voted 74-47 in favor).

Wisconsin hunters are apparently unwilling to try new weapons for big game, rejecting the legalization of large-bore pneumatic rifles and bows, 71-1. Shawano and Waupaca County residents also voted against them.

You can see all the results at the DNR website.

Ross Bielema is a freelance writer from New London and owner of Wolf River Concealed Carry LLC. Contact him at Ross@wolfriverccw.com.