Wisconsin residents do not like proposed deer season changes.
The state of Wisconsin is deeply rooted in hunting traditions. It seems these traditions are here to stay because most Wisconsin hunters want to keep things the way they are. At least that is the way things look based on the results of a survey done by the state's Department of Natural Resources.
Like many other states across the U.S., Wisconsin has had trouble with hunter numbers declining over the years. The Green Bay Press Gazette reports the state has seen firearms deer license sales drop a staggering 16% since 1994.
Concerned about increasing the number of hunters afield, the DNR proposed several radical season changes in an online survey. Most notable, the DNR proposed two big changes to the state's traditional nine-day gun season.
First, they asked hunters about a simple extension of that season to 19 days. A second proposal suggested making the season 16 days, but also proposed moving the traditional Saturday before Thanksgiving start to the middle part of November. Wisconsin hunters soundly rejected both ideas.
The Green Bay Press Gazette reports the 19-day extension was rejected with 42,208 no responses to 14,820 yes ones. An additional 2,261 gave no opinion on that idea. The idea of moving the start dates and 16 days to hunt saw a similar vote of 38,106 no votes to 15,599 yes ones.
The DNR also suggested an interesting new wrinkle by proposing all deer hunting stop prior to firearms season. The survey saw 12,875 people support a temporary ban of five days and another 11,235 saying they would support a two-day ban. However, the overwhelming majority, 31,055 rejected the idea completely.
Another proposal to invalidate tags for archery and crossbow during the firearms season saw 35,360 people reject that idea compared to 18,169 for it and 5,517 who said they had no opinion.
While firearms season was a major focus of the survey, it was not the only thing the DNR questioned hunters about. A proposal to limit crossbow use to October and after the firearms season was rejected by 28,000 responders. The proposal of an outright ban on crossbow use in November was soundly rejected 31,700 to 20,816.
One proposal that was likely dead on arrival was the suggestion of bringing back the state's "earn a buck" program that required hunters to shoot a doe before being allowed to kill a buck. That program was wildly unpopular when it was in place, to the point that a bill was signed into law to outlaw it completely.
The Green Bay Press Gazette reports that the one thing that respondents seemed to agree upon was the idea of raising the cost of licenses for non-resident hunters to levels that are comparable with other states.
The results of the survey are interesting. Of course, it does not mean any of these changes will not take effect. The survey was done as an advisement only. The survey was originally slated to only ask attendees of the Wisconsin Conservation Congress' spring hearings. Those hearings were originally slated for April 13 but were ultimately cancelled due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which got the DNR to move the questions to an online format.