By Bob Peryea


The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has sent its recommendations for hunting and trapping on Wisconsin state parks to the Natural Resources Board (NRB) for approval.

The opening of state parks is a significant part of the Sporting Heritage Act (Act 168) passed by the legislature last year.

In a press release, the DNR stated, “Hunting and trapping will be allowed in most Wisconsin State Parks from Nov. 15 through Dec. 15 and from April 1 through the third spring turkey period, under a plan the State Natural Resources Board approved Tuesday. In addition deer hunting with a bow will be open Nov. 15 until the end of the archery season in early January.”

Locally, 23 of the 271 acres of Big Foot Beach State Park in Walworth County will be open to hunting or trapping. During 2012, none of Big Foot Beach State Park was open to either hunting or trapping.

Kettle Moraine State Forest in Walworth County and Richard Bong State Recreation Area in Kenosha County have been open to hunting and trapping for many years.

The final proposal opens over 62,000 acres of state park lands to hunting and trapping at different times of the year.

The DNR received thousands of written comments and dozens of verbal comments during meetings and listening sessions around the state as it examined the law and sought guidance for its implementation.

According to Assemblyman Jim Steineke, who sponsored the bill last year, “There has been a significant decrease in outdoor sports in the last decade.”

The bill also granted discounts for first time hunters in  order to promote hunting in the state.

Several animal welfare groups, including the Alliance for Animals based in Madison, have voiced strong opposition to the legislation and the DNR’s implementation.

“It is obvious that hunting and trapping are incompatible with other recreational uses of our state parks and must be removed from the existing law,” a call to action from their website stated.

“I understand where there are concerns,” Stieneke said. He went to say that he believed that when people see the legislation enacted, their concerns will be alleviated.

Dan Schuler, the DNR State Parks Director, said, “Every  decision has been made in a way that maintains the safety in the parks.”

When asked about the safety of dogs in the park, Schuler pointed out that modern traps are designed to protect children and pets. Also, he reminded pet owners that all dogs should be on leashes.

Trapping and hunting are not allowed within 100 yards of any trail. Also, several trails have been completely closed because of high traffic volumes.

“In essence, the law sets the default of the state parks to open for hunting versus being set for closed,” Schuler said.

Steineke said, when asked about which parks should be opened, said, “Obviously, urban parks should not be opened where it doesn’t make sense.”

In response to a question of why hunting and not other outdoor sports, “Unfortunately, the state doesn’t sell licenses for bird watching.

“We want everyone to be able to use the parks safely and enjoyably. That’s why the legislation allows the DNR to make final decisions on implementation,” he said.

Act 168 allows the DNR to close any areas and any times that it and the NRB deem necessary. The law was also written to allow the lands to be open the entire time between October 15 and the Thursday before Memorial.

The DNR’s recommendation restricts the dates to smaller periods of a few weeks at a time. It also includes restrictions on the types of traps that can be used on state park lands, in an effort to prevent problems for pet owners.

Schuler also pointed out that all dogs should be on leashes at all times in the parks. He also said that most state parks are staffed full time, providing outdoor enthusiasts with support and direction that will allow everyone to be able to enjoy the parks.

The DNR’s website and all park ranger stations have all of the dates information.


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