Hunting, trapping allowed in most state parks in 2013
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 in December 2012. In addition deer hunting with a bow will be open Nov. 15 until the end of the archery season in early January.
The board modified and approved a plan the Department of Natural Resources presented to carry out a new state law – Act 168, known as the Sporting Heritage Act – the legislature approved last spring that expanded hunting and opened trapping on state park properties. The law, which went into effect Jan. 1, 2013, allows the DNR to prohibit hunting and trapping within 100 yards of a designated use area such as a campground, picnic area, or beach, or where there are public safety concerns, or to protect unique habitat.
The final proposal opens more than 62,000 acres, about two-thirds of state park properties, to some form of hunting and to trapping. The plan keeps some smaller parks and ones located in urban areas closed to hunting and trapping. It also allows only archery hunting at some parks that receive heavy year-round use.
The DNR received more than 2,000 comments on a draft proposal that was presented to the public at five listening sessions across the state.
“Many of the comments were directed at reducing hunting and trapping in specific state parks, and we reviewed each of those circumstances and made appropriate adjustments to the implementation plan where warranted,” said Dan Schuller, Director of Wisconsin State Parks.
In response to the public comments, the DNR moved back the opening date on additional properties and closed additional areas around popular recreational trails on some properties to protect public safety.
At Council Grounds State Park in Merrill, the new plan reduces the area of the 512-acre park open to hunting and trapping. Under 2012 regulations, 453 acre (or 88%) of the park was open to hunting and trapping. Starting with the 2013 season, only 211 acres (41%) of the park will be open. The portion of the park that will remain open is north of the roads, trails and designated use areas. During the fall/winter deer season, that area of Council Grounds is open to shotgun, muzzleloader and archery hunting.
Council Grounds ranks among the most-visited Wisconsin state parks during the period between October and May; averaging almost 220,000 visits during those months.
The DNR plan had proposed opening hunting and trapping from Oct. 15 through the Thursday before Memorial Day on most state properties, with an opening date of Nov. 15 on seven properties (including Council Grounds) with a high volume of late fall visitors and horseback riders. The board amended the plan to open hunting and trapping on Nov. 15 on all properties and to close firearm hunting on Dec. 15, and then reopen hunting and trapping April 1 through the end of the third spring turkey hunting season, which ends in late April or early May.
The board voted to allow archery hunting to continue in state parks through the late archery season, which ends the first week of January.
The board also limited the types of traps used at state parks to those that would prevent catching dogs. A representative of the Wisconsin Trappers Association appeared during the public participation portion of the meeting and demonstrated the dog-safe traps and said they were the traps endorsed by the organization for use in parks.
The board also directed the DNR to begin work on an emergency rule that would prohibit shooting across state trails and trails within park boundaries.
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