State Opens Most State Parks To Hunting

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.

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 goes 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 – such as Lakeshore State Park in Milwaukee, Heritage Hill State Park in Green Bay and Governor Nelson State Park north of Madison – closed to hunting and trapping. It also allows only archery hunting at some parks that receive heavy year-round use, such as Peninsula State Park in Door County and High Cliff State Park on Lake Winnebago.

A determination to prohibit hunting and trapping in any other areas of a state park, a portion of a state park, or during certain time periods had to be approved by a majority of the Natural Resources Board.

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. 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.

More than 60 people spoke during the public participation portion of the board meeting. In response to concerns expressed, the board voted to further reduce the amount of time open to hunting and trapping, and also closed Governor Nelson State Park north of Madison to hunting and trapping.

The DNR plan 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 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 and for archery hunting to continue at Buckhorn State Park near Necedah on its historical schedule of mid September through the end of the archery season.

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.