The following is a news release from North American Muzzleloader Hunting Association.
Ever since the first Wisconsin muzzleloader deer season in 1992, hunters have been denied the opportunity to use a magnifying riflescope on their front-loaded big game rifles. And many feel that it has been that one restriction that has held back participation in the post November firearms season hunt, and why the muzzleloader season in this state has failed to blossom into the wildlife management tool that so many other states have realized.
But, that could all change on April 13.
That day, all across the state, the Wisconsin Conservation Congress is conducting county meetings on a wide range of outdoor resources topics, and one of the most debated will be whether or not to give hunters the right to use a magnifying riflescope during the muzzleloader season.
Those who oppose the use of scopes on muzzleloaders tend to favor the older, more traditional style rifles. And their arguments against such optics include claims that such sights are not traditional; would give the modern in-line ignition muzzleloaders the effectiveness and range of a modern center-fire rifle; and would encourage hunters to attempt shots that are too long.
Knowledgeable proponents of allowing scopes point out that magnifying riflescopes were in use, on original muzzleloaders, as early as the late 1830s; that a scope does not make any rifle shoot farther, but allows more precise shot placement for a quicker and more humane harvest of deer; and that the legalization of such sights would permit more hunters to ethically participate during that season.
One of the biggest arguments for allowing muzzleloader hunters to use a magnifying scope is that an ever growing segment of hunting cannot see open rifle sights clearly enough for proper shot placement. It is a fact that the largest age group that hunts today is comprised of those over the age of 40. And this also just happens to be the age class that is most affected by the loss of close focus, and the inability of an older eye to shift focus rapidly enough to permit a rear sight, front sight, and deer standing at 50 to 100 yards away to appear somewhat in focus simultaneously. And when hunters can no longer see the required sights well enough to place their shots with the degree of accuracy needed for a clean harvest, most simply will not hunt a season with such requirements.
And that has been the one factor that has most likely kept many hunters from taking part in the December muzzleloader season.
Next door, across Lake Michigan, in the state of Michigan, as many as 200,000 deer hunters participate in the December muzzleloader season there, and the annual deer take during this season is usually in excess of 60,000.
In Wisconsin, only about 25,000 muzzleloader hunters head out during the season established just for muzzle-loaded guns, and the harvest during the past few seasons has only been around 10,000 deer during each.
Wisconsin is home to about 1.7 million deer. Michigan is home to around 1.8 million deer. The muzzleloader seasons in both states take place at basically the same time of the year. And the weather is typically near the same in each of the two states. Why do so many more hunters participate during the muzzleloader season in Michigan - and harvest so many more deer for a greater contribution to herd management? The only real difference is that in Michigan, the muzzleloading hunter has the right to choose whether to use a precision riflescope on his or her muzzleloader - or not. And it is that right of choice that many Wisconsin hunters are now seeking.
This is not the first time that the issue of allowing scopes during the muzzleloader season has come up at the annual Conservation Congress meetings. Repeated resolutions for allowing scopes are what led to the legalization of the so-called "1x" scopes.
However, Wisconsin's muzzleloading hunters quickly discovered that such non-magnifying sights resolved nothing. In fact, these single- or zero-power optical sights tend to make targets at 100 yards appear much smaller, and precise shot placement more difficult. The "1x" scopes have proven inadequate for hunting deer.
The issue of allowing magnifying riflescopes on muzzleloaders has carried the majority support of hunters several times in the past, and has been voted down by the Conservation Congress regulation committee who felt that the muzzleloader season should remain primitive in nature. The sportsmen of this state are now getting outraged over how this regulation body continues to ignore their wishes, especially with a burgeoning deer herd that becomes a bigger and bigger problem each year. And they are expected to show up in force at the Conservation Congress meetings on April 13 to once again vote in support of legalizing scopes on muzzleloaders - likely wondering if their wants and needs will be ignored once again.
A new twist to the question on the ballot this year is the concern for human safety. Could the use of a clear, bright and magnifying riflescope give muzzleloader hunters one last split second to more positively identify the target as a deer and not another hunter, hiker, or local resident - before the trigger is pulled?