Wisconsin Rethinks Opening All State Parks to Hunting
Last year, the Wisconsin legislature passed the Sporting Heritage bill. Some of the measures in the bill included a $5 license to first-time hunters and trappers, online hunter education and trapper courses and opening all state parks to hunting and trapping.
According to "The Capital Times," the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is reeling from the realization that it must accommodate not only hunters and trappers, but also cyclists, horseback riders, bird watchers, hikers and marathon runners. (You could probably throw in a few family reunions, weddings and birthday bashes, too.) Although the soft adventure folks pay about $18.5 million for their share of usage fees like camping and parking permits (compared to hunters' paying about $40.2 million in hunting license revenues), they speak with a large and loud voice.
After all, the parks belong to them, too.
We know that Wisconsin is not replacing its hunter population. That's obvious by the hunter replacement ratio, which is the ratio of hunters who quit or die being replaced by fresh blood. Elementary, or even modern math dictates that the number needs to be 1.0 to stay even. Across the country, the ratio is purported to be around .69. In 2000, Wisconsin's number was .53. And things are not looking up. Granted, that study that gave Wisconsin a .53 for Families Afield was conducted in 2000. "The Capital Times" affirms the trend, and reports that in 1996 Wisconsin residents purchased 656,546 gun deer licenses. In 2011, they purchased 585,736. You do the math. In fact, "The Capital Times" reported, "One recent report from UW-Madison's Applied Population Lab projects the number of deer hunters in the state could fall to 400,000 by 2030."
On Dec. 11, the Natural Resources Board will meet and discuss ways to accommodate hunters, trappers and recreational sportsmen. The board may decide to shorten some seasons or designate certain areas off-limits to either hunting or recreating. Although in the case of rifle hunting, liability insurance and roped-off areas would have to be huge numbers.
I like to hike, run and ride horseback. Would I want to do those things in close proximity to where people are shooting? Heck, no. Would they want me running or galloping through their hunting grounds? Of course not. And, would I want to have to look for coyote traps along a hiking trail? No way.
It sounds like the board will have a very interesting meeting - trying to refine a big fat measure that makes no one happy. Good luck.