Capitol Update
by Senator Howard Marklein
September 18, 2020

Hunting: An Important Social Distancing Activity

Last weekend I enjoyed one of my favorite social distancing activities. With the opening of the archery season in Wisconsin, I spent several hours in my tree stand in pursuit of white-tailed deer with my bow. I enjoyed the fresh air, quiet woods and time to reflect while working to fill our freezer.
Over the next several months, all Wisconsinites have opportunities to get out into the woods or on the water to hunt a wide variety of animals on the ground and in the sky. Bow season has already begun and the regular gun deer season begins on November 21st.  Leading up to it, there is the gun hunt season for people with disabilities October 3-11 and the Youth Deer Hunt from October 10-11. 
This year, in some parts of the state, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has extended the archery and crossbow season to include January 4-31, 2021.  This adds an entire month to the bow season in many management units.  For more information on this extension, please visit the DNR website.  There is also a Holiday Hunt in 32 counties from December 24 – January 1.
The DNR forecasts a good year for deer hunting, depending on the weather. The mild winter last year means that the deer population in southern and central Wisconsin is robust without the presence of natural predators. We must do our part to manage the herd.
Baiting and feeding continues to be prohibited in the counties of the 17th Senate District, but regulations have changed in a couple of counties in northern and northwest Wisconsin. If you hunt in these areas, please be sure to review the new regulations.
Speaking of regulations, it is important to purchase the right licenses and to familiarize yourself with any rule changes or updates each hunting season.  For all hunting opportunities, from deer to small mammals to migratory birds, the DNR produces a Hunting Forecast that provides a lot of information such as new regulations, changes to the seasons and ideas for maximizing your hunt. You will find the forecasts at www.dnr.wisconsin.gov/newsroom/release/37641.
According to the DNR, there are more than seven million acres of land open to public access to take advantage of the hunting seasons. If you are looking for a place to hunt, please visit www.dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/lands to view all of the public access land in Wisconsin. There are State Parks, Forests and Natural Areas that are open for hunting.  There are also private land-owners who volunteer their land for hunting. Remember, if you are parking a vehicle on state park, forest or trail land, you will need a sticker. 
If you are not a hunter, but are interested in hunting, I highly recommend connecting with a local Hunter Safety and Outdoor Skills program. It is extremely important to learn safe practices, but Hunter Safety training is also a great way to connect with passionate outdoorsmen and women who want to mentor new hunters.  Local shooting ranges and outdoor clubs are full of long-time hunters who want to teach new hunters.  A directory of shooting ranges and clubs is available at www.dnr.wisconsin.gov/education/outdoorskills
My daughter, Nicole, participated in her first turkey hunt last spring and harvested a nice bird! I am very proud of our newest hunter.  She decided to take a Hunter Safety course and took the steps to prepare for and participate in a turkey hunt. Success in her first season is probably going to make her a hunter for life!
As a lifelong hunter myself, the best part of autumn for me is hunting. Football is a close second. But hunting has always been, and will always be, a big part of my life. My wife Peggy and I both work hard to fill our freezer and thin the massive herd in our community. It is an important part of our year.
Good luck to all of the hunters who are in the woods and planning for their hunts this year!  Be safe and take advantage of this important socially-distanced activity. It is good for your health  - physically and mentally.
As always, please do not hesitate to connect with me to provide input, ideas or to seek assistance.  Send an email to sen.marklein@legis.wisconsin.gov or call 608-266-0703.