Conservation Congress looks at making some changes

If you are an overachiever and like to plan ahead, you can get a jump on next month’s combined Wisconsin DNR and Conservation Congress spring public hearing by reviewing the questionnaire now on the DNR website.

The 7 p.m. April 9 hearings in all 72 counties are an annual tradition for sportsmen and a hallmark of the nation’s only grassroots conservation-law advisory organization, the Wisconsin Conservation Congress.

The meetings allow the DNR to air suggested changes in fish and wildlife regulations to the public for a non-binding vote by sportsmen and others, with the results serving as an advisory tool for the Natural Resources Board. The meetings also give the Conservation Congress a similar opportunity to air their suggested changes on the same questionnaire, gauging support or opposition by similar non-binding votes.

County Conservation Congress chapters also elect delegates at the meetings.

Shawano County’s meeting will be held at Shawano Community Middle School, while the Waupaca County meeting will be held at Waupaca High School. Public comments made at the meetings are limited to three minutes per person per question you wish to discuss.

Some of the questionnaire proposals include:

• Eliminating the group deer hunting law, which currently allows any member of a group deer hunting party to fill a license held by another member, as long as they are in contact with each other (this change would require legislation). Most states do not allow group deer hunting.

• Charging a $5 annual fee for anyone age 16 to 64 who uses state fishery, wildlife area, natural area and leased public hunting grounds to directly support wildlife management and infrastructure on those public lands.

• Charging a permit fee for non-motorized watercraft such as canoes and skiffs.

• Adjusting the archery season length for crossbow hunters who are not handicapped or elderly (the greatly biased wording of this question will be discussed in a future column).

• Reducing the daily walleye harvest within the Lake Winnebago System (including the Wolf River from its mouth to the Shawano Dam) from five to three fish.

• Having a continuous open season statewide for bass, with harvest only allowed during the traditional season.

• Allowing bass tournaments to adhere to the statewide five-fish and 14-inch minimum, even if the lake or river where the tournament is held has more restrictive rules (as long as all fish are released after the event).

• Expanding the ban on whole or live fish for bait on setlines or bank poles to include the upper Fox River in Winnebago, Green Lake, Waushara and Marquette counties and the Wolf River in Outagamie, Shawano, Waupaca and Winnebago counties.

• Allowing the use of large-caliber pneumatic (air) rifles and bows for hunting large game.

The county deer advisory council annual harvest recommendations public comment period also will be underway at that time (April 2-12 is the public comment period, with March 12-15 and March 19-22 the review of data and the setting of preliminary harvest quotas, permit numbers and season structures). The councils have three options: to recommend that the deer herds in their respective counties be reduced, increased or maintained by adjusting the number of antlerless harvest permits, using additional antlerless hunts such as the holiday hunt and so on.

The public also will be able to provide their input about the deer herd online during the April 2-12 comment period (the link currently provided within the DNR’s spring hearing questionnaire directs users to the 2016 CDAC data).

The initial 2018 Shawano County Deer Advisory Council meeting will be at 7 p.m. March 21 at Shawano Community Middle School. The Waupaca County Deer Advisory Council’s meeting will be at 6 p.m. March 19 in Manawa City Hall.

Ross Bielema is a freelance writer from New London and owner of Wolf River Concealed Carry LLC. Contact him at