MADISON, Wisconsin (WXOW) - The Wisconsin DNR is offering special responses to frequently asked questions regarding hunting with rifles this fall.
Here is the latest from the DNR, along with links to previous editions released by the department.
Welcome to the Warden Wire feature launched during last year's gun-deer season -- the special edition series of Frequently Asked Questions dealing specifically with hunting. The FAQs: Special Edition - Fall Hunt is a periodic feature. Today is the fifth installment of these special edition FAQs taken by the DNR Call Center and the Department of Natural Resources' conservation wardens. Today's edition is about rifles. The Call Center is staffed daily, 7 a.m. - 10 p.m., and offers bilingual service in Spanish and Hmong. The Call Center staff is happy to help you with any and all of your questions. The number is 1-888-936-7463.
Question 1: Can you tell me are there any changes to the rifle regulations for deer hunting this year?
Answer: Yes, there are some changes this year. The Department of Natural Resources recently simplified certain rifle restrictions. This was in response to a citizen resolution that received statewide support through the Wisconsin Conservation Congress spring hearings. The new law allows rifles for firearm deer hunting statewide unless – and this is important – your local municipality has a more restrictive ordinance. Although local units of government are not permitted to regulate hunting or wildlife management, local authorities may pass ordinances that have for the primary purpose of protecting public health and safety if such restrictions only have an incidental effect on hunting.
Question 2: OK, I understand that. But, what do I need to know as a hunter when it comes to these rifle restrictions?
Answer: You -- and all hunters -- are strongly urged to ask the local officials if there are local laws which restrict the discharge of firearms. Absent any more restrictive firearms regulations, hunters in former "shotgun, muzzleloader, and handgun" zones are permitted to use rifles of legal caliber for hunting deer this year.
Question 3: Does the DNR have a list of these local ordinances that regulate the discharge of firearms
Answer: No, the DNR does not. It is important that every hunter should know the location where they plan to hunt, and then check with the local government units for any ordinances in effect at that location.
Question 4: Can you tell me which counties are affected by this rifle restriction change?
Answer: For many years, the DNR has been transferring one or two counties each year from the "shotgun zone" to the "rifle zone." By the start of 2013, there were just 19 counties out of 72 that remained subject to these rifle restrictions. Therefore, when we started this year, there were 53 counties where rifles were permitted for deer hunting, and deer firearm seasons have historically been conducted in these counties with minimal local regulations.
Question 5: I still don't know why this rifle change is being done. Can you tell me why?
Answer: Sure. It all began with citizens. The recent rule change started about three years ago when the idea was first presented in a resolution sponsored by citizens at the Wisconsin Conservation Congress spring meetings. This change was subsequently supported through citizen voting in 61 counties. In 2013, the DNR held statewide public hearings on the idea, with the citizen vote supporting the change aimed at regulation simplification. In light of citizen support for the change, and after determining that no new safety risks would accompany a statewide rifle simplification, the DNR moved forward with the law change. And that law change took effect on November 1 -- just about a couple of weeks ago.
Question 6: Aren't rifles much more dangerous than shotguns? Won't there be a lot more houses hit or other hunters and people in their rural homes hurt?
Answer: The DNR did review hunting accident data from 1998-2007. The data showed that shotguns were involved in more accidents relative to their use. And a 2007 study commissioned by the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee of the Pennsylvania state government concluded shotguns are not less risky than rifles in hunting deer. The DNR has consistently linked Wisconsin's safe hunting to safe hunters. Regardless of weapon type, safe hunters that follow the four rules of firearm safety will keep Wisconsin's outdoors safe for all citizens.
Question 7: What happened when several CWD counties were switched from "shotgun zones" to "rifle zones" several years ago?
Answer: From 2002 through 2007, rifles were authorized for use in former shotgun-only portions of Dane, Green, Lafayette, Rock and Walworth counties located in the CWD Disease Eradication Zones. There were no increases in shooting incidents--safety and hunting incident data collected by the Department did not reveal any safety trends caused by these firearm restrictions.
Question 8: How are the DNR conservation wardens planning on handling complaints about rifles or anything to do with local ordinances?
Answer: DNR wardens and rangers do not have the authority to enforce the local ordinances. Callers with complaints dealing with local firearm discharge ordinances will be advised to call their local law enforcement.
If you missed the first four sets of Special Edition FAQs, here are the Warden Wire links:
If you have information regarding natural resource violations, please call: VIOLATION HOTLINE: 1-800-TIP-WDNR or 1-800-847-9367. The hotline is in operation 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Trained staff relay reported information to conservation wardens. Anyone who calls the Violation Hotline or provides information can remain anonymous.
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