Hunters should double check the rules in their hunting grounds, however, since some communities have passed ordinances that keep a “shotgun-only” designation.
Shotgun-only hunting zones date back to the 1940s. Originally, the intent might have been to prevent the over-harvest of deer, but Matt O'Brien, administrative warden with the DNR's law enforcement bureau. , said things have changed over the decades.
He said input from Wisconsin Conservation Congress members was in favor of allowing rifles in all zones. The DNR Board approved the rule change earlier this year.
Some communities have cited safety concerns, because rifles have a longer range than shotguns. But O'Brien said in the last 10 years no bystander -- or someone not involved in a hunt -- has been injured by a rifle shot.
“You could hunt coyote with a rifle in the same farm field three days before the deer season. So for most of the year, you could use a rifle in these places. But then for the nine-day gun deer season or any other firearm deer season, you had to change weapons," he said.
Communities can stick to shotgun-only if they pass an ordinance. That's what the Town of Washington did last week. Joel Gunnlaugssonn chairs the town, which is spread across five islands off the Door Peninsula, the largest being Washington Island. Gunnlaugsson says the island is built up, and he's heard of errant shots over the years. Those kind of incidents, he said, are why the town board voted to keep the rifle ban.
“You know, vehicles being hit. A couple years ago a boat in somebody's yard was hit. There's been several instances of shotgun slugs going through people's walls of their houses," he said.
The Town of Washington only has two full-time police officers to enforce the rifle ban. DNR wardens will not enforce local ordinances.