DNR Spring Hearings Bring Out Hunting Advocates


Conservation Congress hearings were held by the DNR Monday night in all 72 of Wisconsin’s counties to get public input on state wildlife management policy. The hot topic in central Wisconsin was expanded hunting in state parks.

About 200 people turned out for the hearing in Marathon County, and there were strong feelings on hunting expansion. Al Halvachek lives next to Rib Mountain, a heavily used urban park with a big ski hill on its northern border.

“During Thanksgiving weekend, there were hunters actually hunting around the ski area. So I was a little worried when I went skiing.”

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Jack Bailey of Wausau opposes hunting in all state parks.

“People get shot. They want to be a hundred yards from where people walk, and they’re going to be out there with high powered rifles? Somebody’s going to get killed.”

But Mike Fitzgerald disagrees. A resident of Rib Mountain, he pushed to get hunting legalized there in the 1990s.

“And the strong consensus from almost everybody, everybody, I mean, was that we could open it up for hunting, and it could be safe. And it has been safe.”

Jim Campbell of Rib Mountain already hunts there.

“There has not been an accident to my knowledge in any state park that’s allowed hunting. I’ve hunted myself with muzzle loaders on Rib Mountain.”

Michael Deffner of Wausau says hunting is needed to curb an urban deer problem.

“A lot of the parks, there’s no vegetation because the deer are clipping it down too much, so they’ve got to do something.”

But Carl Foster, a hunter who lives in Rib Mountain, worries about a backlash.

“A great number of people are out there that support hunting but are not hunters. You will lose some of these people and they will become anti-hunters.”

Hunting in state parks was just one of 99 questions on Monday night’s Conservation Congress ballot.