The single specific rule change proposal, on trolling, and new deer hunting rules were among the topics that interested attendees at the Spring Fish and Wildlife Hearings and deer herd status meeting Monday, April 14.
A meeting was held in each of Wisconsin’s counties.
In Oneida County, 176 people filled seats at the James Williams Middle School auditorium in Rhinelander to elect Wisconsin Conservation Congress delegates and vote on advisory fish and wildlife questions.
To start the meeting, a moment of silence was observed for Oneida County WCC delegate Ben Loma, who passed away in January.
One-line trolling statewide
Earlier advisory questions concerning the possible legalization of motor trolling have met resistance in Vilas and Oneida counties.
Currently, the practice is allowed on five Oneida County lakes and on none in Vilas County.
At last year’s spring hearings, the DNR proposed allowing trolling with three lines per angler statewide.
The proposal was ultimately voted down 2,775-2,391 statewide, with Oneida County voting 86-48 no and Vilas 146-48 no.
Under the latest proposal, anglers on inland waters would be able to troll with one line anywhere in the state.
Darrel Mack of Crescent was the only attendee to comment on the trolling question in Oneida County.
Mack noted that the questionnaire explanation on the proposed rule, which says it would allow an angler to trail a live bait while under power, and suggested it could be broken down into two separate questions.
“Why isn’t question one stated as two questions?” he wondered. “‘Do you allow trolling?’ Number two would be ‘Do you allow trolling live bait?’”
He added more a short while later.
“So if I’m a person against trolling artificial lures in the middle of the summer, but I’m for trolling a sucker in fall, it should be written as two separate questions,” Mack said.
Oneida county attendees ultimately voted in favor of trolling 92-77. One-line motor trolling was favored statewide by a vote of 3,646-2,250.
Deer hunting rules and herd status report
Rhinelander DNR wildlife biologist and conservation warden Jim Jung explained some of the new deer hunting rules that will be in place this fall.
There was confusion over a new rule about transporting deer that will be in effect this fall.
“A person may not possess someone else’s tagged deer while in the field, even after it is registered, unless the tag holder is present,” the rule reads.
Previously, once a deer was registered anyone could transport it and several attendees wanted the new rule better translated and wondered why it was changed.
“A warden would have to translate what ‘while afield’ means, but it says even after registration,” Holtz said.
He added that he thought the new rule was put into place in expectation of electronic registration in the near future.
There was also some confusion over the newly approved crossbow season. The license is separate from a regular archery license and hunters can purchase both, with the second coming at a lower cost, but can get only one buck tag between the two licenses.
Some wondered why have separate licenses at all.
“They wanted a separation of crossbow and regular licenses to see how many are taking advantage of the crossbow [season],” Jung explained.
Discussing the rule changes, Holtz remarked that the nine-day gun hunt for bucks would stay essentially intact, and added, “Almost everything else has changed.”
Holtz went on to share the deer herd status for Oneida County.
“Everybody relax, because I can sum it up in a sentence. Harvest was poor, deer numbers are down, the winter was severe, we are concerned – we’re recommending bucks only,” he said, eliciting a few “yays,” chuckles and claps from the crowd.
Holtz went on to discuss winter severity.
“Winter severity is terrible,” he said. “It’s one of the worst in recent history. The only one I found worse than this year on file was 1995. We had an accumulated winter severity of 143, and this year we only have 140.”
Winter severity is measured by adding one point for each day the temperature reaches zero or colder and one point for each day with 18 or more inches of snow on the ground December through April.
At the conclusion of the deer herd status portion of the meeting, the crowd thinned noticeably.
Oneida delegate election
Two nominees, Joel Knutson and Reed Kabelowsky, threw their hats into the ring for a possible spot on the Oneida County WCC.
Each was given a few minutes to tell the crowd why they would make a good WCC delegate.
Kabelowsky went against sitting delegate Ed Choinski for a term as delegate. Choinski retained his spot by a 60-49 vote.
Roger Sabota, Oneida WCC chairman, was at the end of his term. Kabelowsky was nominated for the two-year stint as well. Sabota was elected by a tally of 67-49.
For the vacancy left by Loma, Knutson nominated himself. The third time was a charm for Kabelowsky, who was elected to the Conservation Congress over Knutson by a 76-33 margin.
Vilas County “no” on trolling
A total of 224 attendees packed the St. Germain Elementary School gymnasium for the Vilas County hearings.
The hot topic was trolling.
“I think there were people that were passionate on both sides of the issue, that’s for sure,” Steve Gilbert, DNR fisheries biologist, said.
He guessed there were eight to 10 people who spoke directly on the subject.
“There were individuals who spoke out for the benefits of having at least one line trolling and folks that were very vehement about no trolling whatsoever,” Gilbert said.
Being able to drag a sucker while casting for muskies and “alleviating some of the confusion that occurs with our position fishing rule” were points raised, Gilbert said.
A few in the crowd were proponents of three-line trolling.
Vilas County voted no on the proposed rule change by a 116-69 margin.
It was the only fishery subject that drew a lot of attention, with the rest of the questions not yet attached to any proposed rule changes.
“Just getting people’s opinions on different types of panfish regulations or bass regulations that we’re looking at formulating for the next go-around. There wasn’t really a lot of debate on those,” Gilbert said.
Vilas County discusses deer
Woodruff DNR biologist Michele Woodford said there was a lot of interest in the new deer rules.
“A lot of the rules were new for people, so [we had] a lot of clarifying questions that were asked about public versus private land tags; antlerless tags,” Woodford said.
There was some confusion about registration and transporting rules as well.
“A couple people asked about the loss of the December antlerless hunt and other people were certainly happy that it went away,” Woodford said.
Changes to deer hunting rules divided the state into four management zones. The Northwoods is in the Northern Forest Zone, which will no longer have the late hunt.
The crossbow season also drew some questions, Woodford said.
“A lot of changes are coming and hopefully we’ve got the links to the website that will help people if they’ve got questions then ... The three-fold pamphlet really sees to cover a lot of changes,” Woodford said.
People can view those rules by visiting dnr.wi.gov, searching the keywords “Deer Trustee Report” and clicking the “Deer hunting rule changes for 2014” link.
White deer were discussed at the Vilas County meeting.
“The albino deer question came up; we had quite a few people talking on that one,” Woodford said.
The question, a Natural Resources Board advisory question, asked if people favored legalizing the harvest of white and albino deer statewide.
“The feel up in Vilas County is people wouldn’t like to see them [hunted],” Woodford said. “They’d like to keep them protected – that’s the feel that I had.”
People voted against the white deer harvest 3,939-1,915 statewide; Vilas County voted against it 135-34.
Some other numbers
Vilas County voted 92-67 in favor of banning baiting deer statewide 10 days before and during the nine-day gun deer season. Oneida County voted in favor of the ban 80-74. Statewide, people voted in favor of the ban 3,639-2,180.
On allowing temporary length limit exemptions for catch-hold-release bass tournaments, voters said no statewide by a 3,013-2,509 margin. Oneida County voted 90-65 yes; Vilas 90-79 yes.
On extending the trout season through Oct. 15, Vilas County voted in favor 93-42 and Oneida County voted in favor 82-46. Statewide, the vote was 3,112-1,746 in favor.
Vilas County voted 80-57 yes on a WCC question asking if people favored a reduced bag and a 10-inch size limit on crappies on Palmer and Tenderfoot Lakes in Vilas County.
To view all results, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keywords “spring hearing” to get to the DNR spring wildlife and fisheries proposed rules hearing and annual Conservation Congress county meeting web page.
Craig Turk may be reached at email@example.com.