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11/21/2012 7:52:00 PM
GLIFWC authorizes night deer hunting, DNR files motion to block, but hunt is under way
Tribal agency says rules are similar to those for hunting wolves at night
Chippewa night deer hunt under way

The Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC), the commission that oversees Chippewa Tribes’ hunting and fishing rights, announced on Nov. 21 that a commission order authorizing night deer hunting by tribal members in the ceded territory was in place.

Night hunting for deer was to start Monday, Nov. 26, 50 minutes after sunset.

Sue Erickson, GLIFWC public information director, said there had been applicants for night hunting permits from all of the Great Lakes Chippewa bands, except the Bad River Band.

That means members of the St. Croix, Mole Lake, Red Cliff, Lac Courtes Oreilles and Lac du Flambeau bands had applied successfully. As of Monday afternoon, a total of 74 Ojibwe hunters had applied and become eligible to participate in night deer hunting.

“They have to do a kind of a proficiency rules course, and that includes the marksmanship testing – which you have to pass,” Erickson explained. “And then they’re also educated on the rules and regulations surrounding the hunt. And then they are required, also, if they’re going out, to submit a shooting plan that indicates a safe firing zone.”

The DNR has filed a motion in federal court in an attempt to block the night deer hunt.

Erickson said the tribes were planning to file a cross-motion “requesting the earlier judgment that [didn’t allow] night hunting essentially be overturned, because circumstances have changed.”

Erickson indicated that the state’s wolf hunt that is the change in circumstance that prompted the tribes to pursue night deer hunting.

“Licensed wolf hunters are allowed to illuminate at the point of kill,” she said.

The tribes maintain that the rules allowing night hunting for deer are similar to those the state has in place for night wolf hunting. Under the new rules, tribal hunters would be allowed to illuminate deer at the point of kill.

The DNR contends that issues surrounding night hunting for deer are the same as when the tribes tried to start a night deer hunt in 1989 and were denied. The tribes argued then that, because the state allows night hunting for animals such as coyotes, tribes should be able to hunt deer at night.

Craig Turk
Outdoors Writer/Photographer

The Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC), the commission that oversees Chippewa Tribes’ hunting and fishing rights, announced on Nov. 21 that a commission order authorizing night deer hunting by tribal members in the ceded territory was in place.

The state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) says the order is in violation of state law.

“They have decided to step outside of the stipulation process and outside of the stipulation negotiations and do a commission order instead – that they believe would give their members permission to shine and hunt deer at night, off of the reservations in the ceded territory. We believe they don’t have that authority,” DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp told The Lakeland Times.

The commission’s plan allows tribal members the usage of lights to hunt deer at night starting Nov. 26 on off-reservation lands within the ceded territory. The action prompted the DNR to file a motion in federal court.

Stepp said the purpose of the motion is “first of all, to not allow them to do this and, secondly, to give us clarity and permission to enforce state law.”

The state cites safety issues in particular.

“People will not be safe if tribal members are allowed to discharge high-powered firearms at night in the ceded territory,” assistant attorney general Diane Milligan wrote in the motion.

Stepp said an earlier federal court ruling on treaty rights puts the burden of filing a motion on the state in this situation.

“Apparently, there was a decision years ago by Judge Crabb that ... said if the tribes decided to step outside of the bounds of the law, that we’d have to come back to her to get permission to enforce state law,” she said. “So, that’s what we filed for with the Department of Justice [Nov. 21].”

The DNR contends that the new night hunting issue is the same as one the tribes lost in federal court in 1989, when they argued that because the state allows night hunting for animals such as coyotes, tribes should be able to hunt deer at night.

Prior to the recent move, the state had been in discussions with GLIFWC regarding the possibility of tribal deer hunting at night. Stepp indicated that she believes the process was halted too abruptly and too soon.

“We’ve got safety concerns, and that’s what we were trying to work through the stipulation process on – to address those. We’ve got lots of things that ... we talk about during the stipulation negotiations, this is just one of those topics. And, then, all of a sudden, they just issue this,” she said.

GLIFWC countered the state’s claim that the night hunt would be dangerous, saying that if it is safe enough to hunt wolves at night – something the new wolf hunting rules allow beginning Nov. 26 – it’s safe enough to hunt deer at night.

Stepp said, with the decision by GLIFWC coming a day before the Thanksgiving holiday and just five days before night hunting would start, the state was left with little time to get the word out. 

“It doesn’t give us time to educate the public – that they could be hearing shots at night and be seeing people shining deer and hunting deer at night – which is clearly outside of state law,” she said.

Stepp, in a Nov. 20 letter to GLIFWC administrator Jim Zorn, urged GLIFWC not to go forward with the order that would allow night hunting for deer, but also asking that, if they did, that they give the state at least a one-week notice to “take appropriate measures to protect public safety.”


Maulson’s mum, GLIFWC not available

Lac du Flambeau Tribal Council President Tom Maulson didn’t have a lot to say in the wake of the commission order.

“We’re allowing our GLIFWC public relations people to do all our responding on that,” he said when asked Friday about the night deer hunt.

Asked about safety, Maulson did offer a comment suggesting that the tribes have adequately addressed these issues, and perhaps suggesting that the state has been lax.

“Other than the fact that ... we’re taking care of all our safety concerns way ahead of time, something that the state hasn’t done about ... I’ll leave it at that,” he said.

Asked to comment further, Maulson simply said, “Be looking forward to doing it as soon as they start here ... Monday [Nov. 26].” 

GLIFWC offices were closed for the Thanksgiving holiday, but Zorn had earlier indicated that the rules allowing night hunting for deer were similar to those the state has in place for night wolf hunting, noting that tribal hunters would be allowed to shine deer at the point of kill, not randomly sweep fields and woods with lights.

In a Nov. 9 letter to Stepp, Zorn said the DNR “has not raised any safety concerns that do not already exist for state citizens hunting wolves at night under state law.” 

In the letter, Zorn went on to say that “safety precautions go well beyond the state law requirements for wolf hunting at night.”

Tribal hunters participating in night deer hunting would have to visit their hunting area during daylight hours and submit a “shooting plan” which shows a safe field of fire and notes roads, schools and other structures within a quater-mile of the location they plan to hunt.

The tribes came out in opposition to state’s wolf hunting and trapping season, trying in September to halt wolf hunting and trapping in the northern part of the state by laying claim to all wolves in the ceded territory. That effort was denied. 

Under treaties signed in 1837 and 1842, the Chippewa ceded 22,400 square miles across northern Wisconsin to the government while retaining off-reservation hunting and fishing privileges. In 1991, a federal court ruled that tribes have the right to at least 50 percent of the harvestable surplus for any animal hunted in the territory. The ceded territory covers roughly the northern one-third of Wisconsin.

Backed by federal ruling, Chippewa tribes conduct their own deer hunt, independent of state deer hunts, in the ceded territory.

Night deer hunting for Chippewa tribes would run until the end of the tribal deer hunting season Jan. 6.

The state’s regular nine-day gun deer hunting season ended Sunday, Nov. 25, with a 10-day muzzleloader season opening Nov. 26.

Night hunting for wolves is allowed beginning Nov. 26, but area Wolf Management Zones 2 and 4 were closed Nov. 16 as they neared quota, meaning no wolf hunting or trapping can legally take place in northeastern Wisconsin. The zones include all of Oneida and Vilas counties.

Reader Comments

Posted: Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Article comment by: Terry Fondow

Pardon me Bob and Craig, but night hunting is allowed for many game animals, as is the use of light at the point of kill. The treaty governing the ceded territories does not prohibit night hunting. My guess is that the court case is more about procedure than substance and that night hunting will eventually be allowed for tribes in the ceded territories. Read the treaties and the history of the related court cases. While you are at it, you may discover that the tribes harvest less than one half of one percent of the total deer kill in the state.

Posted: Thursday, November 29, 2012
Article comment by: bob kleinschmidt

Let them hunt but take all the welfare , tax breaks , Gov grants etc from them!!!!!! get in the real world.

Posted: Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Article comment by: Craig Crowl

This is just another example of how screwed up things are. No one should be allowed to shoot a rifle after dark for any reason. Very nice that Mr. Maulson has informed us that they have addressed the safety concerns. What a joke. With the alcohol & drug issues they have, I am sure that allowing hunting after dark will be at least good for the newspaper.
Why not get smart and just get people to stop going to the casino. That would bring them back to the table real fast.

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