Pledger: DNR could stand to change some bowhunting rules

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D.S. Pledger
Sunday, August 25, 2013

Believe it or not, in only a matter of weeks, bowhunters across the state will be back in the woods again.

And for me, at least, some of those hours spent on stand watching for deer afford time to contemplate some of the great mysteries of life, which include the scores of regulations we have to contend with for the privilege of shooting one of the DNR's deer.

There are a few that in my opinion, at least, need to be changed.

One of them is hunting hours. In the evening, one must climb down from their stand just about the time things start getting interesting. Deer tend to come out shortly before it gets dark, but when there are a good 10 minutes of shooting light left. Alas, the law prohibits us from taking advantage of this prime time.

Does quitting early save us from getting lost if darkness overtakes us? Is it safer, since we won't stick an arrow in a fellow hunter? Does it ensure that we're not going to pull out a flashlight and jacklight a deer?

Come on, now—when hunting hours open in the morning it's a lot darker than it is when we're required to leave the woods, so it can't be a safety concern.

There's also the matter of weather. On a clear evening, shooting light will linger much longer than on a cloudy one, so why the same quitting time? Then, too, a hunter sitting in a stand along a cornfield will enjoy the benefit of more lumens far later than at a stand in the deep woods.

Any ethical hunter with half a brain knows when it's too dark to shoot effectively—we don't need a timetable to tell us.

Another regulation pet peeve is the outdated, cumbersome process of deer registration. Why can't a deer be registered either on the DNR website, on the phone or by mail? During the early part of bowhunting season taking care of a deer quickly is of paramount importance because of the warm weather.

You need to get it out of the woods, quartered and into someplace cold ASAP. But wait! You've first got to find a registration station to make some Madison bean-counter happy.

The only problem is that if you shot it in the evening, it might take hours before you get it out of the woods. Meanwhile the station has closed for the night—or if it's a Sunday, it might not have been open at all.

I once had the experience of shooting a deer in Grant County and driving to several towns looking for a place that was still open. Had I not been able to find one (about five minutes before it closed), then what? Go home with an illegal deer, or check into a motel and miss work the next day?

I've shot big-game animals in Montana and Wyoming—two states that draw hunters from all over the country, but the only place I've ever had to do the registration station thing is here in Wisconsin. If a mail-in registration works fine there, why not here?

And, of course, the DNR needs to reconsider the No. 1 bad idea of recent times—that being baiting. With all of the technological advances in bows, arrows, sights, range finders, attracting scents, calls and camouflage (to name a few), is the hunter still so challenged that he has to get the deer to come to him by putting out a pile of corn?

The practice is indefensible for a number of reasons, ranging from bad sportsmanship to spreading disease. The DNR should stand up to the pressure groups and do the right thing by banning it.

D.S. Pledger is an outdoors columnist for The Gazette. Email him at maus16@centurytel.net.

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