A federal judge has denied an effort by Native American tribes to open a spotlighting season for deer in their ceded territories. The Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC) voted in late November to authorize night hunting for deer by tribal members. To participate, tribal members had to pass a marksmanship test and apply for a night hunting permit. While 74 had passed the test, none had applied for a permit for a hunt scheduled to begin after Thanksgiving, according to the Associated Press.
Judge Barbara Crabb said the GLIFWC overstepped its authority when it quietly authorized Chippewa tribal night hunting in the northern third of the state. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) filed suit seeking to stop the night hunt for fear of “the short amount of time to notify the public, the circumvention of court oversight and past rulings on night hunting for deer, and public safety,” according to Cathy Stepp, secretary of the DNR.
The past ruling Stepp referred to was a ruling made more than 20 years ago that required the tribes and the state to negotiate changes to tribal hunting rules and to agree upon a rule before they are enacted.
In court last week, the tribes argued that night hunting by spotlight was safe and that it was no different from spotlighting predators at night as authorized by the DNR in the case of wolves. Court sessions began on December 12 and ended on December 17 when Judge Crabb passed down her ruling.
In a released statement, Stepp said she and her department were pleased with the judge’s decision.
“The DNR Secretary, the Department, and the State have maintained that the process established by the courts and the parties must be followed,” Stepp said. “The State will continue to work in good faith toward resolving the numerous issues surrounding the State’s management of natural resources within the ceded territory and their potential overlapping impacts with the Chippewa’s treaty established rights to self-regulate their own harvest.”