Visitors to Wisconsin State Parks are being reminded they may encounter hunters on park properties this April, under a new state law that went into effect this year.
There are limited hunting opportunities available in April, mainly spring turkey hunting, according to Scott Loomans, hunting regulations specialist for the Department of Natural Resources.
While the parks are also open for trapping, the only open trapping season is for beaver and otter north of Highway 64. Beaver and otter traps are placed underwater and otter trapping is allowed by permit only.
“The primary reason the board approved opening the parks to hunting in April was for the spring turkey season, and the parks are only open for the first three of the six spring turkey hunting periods,” Loomans said. The spring turkey season opens April 10, and the third period runs through April 30.
There were previously 16 state park properties open to the spring turkey hunting season by special permit only, and those 16 remain open only to those hunters who have a park-specific permit to hunt on those properties.
Special permits for these 16 park are issued through the same permit application process as permits for regular turkey zones. Hunters had to apply for those permits by the Dec. 10 application deadline, and all available permits for state park units were issued through the application process, so there are no general state parks zone permits available for over-the-counter sales.
While hunting and trapping would also be allowed in state parks for unprotected species such as opossums, skunks and weasels, there is very little hunting or trapping conducted for theses except to deal with animal nuisance problems, Loomans said.
The Legislature approved Sporting Heritage Bill, Wisconsin Act 168 in 2012. The law is intended to expand and outdoor recreation opportunities and make it easier for people to participate in hunting, trapping and fishing. Among other things Act 168 provided first-time hunters, anglers and trappers discounts on licenses; provided incentives for people who recruit others to buy licenses; increased safety education; and expanded hunting opportunities and opened park properties to trapping for the first time.
Under its authority under Act 168 to restrict hunting in parks for safety reasons, the state Natural Resources Board limited hunting in the spring from April 1 through the Tuesday nearest May 3. This year that is April 30. In the fall, gun and archery hunting and trapping are allowed in the open areas of the property from Nov. 15 through Dec. 15, except that archery hunting is allowed through the Sunday nearest Jan. 6.
Hunting is only allowed within the parks in areas designated as open. Closed areas include within 100 feet of designated use areas, such as parking lots, campgrounds and picnic areas, as well as within 100 feet of certain trails. Additional areas within parks may be closed due to safety concerns. Also some state parks have property that is within municipal boundaries where the discharge of firearms is prohibited.
“It is each hunter’s responsibility to know what areas within a park are open to hunting and which areas are closed,” Loomans said. Maps indicating closed and open areas are available on the DNR website (search for keywords “hunting state parks”), at park offices, and they will be posted at parking areas and other locations within parks.
Visitors should note that some current state park signs still indicate that hunting and trapping is prohibited on state park properties. Park managers around the state are in the process of removing the outdated signs but some will likely still be in place when the spring turkey season opens April 10.
Logo courtesy Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources