Visitors to Wisconsin State Parks are being reminded they may encounter hunters or trappers on park properties beginning Nov. 15 through Dec. 15, under a new state law that went into effect in 2013.

Hunting seasons currently open include archery deer, pheasant, turkey, grouse and small game such as rabbit and squirrel. Furbearer seasons open include hunting for raccoon, fox, coyote and wolf in the remaining wolf harvest zone that is open, according to Scott Loomans, hunting regulations specialist for the Department of Natural Resources.

Park properties are also open for trapping, primarily for raccoon.

While hunting and trapping are also for unprotected species such as opossums, skunks and weasels, there is very little hunting or trapping conducted for these animals except to deal with animal nuisance problems, Loomans said.

“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 “hunting state parks“), at park offices, and they will be posted at parking areas and other locations within parks.

The Legislature approved the Sporting Heritage Bill, Wisconsin Act 168, in 2012. The law is intended to expand outdoor recreation opportunities and make it easier for people to participate in hunting, trapping and fishing. In addition to expanding hunting and opening trapping in state parks, Act 168 also provided first-time hunters, anglers and trappers discounts on licenses; provided incentives for people who recruit others to buy licenses; and increased safety education.

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. 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 yards of designated use areas, such as parking lots, campgrounds and picnic areas, as well as within 100 yards of certain trails. The Natural Resources Board also recently enacted rules that prohibit the discharge of firearms, bow crossbow or air gun from, on or across designated trails which are not open to hunting.

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. Hunting is not allowed in Copper Culture, Governor Nelson, Heritage Hill, Lakeshore and Lost Dauphin state parks, Hank Aaron State Trail, Fischer Creek State Recreation Area, Havenwoods State Forest, Lapham Peak and Pike Lake units of the Kettle Moraine State Forest, and the Ice Age Complex at Cross Plains.

Trapping is also not allowed within 100 yards of any designated trail or any other designated use area, such as campgrounds and picnic areas as shown on the park property map. Trapping is prohibited in all closed areas. Types of traps that may be used on dry land are restricted to ones that have been shown to be not capable of catching dogs, commonly referred to as enclosed trigger type traps. These traps are described in more detail on page 4 of the 2013 trapping regulations pamphlet. Other trap types may be used only if they are placed completely under water.

Hunting and trapping is allowed during standard park hours of 6 a.m. – 11 p.m.; however, hunters and trappers can enter a state park one hour prior to the daily hunting starting times.

Hunters who plan to hunt on state park properties should expect to encounter non-hunting park users, and all park visitors should be respectful of other people using the park, according to Dan Schuller, Wisconsin State Parks director.

“We have gone through a significant effort to safely accommodate all recreational users of the parks during the open hunting seasons. Each park has significant areas closed to hunting, generally around the most heavily used areas and trails. Visitors should have an awareness of the property and their immediate surroundings to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for you and your family,” Schuller said.

Park visitors are welcome to talk with property managers to see they have additional “on-the-ground” perspective about where hunting is concentrated on a park property.

“We urge all visitors to consider wearing bright-colored, highly visible or reflective clothing when hunting seasons are open. If you have blaze orange clothing, it is a good choice to wear as it is commonly used to notify others of your presence in the area.”

Logo courtesy Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

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