MADISON - Three years after the idea was first proposed in a citizen resolution during voting at Wisconsin Conservation Congress spring meetings, rifles will be allowed statewide for firearm deer hunting as of Nov. 1, 2013 – unless a local municipality has enacted a more restrictive ordinance.
"Hunters are strongly urged to check with the local officials to see if rifles will be allowed for the November nine-day gun-deer hunt," Scott Gunderson, assistant deputy secretary of the Department of Natural Resources, said of the law change which will not be in effect when the youth gun-deer hunt is held on Oct. 5-6.
Gunderson said this law change has attracted much public debate in the three years since it was first suggested.
"After the first statewide vote on this proposal at the Conservation Congress in 2011 when 61 counties supported it, the Department of Natural Resources held hearings in each county," he said. There was a citizen resolution offered in 2010 with the statewide advisory question the following year. "We again found widespread public support for this rule change in 2013."
This means that unless there is a local ordinance that restricts the use of rifles in the town you will be hunting, you will be able to use rifles of calibers legal for hunting deer statewide in 2013.
The DNR did not enter into this decision lightly, Gunderson said, and no matter the type of weapon a hunter chooses to use, they are reminded to follow the four rules of firearm safety.
T = Treat every firearm as if it is loaded.
A = Always point the muzzle in a safe direction.
B = Be certain of your target and what's beyond it.
K = Keep your finger outside the trigger guard until ready to shoot.
"The department has not identified any safety-related advantage to shotguns and there is no deer herd management purpose for the old regulation," said Conservation Warden Todd Schaller, chief of the DNR's Bureau of Law Enforcement's Recreational Enforcement and Education Section. "The key to safe hunting is that the safety rules must be followed with all types of firearms.
The new regulations will be a simplification. Under previous rules, the department was frequently asked if people could use high-powered rifles for other species outside of the firearm deer season, if they could use muzzleloaders, or if they could use high-powered rifle and other cartridges in handguns during the firearm deer season.
The answer to all of those was yes, even in shotgun-only areas, which sheds some light on the fact that the old rule was really not needed for safety related purposes.
During 2002-2007, rifles were authorized within former shotgun-only portions of Dane, Green, Lafayette, Rock and Walworth counties contained in the Chronic Wasting Disease Eradication Zones with no increase in shooting incidents.
"Rifles are firearms that are designed to fire a single projectile through a barrel that has lands and grooves, called rifling, which spin the bullet – providing accuracy and efficiency. Shotguns are designed primarily to fire a large number of small projectiles, called pellets, in a single shot and they are normally used for shooting birds in flight or small game. However, shotgun shells can be loaded with a single slug and used for deer hunting. Given the choice many, if not most, firearm deer hunters prefer to use a rifle because of the improved accuracy and great variety of calibers and guns."
To learn more about hunting in Wisconsin – including enrolling in a hunter safety course – please visit: dnr.wi.gov, search keyword, "hunting."