Nighttime deer hunting controversy in Wisconsin

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Premiere Date: 
November 29, 2012

Nighttime deer hunting controversy in Wisconsin

Sue Erickson of the GLIFW explains the commission's support of nighttime deer hunting.

Episode Transcript

Frederica Freyberg: This week, a federal judge turned the lights out on a plan that would have allowed Chippewa Band members to hunt deer at night off-reservation. The ruling supports the DNR's right to enforce rules that dis-allow night shining for deer hunts. A December 12 federal court hearing is scheduled for further consideration of the night-time hunt program, as drafted by the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission. We asked DNR secretary Cathy Stepp to join us on tonight’s program. She was unable to schedule an interview. The department declined our request to provide a different spokesperson, but did send us this statement from the secretary. “The state is pleased that shining will be prohibited until such time as we can adequately address these issues within the appropriate court setting. We will continue to try to work with the tribes to resolve this issue.” We go now to Ashland for the latest from the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission. Sue Erickson is the commission spokesperson, and thanks a lot for being here. Sue Erickson: You're welcome. Frederica Freyberg: Right off the bat, in her statement Secretary Stepp says “deer shining,” but you take exception to that terminology. You don't call night hunting with lights “shining.” Why not? Sue Erickson: Well, because shining is generically interpreted as people going out, maybe using their vehicle, the headlights of their vehicle, or having a high-powered flashlight and they're shining as they're moving. What has been authorized for the Chippewa to use is illumination at the point of kill from a stationary position. In other words, when they are ready to shoot, they've found their prey, then they can illuminate, which will help give them a clear shot. Frederica Freyberg: What is your response to state officials who say that even this type of hunting is dangerous because hunters can't see what's behind the target? Sue Erickson: One of the requirements for the Chippewa night hunt is to pass, number one, a marksmanship proficiency test, as well as a hunter's education, reviewing the rules, but then also to submit a shooting plan. And in that plan they have a designated safe-firing zone. So that area where they're hunting from has been scoped out very well. Frederica Freyberg: And why do tribal members want to hunt deer at night? Sue Erickson: It provides extra opportunity to put venison on the table, essentially. There's a need in tribal communities for venison, for wild rice, for traditional foods that they have gathered. They're healthy foods. They're traditional foods. They have cultural significance, as well as just pure subsistence significance. Frederica Freyberg: Do you have members that have already gotten their permits to go ahead and do this if in fact, after December 12, the court rules that they can? Sue Erickson: Nobody holds a permit at this point. The commission has issued an order that has, essentially, de-authorized the night hunt. We do have 74 individuals who have passed the proficiency test and would be able to get a permit should they submit an adequate shooting plan. Frederica Freyberg: Now, you opposed the Wisconsin wolf hunt, correct? Sue Erickson: The tribes did, yes. Frederica Freyberg: Why? Sue Erickson: The tribes have a special relationship with the wolf. Ma'iingan is its Ojibwa name. He's regarded as a brother, a teacher, a guide, a friend. They also don't feel that, since the wolf has been very recently de-listed, that it is a wise decision at this point to institute a hunt. Frederica Freyberg: Is the tribe's move to hunt deer in the same way at night with lights a reaction to the wolf hunt? Sue Erickson: It's a reaction to the regulations allowed in the wolf hunt. They're saying that if the DNR deems it safe for wolf hunters, and maybe over 1,000 of them licensed, to go out at night, excuse me, and shoot a wolf using illumination at the point of kill. If this is safe then they ask why is it not safe for tribal deer hunters to go out and do the same. Frederica Freyberg: Interesting. Well, given this controversy that is now in the courts and the move this week at the Capital to move forward on iron ore mining in the north, how would you describe state/tribal relations right now? Sue Erickson: I think obviously we're confronted with some very, very serious issues that are impacting the tribes. The tribes remain, however, open to working with the state. They would like to consult on these issues. They are eager to have input and have their voices heard. Frederica Freyberg: Sue Erickson, thanks very much. Sue Erickson: You're welcome, and thanks for having me.

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