DNR sues to stop proposed tribal night hunting of deer
NORTHERN WISCONSIN - The Wisconsin DNR filed a lawsuit Wednesday, Nov. 21 to block plans by six Chippewa bands to hunt deer at night across the northern third of the state.
The Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission authorized tribal hunters to hunt deer at night using a light “at the point of kill,” according to a spokesperson for the commission.
That is illegal under current state law, even though the DNR is allowing night hunting of wolves beginning Monday, Nov. 26, the same day the bands propose to begin hunting deer at night. DNR rules say hunters can use a light while shooting at a wolf at the point of kill.
"The DNR said it's safe to have hunters in the woods at night hunting wolves and using a light at the point of kill,'' said the GLIFWC spokesperson. "The tribes are simply instituting the same thing.''
The lawsuit filed by the DNR asks that the tribes comply with prohibition on “deer shining” or the taking of deer with a light and confirming the state’s right to enforce the law against tribal hunters in the ceded territory.
The Chippewa ceded 22,400 square miles across northern Wisconsin to the government in the early 1800s. A 1991 federal court ruling found that tribes have the right to harvest at least 50 percent of the quote for any animal hunted in that territory. The bands oversee their own deer hunt in the ceded territory independent of the state’s bow and firearm seasons.
"We have concerns about 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,'' DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp said in a statement.
“We have also requested that the Tribes refrain from shining deer until this matter can be settled in court. Should Tribal members refuse, it is important for the public to know that night hunting of deer could take place on public lands in the Ceded Territory starting Nov. 26, and proper precautions should be taken if outdoor recreating.”
Chippewa bands in Wisconsin and Minnesota opposed inaugural wolf hunting and trapping seasons this fall in both states,” Stepp told the Associated Press. "This is one of those issues ... we need to push back on."
Tensions have been high between the DNR and the commission since September, when the commission authorized a tribal elk hunt despite DNR contentions that the group had to reach a consensus with the agency first.
Stepp said the commission and the DNR have been talking about possibly allowing tribal members to hunt deer at night, but Stepp said the commission abruptly chose to act on its own. - with information from DNR press release, startribune.com