Hunting is allowed in some Wisconsin State Parks
MADISON – Fall visitors to Wisconsin’s state parks will find not only the crisp winds, brilliant colors and short days this season brings, they may also find that some park properties are open to hunting seasons. Hunting is allowed in some parks or park areas where it does not conflict with or pose danger to nonhunting park users.
The state legislature authorized small game hunting in state parks (squirrels, rabbits and hares, upland and migratory birds and furbearers) in 1997. In 2001, at the direction of then-governor Scott McCallum, an advisory committee was formed to assist Department of Natural Resources staff in developing criteria for expanding small game and wild turkey hunting opportunities in state parks.
Today, 16 park properties provide 66,000 acres for turkey hunting and four properties are open to small game and waterfowl hunting. Additionally, 36 properties offer 94,000 acres of deer hunting. All told, 39 park properties, or two-thirds of all park and recreation trail properties offer hunting opportunities.
More information on which parks offer hunting opportunities, can be found on the DNR Web site. Or, call a specific park directly.
“Wisconsin state parks are managed for multiple uses,” explains Jason Fritz, chief ranger for Department of Natural Resources park properties. “Visitor safety is, of course, first and foremost but there are many thousands of acres of park properties where deer, turkey and small game hunting can be enjoyed safely.
“Camping, hiking, photography, fishing and swimming will always be a big part of visiting Wisconsin state parks,” said Fritz. “But in the same way that private woodland owners seeking land management advice learn that a healthy landscape is a balanced landscape, hunting, especially for deer, is needed to head off over-browsing from large deer herds. Deer tend to browse some plant species more intensively than others leaving areas in the forest where oak and other forest plant regeneration is nearly at a standstill because of heavy browsing.”
Hunting on park properties is closely controlled to avoid user conflicts and make safety the highest priority. Depending on park use patterns, some properties may be open only for the spring half of the wild turkey season, others only for the fall, some may be open for both.
For hunters interested in hunting in a state park, it is advisable to call ahead to check on season dates, request any special permits issued by park staff, hunting hours and maps indicating which areas of a park are open to hunting. Department wildlife managers would like to sample and test any deer taken from a park or trail within the chronic wasting disease intensive harvest zone (Blue Mound, Governor Dodge, Sugar River Trail). Testing is free and the hunter may still keep the venison if desired.
“Wisconsin’s state parks are valuable recreation resources for all Wisconsin citizens,” says Fritz. “Many parks properties also share boundaries with public hunting grounds and hunters frequently use park campgrounds. Some of our parks also offer disabled hunting access. Regulations require that weapons must be unloaded and cased while in a no-hunting zone within a park and hunting stands can not be left up overnight. It’s been my experience as a park ranger that hunters are respectful of their hunting privilege and are very safety conscious.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Jason Fritz - (608) 266-2152 or Frank Hoppe - (608) 266-7301
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