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Outdoor News Briefs: Hopes high for another safe deer hunt

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outdoors Ellsworth, 54011
Pierce County Herald
715-273-4335 customer support
Ellsworth Wisconsin 126 S. Chestnut St. 54011

You've heard that things generally happen in threes - and Wisconsin officials hope for a third straight gun deer season in which no hunters are shot-to-death. The nine-day hunt begins on Saturday. And the DNR hopes to continue a one-of-a-kind safety streak.

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Only three November gun seasons in the last 160 years did not have a fatal shooting in Wisconsin. DNR chief warden Randy Stark credits the current record to the requirement that hunters take a safety course. Anyone born after 1973 must pass the DNR's safety course to get a gun license. Stark says much has been learned about the reasons for hunting deaths - and they can all be avoided by following basic rules like turning on the safety device when not hunting, and knowing your target and what's beyond it. Stark says one-third of all hunting accidents are self-inflicted, and another third occur during deer drivers when hunters are not sure of their targets and what's behind them.

There were six gun-related injuries throughout Wisconsin in last year's deer hunt. That's the second-lowest total since 2004.

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Over a dozen Wisconsin hunters have joined animal rights' groups in a lawsuit that seeks to permanently ban the use of dogs by wolf hunters. Dane County Circuit Judge Peter Anderson has temporarily banned dogs that help hunters track down wolves. And he'll hold a hearing next month to consider a permanent ban - as well as an opposing effort by the state DNR to drop the lawsuit altogether. But it could all be a moot point by then, at least for this season. The DNR says 73 wolves have already been shot since the hunt began October 15th - and at the current pace, hunters will reach their quota of 116 before the December 20th court hearing. And that means the season would close long before its scheduled ending date of February 28th. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit - that include over 40 state humane societies - says the DNR should draft rules about the training of dogs before the wolf hunt, as well as their usage during the season. Without those rules, they claim that wolves-and-dogs could engage in fights, with dogs coming up on the short end. Some of the hunters who joined the lawsuit fear that the dogs will interfere with Wisconsin's other hunting seasons which take place at the same time - including the deer hunt.

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License sales are down for Wisconsin's nine-day gun deer hunting season that begins Saturday. The DNR said 376,000 licenses were sold as of Tuesday, down by 27,000 from the same time a year ago. But the DNR's Ed Culhane says it does not necessarily mean that fewer hunters will be in the woods come Saturday morning. He says the Friday before the season opener is normally the biggest day for gun license sales. He noted, though, that overall hunting has been going down for decades - and it's a trend that has not stopped. Meanwhile, bow-and-arrow deer licenses are up slightly from 2011. There were 216,000 archery licenses issued as of Sunday, 8,700 more than last year. The bow-and-arrow season is half over. It picks up again Saturday and runs through January sixth. Governor Scott Walker pushed to streamline this year's hunting seasons, to put more of a spotlight on the November gun hunt and to eliminate confusion over seasons which overlapped in the past. There was no special hunt for antlerless deer in October - and the Earn-a-Buck requirement is gone.

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The Department of Natural Resources say the start of Wisconsin's gun deer hunting season this Saturday is early, meaning deer will likely still be mating and probably more active and less cautious. The early starting day comes between Thanksgiving comes earlier on the calendar this year. The DNR is reporting 376,000 licenses sold as of yesterday. Although a little behind last year's total, state officials are pointing out the Friday before the season is almost always the busiest single day for hunting permit sales. Hunter complaints less Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker to streamline the state's hunting season schedule. There was no October gun hunt for antlerless deer and no Earn-A-Buck requirement this season.

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