Firearm Possession Rules on DNR-Managed Lands
The regulations regarding the possession of firearms on lands managed by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) are specific and must be strictly adhered to by all hunters and visitors. Understanding these rules is crucial for legal and safe hunting experiences.
Possession in Closed Areas: It is generally illegal to hunt or possess firearms, air guns, bows, or crossbows in areas that are closed to hunting. However, there are specific conditions under which these can be carried.
- Unloaded Condition: The weapons must be unloaded or unstrung and must be enclosed within a carrying case. This rule ensures safety and compliance with regulations in non-hunting zones.
Concealed Weapon Permit Holders:
- Individuals authorized to possess a concealed weapon are allowed to carry a loaded, uncased handgun on DNR properties. This exception recognizes the rights of concealed carry permit holders while maintaining safety standards.
Hunters in State Parks:
- Hunters are permitted to possess a loaded or uncased firearm, air gun, bow, or crossbow in certain areas of state parks that are closed to hunting. The purpose of this allowance is to enable hunters to access areas within the park that are open to hunting.
- This regulation facilitates hunters’ movement within the park, allowing them to traverse non-hunting zones to reach designated hunting areas.
State Park Hunting Regulations
Hunting in state parks is generally permitted, but it is governed by specific regulations. These rules are designed to ensure the safety of all park visitors, protect wildlife habitats, and maintain the balance between recreational use and conservation.
General Access to State Parks for Hunting
- Broad Accessibility: A majority of state park properties have designated areas open to hunting. This approach facilitates hunting activities while preserving the integrity and multipurpose use of state parks.
- Check for Specifics: Hunters should verify the specific regulations and maps for the state park they plan to visit. This ensures compliance with localized rules and hunting area boundaries.
Hunting Regulations in State Parks
- Legal Hunting Methods: All legal hunting methods are allowed in state parks, except where specific restrictions are imposed. This may include limitations on the type of weapons used or certain hunting practices.
- Weapon Restrictions and Safety: In some areas, only bow and crossbow hunting might be allowed, especially where firearm use is deemed unsafe due to proximity to populated areas or specific park features.
Spring Turkey Hunting
- Seasonal Limitations: Spring turkey hunting in state parks is permitted during the 2-day spring youth turkey hunt and extends until the Tuesday nearest May 3. These dates are set to align with broader wildlife management goals and public safety considerations.
- Property-specific Dates: It's important to note that the season dates for state parks do not apply to state forests, state recreation areas, or other DNR properties. Hunters must consult the specific regulations for these areas separately.
Discharge Restrictions on DNR-Managed Lands
The regulations surrounding the discharge of firearms and air guns on lands managed by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) are designed to ensure public safety and wildlife conservation. These rules are critical for maintaining a safe environment for all individuals using these lands.
General Discharge Prohibition
- Restricted Areas: The discharge of any firearm or air gun is generally prohibited within the exterior boundaries of state-owned lands in specific counties listed in the regulations.
- Signage and Compliance: These areas are typically marked with DNR signs, and compliance with this rule is crucial to avoid disturbances and ensure the safety of all visitors.
Permitted Discharge Activities
- During Open Hunting Seasons: Discharging firearms or air guns is allowed while engaged in hunting activities, provided it is done in accordance with the open seasons. This ensures that hunting is carried out during regulated times for effective wildlife management.
- Established Shooting Ranges: Target shooting is permitted exclusively at established shooting ranges. This concentrates shooting activities in controlled environments, reducing the risk of accidents.
- Dog Training and Trialing: Under specific DNR licensing, discharging firearms for the purpose of training or trialing dogs is allowed within designated areas. This caters to the needs of hunting dog trainers while maintaining overall safety.
Blind and Stand Regulations on DNR-Managed Lands
The use of blinds and stands for hunting on lands managed by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is subject to specific regulations. These guidelines are designed to ensure hunter safety, equitable access to hunting areas, and the protection of natural resources.
Visibility Requirement for Ground Blinds
- Blaze Orange or Fluorescent Pink Material: During any open deer season or special deer hunt with firearms, ground blinds must display a minimum of 144 square inches of solid blaze orange or fluorescent pink material. This material must be visible from all directions to increase visibility and prevent hunting accidents.
Regulations for Building and Using Blinds and Stands
- Tree Damage Prohibition: Any device used for hunting, such as a ground blind or elevated stand, must not damage the tree. This includes a ban on cutting shooting lanes and the use of screw-in tree stands. However, careful pruning of limbs less than 1 inch in diameter is permissible.
- North of Highway 64: Overnight placement of blinds/stands is allowed from September 1 to January 31. In state park system lands, this is limited to seven days before and after an established fall hunting period. A maximum of two portable devices per hunter per county is permitted for overnight placement.
- South of Highway 64: Devices can be placed one hour before and must be removed one hour after shooting hours each day.
- Unoccupied Stands/Blinds: Any tree stand or ground blind left unoccupied must have the owner's DNR customer ID number or name and address attached in a visible and legible manner. This aids in ownership identification and accountability.
Waterfowl Hunting Exemptions
- Blinds for Waterfowl Hunting: Ground blinds used exclusively for waterfowl hunting are exempt from the requirement of displaying blaze orange/pink and can remain in place without the need for daily removal.
Dog Regulations on DNR-Managed Lands
Regulations concerning the presence and management of dogs on Department of Natural Resources (DNR) lands are established to ensure the safety of wildlife, the dogs themselves, and other visitors. These rules are particularly relevant for hunters and outdoor enthusiasts who might want to bring their dogs to these areas.
Leash Requirement During Specific Periods
- Restricted Period: From April 15 to July 31, dogs are required to be on a leash not exceeding eight feet in length on DNR lands. This rule aims to protect wildlife during critical breeding and nesting periods and to prevent potential conflicts with other visitors.
Exemptions to the Leash Requirement
- Class 1 Field Trial Grounds: Dogs are exempt from the leash requirement in Class 1 field trial grounds, designated areas specifically for dog training and field trials.
- Dog Training on DNR Lands: Dogs used for training purposes are exempt from the leash law outside of the April 15 - July 31 timeframe. This includes training dogs to track bears after June 30, acknowledging the importance of training hunting dogs in natural settings.
- Special Provisions for Bear Tracking: Dogs trained for bear tracking are allowed off-leash post-June 30, which is essential for effective training and conditioning of these dogs for hunting seasons.
Trail Camera Guidelines on DNR-Managed Lands
The use of trail cameras on lands managed by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is governed by specific guidelines. These rules are designed to facilitate wildlife monitoring and hunting preparations while ensuring the protection of natural resources and respect for the privacy of others.
Placement and Usage Rules
- Authorized Zones: Trail cameras can only be placed in areas where hunting is permitted. This ensures that the cameras are used primarily for legitimate hunting-related activities.
- Identification Requirements: Each trail camera must visibly display the owner's name and address or DNR customer ID number. This identification must be permanent and clear, allowing for easy identification without needing to move or adjust the camera.
- Non-Damaging Installation: Cameras must be installed in a way that does not cause harm to natural vegetation or other DNR property. This rule helps preserve the natural state of the environment and prevent unnecessary damage.
Risk and Responsibility
- Personal Risk: Placing trail cameras on DNR-managed lands is done at the owner's risk. The DNR does not assume responsibility for the theft or damage of trail cameras.
- Respect for Property: Users must respect the natural environment and DNR property when installing and maintaining their cameras.
Land Open to Hunting & Federal Game Lands
Locating land open to hunting in specific regions can be a significant task for hunters. Various tools and resources are available to assist in this process, ensuring hunters can find suitable and legal areas for their activities.
Resources for Locating Hunting Lands
DNR Website: A primary resource for hunters is the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) website. It provides comprehensive information on lands open to hunting, including wildlife areas, fisheries, and natural habitats.
- Purpose: The website helps hunters identify areas managed by the DNR that are available for hunting, offering details on the type of game, habitat, and any specific regulations.
- Accessibility: It is user-friendly and regularly updated, making it an essential tool for planning hunting trips.
FFLIGHT Tool for Upland Game Bird Hunters
FFLIGHT: The Fields & Forest Lands Interactive Gamebird Hunting Tool (FFLIGHT) is an online mapping application designed specifically for upland game bird hunters.
- Functionality: It helps hunters locate cover suitable for ruffed grouse and woodcock, managed dove fields, and properties stocked with game farm pheasants.
- User Benefit: This tool provides detailed mapping and habitat information, aiding hunters in targeting specific areas for upland game bird hunting.
Understanding Federal and Other Lands
Federal Lands: National wildlife refuges, national forests, and other federal lands are open to hunting but come with additional regulations.
- Compliance: Hunters must comply with federal regulations, which may differ from state rules. This includes specific hunting seasons, permitted game, and hunting methods.
Fort McCoy: This area operates its own hunting seasons, independent of the DNR’s schedules.
- Requirements: Hunters interested in Fort McCoy must obtain the appropriate permits and follow its specific regulations.
County Forests: Comprising over 2.4 million acres, county forests represent a significant portion of public hunting land.
- Activities: These forests offer a range of recreational activities, including hunting, fishing, and trapping, along with other outdoor pursuits like camping and ATV trails.
Hunting on Private Lands with Public Access
Accessing private lands for hunting purposes is governed by specific programs and regulations. These programs allow public hunting on privately owned lands, providing additional opportunities for hunters while respecting the rights of landowners.
Managed Forest Law (MFL) and Forest Crop Law (FCL)
- Program Descriptions: The MFL and FCL are programs where private landowners can enroll their forest lands in exchange for tax incentives. In return, these lands are often opened to public hunting.
- Hunting Access: Hunters can access these lands for hunting, but they must adhere to the specific rules set forth by the programs and respect the property rights of the landowners.
Voluntary Public Access (VPA) Program
- Purpose: The VPA program is designed to increase public hunting opportunities on private lands through voluntary agreements with landowners.
- Hunter Responsibilities: Hunters using VPA lands must follow all state hunting regulations and any additional rules set by the landowner.
Turkey Hunter Access Program (THAP)
- Seasonal Availability: THAP is specifically targeted for turkey hunting, offering access to private lands during the turkey hunting season (March 1 through the end of the spring turkey season).
- Compliance: Hunters must follow all applicable state hunting regulations and any additional restrictions imposed by the landowner or the THAP.
General Rules for Hunting on Private Lands
- Ground Blind and Elevated Device Use: Any construction or use of ground blinds or elevated devices must not damage trees and must comply with specific guidelines.
- Damage Prohibition: It's illegal to cut shooting lanes, use screw-in tree stands or steps, as these actions are considered damaging to the property.
- Trail Camera Use: Placement of trail cameras on MFL/FCL and VPA lands requires the landowner's permission. This respects the privacy and property rights of the landowners.
- Landowner Authorization: It's important for hunters to obtain explicit permission from landowners before hunting on these properties. This ensures respect for private property and good relationships between hunters and landowners.
Importance of Ethical Hunting on Private Lands
- Respecting Private Property: Hunters must respect the landowner's property, leaving the land as they found it and adhering to any specific requests or rules.
- Conservation and Wildlife Management: Ethical hunting practices contribute to conservation efforts and sustainable wildlife management, even on private lands.
- Community Relations: Responsible hunting behavior fosters positive relationships between hunters, landowners, and the wider community, promoting the continuation of such access programs.
Hunting on Tribal Lands
Hunting on lands owned by or held in trust for Native American tribes involves unique considerations and regulations. Understanding and respecting these guidelines is crucial for hunters seeking to access tribal lands.
- Primary Requirement: Prior to hunting on tribal lands, individuals must obtain explicit permission from the respective tribe. This is a crucial step, as tribal lands are governed by sovereign nations with their own laws and regulations.
- Contact Information: Hunters should contact the appropriate tribal authorities for information on how to obtain permission. This may involve specific permits or agreements.
Compliance with State and Tribal Regulations
- Dual Adherence: While hunting on tribal lands, hunters must comply with both state hunting regulations and the specific rules set by the tribe. This includes season dates, permitted species, and hunting methods.
- Additional Restrictions: Some tribes may have unique wildlife management practices or cultural considerations that influence their hunting regulations. It's important for hunters to understand and respect these aspects.
Additional Regulations on DNR-Managed Lands
Beyond the previously discussed topics, various other regulations govern activities on Department of Natural Resources (DNR) managed lands. These rules address a range of activities to ensure safety, conservation, and equitable use of these areas.
Hunting in Designated Areas
- State Park Hunting Restrictions: It's illegal to hunt or discharge a weapon in parts of state parks that are closed to hunting. Hunters must adhere to park-specific rules, including weapons restrictions and seasonal limitations.
- Prohibited Actions Near Designated Use Areas: Hunting is not allowed within 100 yards of designated use areas such as picnic areas, campgrounds, beaches, buildings, and certain trails. This rule ensures the safety and enjoyment of all park visitors.
Camping and Vehicle Use Regulations
- Camping Restrictions: Camping is only permitted in designated campgrounds or with a special camp registration permit from the DNR.
- Motor Vehicle Operation: The use of motor vehicles, including ATVs, UTVs, snowmobiles, bicycles, and trail bikes, is restricted to areas posted open for such use. Unauthorized operation of these vehicles is prohibited to protect natural habitats and ensure visitor safety.
Shooting Hours and State Park Access
- Regulated Shooting Hours: Normal opening and closing shooting hours apply, with all hunting activities, including night hunting, ending at 11 p.m.
- State Park Property Access: Access for hunting purposes is allowed from 6 a.m. or one hour prior to the shooting hours for the species being pursued, whichever is earlier, until 11 p.m.
Compliance with Federal and Other Land Regulations
- Federal Lands: Hunters must comply with additional regulations on federal lands like national wildlife refuges and national forests.
- Fort McCoy: This area has independent hunting seasons and permit requirements, separate from DNR’s regulations.
- County Forests: These forests offer hunting and other recreational opportunities, subject to specific county rules and regulations.
Frequently Asked Questions about Hunting Regulations and Access
Can I hunt in any state park?
- Not all state parks are open to hunting. Check the specific regulations and maps for the park you're interested in, as some areas may have restrictions.
Do I need a special permit to hunt in state parks?
- You don't need a special hunting access permit for state parks, but all standard hunting license requirements apply.
Are there any areas where I cannot discharge a firearm in state-owned lands?
- Yes, discharging firearms is prohibited within certain state-owned lands in specified counties, except during open hunting seasons or at established shooting ranges.
What are the leash requirements for dogs on DNR lands?
- Dogs must be leashed from April 15 to July 31 on DNR lands. There are exemptions for Class 1 field trial grounds and bear tracking training after June 30.
Can I leave my trail camera overnight on DNR-managed lands?
- Yes, but it must be placed in hunting-allowed areas, bear identification, and not cause damage to natural vegetation or DNR property.
Are ground blinds allowed during deer season?
- Yes, but they must display at least 144 square inches of solid blaze orange or fluorescent pink material visible from all directions.
Can I camp anywhere in state forests?
- Camping is only allowed in designated campgrounds or with a special camp registration permit obtained from the DNR.
Is it legal to drive ATVs or UTVs on DNR lands?
- Operation of ATVs, UTVs, and other motor vehicles is only allowed in areas specifically posted open for such use.
What are the shooting hours in state parks?
- Normal shooting hours apply, but all hunting must end by 11 p.m., including species legal to hunt at night.
Can I hunt with any weapon in state parks?
- Weapon usage depends on the specific state park. Some areas may restrict hunting to bows and crossbows only.
Do I need permission to hunt on tribal lands?
- Yes, you must obtain permission from the respective tribe before hunting on tribal lands.
How can I find land open to hunting in Wisconsin?
- Use the DNR website and tools like FFLIGHT to find open hunting lands, including state-managed areas and private lands in programs like MFL and FCL.
What are the rules for hunting on private lands enrolled in the MFL or FCL programs?
- Hunters must follow specific rules set by these programs and should obtain permission from landowners.
Are there special regulations for hunting on federal lands?
- Yes, hunting on federal lands like national wildlife refuges requires adherence to additional regulations specific to those areas.
Can I hunt in Fort McCoy?
- Yes, but Fort McCoy has its own hunting seasons and permit requirements independent of DNR’s regulations.
How many portable hunting devices can I leave overnight in state forests?
- North of Highway 64, you can leave up to two portable devices per hunter per county overnight under specific conditions.
Are there any restrictions on hunting near campgrounds and picnic areas?
- Hunting within 100 yards of designated use areas like campgrounds and picnic areas is prohibited.
Can I use screw-in tree stands on public hunting lands?
- No, using screw-in tree stands or steps is considered damaging and is illegal on public hunting lands.
What are the regulations for using trail cameras in MFL/FCL and VPA programs?
- Trail cameras on these lands require the landowner’s permission and must follow specific identification and placement rules.
Are county forests in Wisconsin open to hunting?
- Yes, county forests offer hunting opportunities, but hunters should check for any specific county regulations.