Patches and safety cards are given to graduates of Wisconsin hunter education classes. (Photo: Paul A. Smith)
Prospective hunters of all ages may earn their Wisconsin hunter education certificate through an entirely online process due to a temporary change announced Thursday by the Department of Natural Resources.
The modification, made out of health concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic, means for the first time in state history even young hunters can gain the required credentials without demonstrating firearm safety and passing an in-person examination.
Prior to the change, all hunters under the age of 18 were required to at least attend a 5- to 7-hour “field day” of instruction and testing supervised by certified hunter education instructors.
The alteration was driven by a desire to prevent COVID-19 exposure among students and instructors as well as limited availability of public facilities to conduct classes, capacity limits in buildings and requirements for personal protective equipment, according to the agency.
“The temporary online-only certification option will provide additional hunter education opportunities to all customers affected by COVID-19,” said DNR hunter education administrator Jon King. “The online option aligns our program with many hunter education programs in other states, which are facing the same challenges with their hunter education programs.”
In Wisconsin, in-person hunter education classes were halted for several months after the pandemic began to affect the state in March.
Even though the courses resumed in summer, a backlog of students, especially those under the age of 18, built up in advance of the state’s fall hunting seasons for a variety of game.
In a typical year the DNR awards about 22,000 hunter safety certificates, including 16,000 through in-person classes, King said.
So far this year it has only been able to issue about 6,000 through in-person classes.
“This online option is going to help make sure every one who wants to pursue a hunter education course this fall can do it,” King said.
The change is understandable, said Al Kvam of Green Bay, president of the Wisconsin Hunter Education Instructors Association. However, he hopes it is temporary.
“We support the DNR in what they do, but the state has several thousands of instructors dedicated to providing students with in-person hunter education,” Kvam said. “We still think in-person training is the best way to go.”
The state has about 4,100 volunteer hunter education instructors, according to the DNR.
Since many instructors are over the age of 60 and in a high-risk group for COVID-19, it’s not clear how many will return to teaching the classes or when.
Students of the online-only course will be required to pay the vendor fee plus the $10 state-required course fee, according to the DNR. The vendor is Kalkomey Enterprises, LLC of Dallas, Texas.
The temporary change for youth hunters is scheduled to be in place through Dec. 31, according to the DNR.
Some standard classes are also available this fall. As of Thursday that included 12 field days and two in-person classes (in Cudahy and Phillips).
For information on the online-only or other hunter education classes, visit dnr.wi.gov.
In a sign of the pandemic-fueled changes to our culture, this week three important conservation meetings will be held online.
On Tuesday, the DNR will host virtual meetings for walleye management and Lake Michigan lake whitefish management.
The walleye meeting is scheduled for 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. and is part of a process to update the state’s walleye management plan. Tuesday’s meeting will focus on Burnett, Washburn, Sawyer, Polk, Barron and Rusk counties. People who would like to participate should contact the DNR’s Max Wolter at [email protected] or (715) 634-7429. Pre-registration is required.
The lake whitefish meeting will run from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday. The DNR is developing new regulations for commercial harvest of whitefish, potentially to increase the quota for southern Green Bay, and is seeking stakeholder participation from a variety of sources. The public can access the meeting via Zoom or by calling (312) 626-6799 and using the meeting ID 967 7139 3836.
The 2020 Great Lakes Wolf Symposium will be held Tuesday through Thursday. Hosted by Timber Wolf Alliance and Northland College in Ashland, the event will include presentations on the latest research and status of wolves in the region. Registration is required; visit northland.edu and search “wolf symposium” for more information.
A deer carcass dumpster (left) and a CWD sampling kiosk were placed in 2018 on the Duren Family Farm near Cazenovia, Wisconsin. The Duren Family Farm and Hunt to Eat paid for the dumpster and kiosk. (Photo: Paul A. Smith)
Fundraiser for deer dumpsters
With the Republican-controlled Legislature’s failure to act on bills that would have provided funding for deer carcass disposal to help limit the spread of chronic wasting disease, private efforts to provide additional dumpsters will once again be critical this year.
The conservation organization Wisconsin’s Green Fire is raising money to pay for one dumpster each in Dane, Iowa, Richland and Sauk counties. The area in south-central Wisconsin has the highest prevalence of CWD.
Proper disposal of deer carcasses containing infectious CWD prions is considered by experts as a key to controlling the spread of the fatal disease.
Wisconsin’s Green Fire has established a GoFundMe site a goal to raise $5,000 to pay for rental of the four dumpsters and disposal of the deer waste. To learn more or donate, visit gofundme.com and search for “dumpsters for deer conservation.”