Here in Wisconsin there is a tradition of hunting. From the Saturday before Thanksgiving until the Sunday after Thanksgiving, it’s gun deer hunting season. Many schools in northern Wisconsin actually have the entire week of school off because if they didn’t, they wouldn’t have enough teachers or students to hold class — they are out hunting.

It’s a tradition handed down from generation to generation and it’s a part of our state’s history.

Yet, one Wisconsin bill is looking to diminish the sport and put some of those hunters at risk of penalties.

The bill is Senate Bill 30 and prohibits the organization of and participation in “contests for killing wild animals.”

The bill defines contests as an organized or sponsored competition with the objective of taking, capturing or killing a wild animal for entertainment or for the chance to win designated prizes. “Contest” does not include lawful fishing.

However, the bill prohibits a person from organizing, conducting or sponsoring a contest, providing a venue for a contest or participating in a contest.

There goes the big-buck contests that many bars, gas stations and businesses sponsor.

There goes the tradition.

The number of people out deer hunting has been going down in recent years.

Between 1999 and 2017, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources data show total deer licenses — some hunters buy more than one — fell by 50,414, or 5.8 percent to 824,475, according to the Wisconsin Policy Forum.

Fewer licenses means less money going to the state for environmental and conservation initiatives to protect our state’s natural resources.

In explaining the bill earlier this month, state Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison, said in a news release: “Wildlife killing contests are a cruel stain on Wisconsin’s long legacy of conservation. These contests lead to the indiscriminate killing of wildlife in order to win cash prizes, guns, or belt buckles. Not only are questionable tactics used to attract and kill the animals, but often, the animals are not used for any purpose after they are killed and their carcasses are left to rot.

“This senseless violence is not the same as ethical hunting. Wisconsinites have a historic reverence for wildlife, and these wildlife killing contests directly contradict that long and proud history and serve no useful purpose. California and Vermont have passed similar legislation.”

Wow. That is extreme. Part of the hunt, for most hunters, is bringing home the meat. It’s not something to be wasted and it’s certainly not “senseless violence.”

If someone gets a 20-point buck, that person deserves to be able to celebrate. And if it’s the biggest buck in town, they deserve to win a free drink or a free tank of gas or $100 bucks in cash — whatever is the local prize.

We have a rich hunting heritage here in Wisconsin. If hunting needs to be better regulated, or rules need to be adjusted, then that should be taken up in another bill or through administrative rules that are more targeted.

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