A rule change is giving deer hunters more opportunities throughout the state.
Accuracy and consistency outweighed possible safety concerns in a change by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources allowing rifles to be used for deer hunting in all counties.
“Shotguns don't shoot as far and as accurately as a regular deer rifle does, so it does expand the shooting range for the average deer hunter,” Eau Claire deer hunter John Sackett said.
Parts of 18 counties including Pierce, St. Croix and La Crosse still had shotgun-only zones last season, but that changes Nov. 1, making some happy and others unsure.
“We've got some highly populated areas and a lot of people shoot a lot further ... They'll try to shoot farther than what they can maybe see,” Pierce County Board of Supervisors Chair Jeff Holst said.
“Until there is some data, that indicates we should make a change, we're not contemplating making any change from the DNR rules,” St. Croix County Board of Supervisors Chair Daryl Standafer said.
“This is just one of those ways that simplifies things up a little bit,” Jeremy Peery said. “The department just couldn't substantiate, based upon several years of hunting incidents, involving rifles and shotguns, that shotgun-only zones are any safer than rifle … zones.”
Sackett said the change will likely affect where and how people hunt.
“I'd think a fair number of them would take advantage of this change to go to the deer rifle, versus the shotgun. However ... there's going to be a substantial number of those that will continue to hunt with a shotgun, for a variety of reasons, tradition being one of them,” Sackett said.
“It comes down to the choices that the individual makes behind the rifle, squeezing that trigger. Whether it's a rifle, shotgun a bow and arrow or a handgun. It's all the same factors,” Peery said.
Holst said he wanted to be notified of the change earlier, to take a closer look at the issue, but would have a hard time enforcing a shotgun-only zone with just three deputies on duty in the county.