Proposal would provide extra deer-hunting season for returning veteransEven before he got back from Iraq, Sgt. Kevin Johnson had deer hunting on his mind. So Johnson, who deployed with the Wisconsin National Guard’s 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, wrote to state lawmakers with an idea: Establish a special deer season for the thousands of returning soldiers who missed the chance to hunt this fall.
By: By Mary Spicuzza, The Wisconsin State Journal, Superior Telegram
Even before he got back from Iraq, Sgt. Kevin Johnson had deer hunting on his mind. So Johnson, who deployed with the Wisconsin National Guard’s 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, wrote to state lawmakers with an idea: Establish a special deer season for the thousands of returning soldiers who missed the chance to hunt this fall.
“Not only did we miss out on participating, we missed an opportunity to provide venison for our families,” Johnson wrote in a Dec. 9 e-mail from his base in Camp Ashraf to various state legislators. “With the current state of our economy this could have a large impact on our families as we work to get back on our feet following deployment.”
This week, legislation was introduced that could grant Johnson his wish. It would create an additional gun deer season from Feb. 4 through Feb. 7 for Wisconsin residents who were out of state serving on active duty in the U.S. armed forces or National Guard during the regular season Nov. 21-29.
A public hearing on the bill, SB 454, was scheduled today at the Capitol.
Rep. Chris Danou, D-Trempealeau, the chief sponsor of a companion Assembly bill, AB 652, said it’s an easy way to recognize the more than 3,000 soldiers returning to Wisconsin and thank them for their work.
“These guys missed out on almost a whole year of their lives,” Danou said.
Tom Van Haren, a conservation warden with the state Department of Natural Resources, said there may be other options available, such as issuing special permits for returning soldiers to hunt deer that damage crops. If another deer season is created, Van Haren said, officials would need to work quickly to notify people who are already expected to be in the woods in early February hunting small game like foxes, coyotes and rabbits.
Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs executive assistant Larry Olson called the legislation a “great bill” that could help soldiers adjust to life at home.
“It’s something to help with the transition back to day-to-day life in Wisconsin,” Olson said.
The bill also has the support of Capt. Brian Barth, company commander of the 951st Engineer Company out of Rhinelander-Tomahawk. Barth, who returned to Wisconsin after 10 months in Afghanistan on the first day of deer hunting season this November, called it a major tradition for Wisconsinites.
“We could put some expert shooters back out in the woods,” said Barth, who shot a six-point buck the day after Thanksgiving.
While Barth hopes an extra hunting season could help ease soldier’s transition, he didn’t offer any special tips for dealing with last year’s notoriously difficult deer hunting season.
“Good luck to them,” he said.
Copyright (c) 2010, The Wisconsin State Journal/Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services