I always like to chide Liberals for their efforts to preserve archaic public entities like streetcars and the Postal Service--but Conservatives here in Wisconsin are guilty of that as well. Consider the ever-increasing desperation they are acting with in trying to save hunting from becoming a niche activity.
It is no secret that fewer Wisconsinites are picking up guns and heading into the fields and forests. And while most non-hunters would say that is due to societal changes toward the use of free time, Republicans in Madison think it's something they can change through legislation.
This started with the so-called "Right to Hunt" amendment to the State Constitution in 2003. That was approved by voters who had been told that "hunting rights were under attack" and that it threatened the future of the sport in the state. In reality, it's nothing more than a back-door safeguard against future gun control legislation.
When the Constitution didn't stem the tide of declining hunting interest, the DNR came up with a multitude of special gun deer seasons and bonus permits--which allowed nearly every hunter to bag as many as three whitetails a year--and to spend almost a month in the woods (if their wives allowed it). But all that did was create confusion as to when and where you could hunt--and the overharvesting of deer in the northern half of the state (which was later compounded by a couple of brutal winters that further decimated the herd--and turned the prime hunting land in Wisconsin into a land of "tag soup").
So then the State decided to all but give away hunting licenses. First time hunters could pay as little as $5 to get a tag--as if the regular $24 was just "too high" for most people. There was much rejoicing when gun-deer license sales increased by about one-percent after that.
And then, some state lawmaker got the enlightened idea that the only reason more women don't hunt is because they can't wear their favorite color in the woods--blaze pink. So much ado was made about that--as we in the media scoured shopping centers trying to find one female who would say that they were excited to hunt for the first time because they wouldn't have to wear orange.
Which leads us to our latest--and perhaps most-desperate--proposal: doing away with the minimum age for hunting. Current law requires a child to be at least ten--and still have an adult within arms reach--and there can only be one weapon between the two of them. A new bill in the Legislature would allow kids of any age--with an adult nearby--to not only shoot a gun, but to carry their own weapon as well. I know where this idea came from. Studies show that by the age of ten, most kids are hooked on video games, the internet or are heavily involved in youth sports. And that makes it increasingly difficult to get them interested in trudging around in the cold for an entire week with Dad in search of deer. Instead of having a game controller in your six-year old's hands--which he can use to play first person shooter games--why not give them a real shotgun?
If people don't want to hunt, no law, price break or allowed color of clothing is going to get them to do it. Just let the sport slowly fade away like high school boxing--and let nature itself "control the deer population" through disease, severe winters and natural predation.