A Kansas-based hunting advocacy group sued the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources on Wednesday over the cancellation of hunting courses due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Hunter Nation filed the lawsuit in Marathon County. The complaint stems from a canceled June 22 hunting safety course in Oneida County, according to a release from the hunting group.
The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty is representing Hunter Nation. Luke Hilgemann, the president of Hunter Nation, is a resident of Marathon County, which is why the case was filed there, according to the complaint.
The DNR requires hunter safety courses for everyone born after Jan. 1, 1973, according to its website. The course can be taken in person or online, but the online class still requires a day of fieldwork, in which students learn about properly handling a gun and must take a written test in order to receive their hunting license. Hunting is not allowed in Wisconsin without a license.
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But those looking to obtain a hunting license were met with notes about hunter safety classes not being available in-person, until the decline of COVID-19 cases in the state, according to the complaint.
Those notices were still posted on the DNR’s “Go Wild” site, which hosts information about hunting and licenses, as of Wednesday morning.
“This is a fluid situation that we are monitoring closely,” the notice said. “We look forward to the time when it will be safe to reopen our in-person safety classes and R3 related events.”
DNR communications director Sarah Hoye said the department had no comment on the lawsuit but noted that all in-person classes provided by the DNR have been canceled, not just hunter safety.
“Our first priority is safety,” she said in an email.
The cancellation of the events became apparent to Hunter Nation after a June 11 release from the Oneida County Sheriff’s Office canceling the June 22 event after the DNR said it would not recognize the course. The DNR also said it may decertify any hunter safety instructors that went ahead with the course, according to the complaint.
WILL and Hunter Nation contend in the complaint that the cancellation of hunting courses wasn’t legally adopted and continued even after the May 13 overturn of Gov. Tony Evers’ Safer-At-Home order.
The organizations argue that the state constitution provides a right to hunt and that the DNR’s decision to cancel courses put “unjustified burdens” on hunters looking to legally exercise their rights, the complaint says.
“The DNR’s decision to cancel all in-person hunter education courses occurred without justification or public input,” said Lucas Vebber, deputy counsel for the lawsuit, said in the release. “Unfortunately, this is just another example of (Gov. Tony) Evers administration agencies’ illegally creating, adopting and enforcing policy.”
Laura Schulte can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and twitter.com/SchulteLaura.
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