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Wisconsin has its share of spring highlights. Rising temperatures and melting snow. Migrant birds and southerly winds. Marsh marigolds and pussy willows. Open water and running walleyes. Honking geese and musical robins. The list goes on and on.

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My personal favorites include the trumpeting cries of cranes echoing up and down the river valley and the sky dance of woodcock along our creek. Their return this past week to our neighborhood – despite a snow covered landscape – was cause to cheer.

Another rite of spring of sorts is the annual Conservation Congress county meetings, held in conjunction with Department of Natural Resources (DNR) spring fish and wildlife rule hearings. On Monday, April 11, there will be 72 public hearings, one in each Wisconsin county starting at 7 p.m. Spring will lure outdoor men and women, eager to voice their comments on fish and game rule changes. There they can vote on and introduce solutions to natural resources related issues on their minds.

The hearings cover three main areas - elections for county Conservation Congress delegates, proposed wildlife and fisheries rule changes and Conservation Congress proposals for future rule development.

According to the DNR this year, “some of the wildlife rule proposals being considered are: eliminating the archery deer hunting season closure during the traditional November firearm season; allowing normal hunting hours for pheasants on weekends at stocked properties that otherwise close at 2 p.m.; establishing a September firearm and archery hunting season for elk that would run concurrently with the first 30 days of the archery deer hunting season - held after the elk population reaches 200 animals; extending each of the spring turkey hunting periods by two days; and allowing landowners, lessees or occupants of private land, or other people with their permission, to shoot a cougar that is in the act of killing, wounding or biting a domestic animal.”

Fish related rule change proposals include: increasing the musky size limit on about 600 inland waters from 34 to 40 inches; increasing the minimum size limit from 15 to 18 inches and decreasing the daily bag limit from five to three fish in aggregate for walleye, sauger, and hybrids for most waters in 19 southern Wisconsin counties; requiring the use of “quick-strike” rigs when fishing with minnows 10 inches or longer as bait; and creating a continuous hook and line fishing season for cisco (lake herring), whitefish, and hybrids in the Wisconsin-Michigan boundary waters with a possession and daily bag limit of 10 in total and no size limit.”

In addition to the above rule proposals, the Congress will be asking citizens to gauge public support on various natural resource issues and elect delegates from their county to represent their views regarding natural resources issues. For a list of hearing locations and rule change details check out the following link -http://dnr.wi.gov/org/nrboard/congress/spring_hearings/index.html.

In the mean time, enjoy the rites of spring outdoors. Highlights can be seen and heard in all directions.

Ken M. Blomberg is a freelance writer and longtime resident of the Town of Eau Pleine, northeast of Junction City. A 1976 graduate of UWSP in Resource Management, he is currently Executive Director of the Wisconsin Rural Water Association.

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