Treaty Rights Tested
3:37 pm
Mon December 16, 2013

Tribes Begin to React to Night Hunting Ruling

One of Wisconsin’s tribal leaders is expressing disappointment at last week’s federal ruling against night hunting.  

Night hunting of deer has long been banned in Wisconsin, but some of the state's tribes argue it's a federally protected treaty right.
Night hunting of deer has long been banned in Wisconsin, but some of the state's tribes argue it's a federally protected treaty right.
Credit Oregon Department of Transportation

Six Chippewa tribes had filed suit, arguing that night hunting in ceded territory is a federally protected treaty right.  But Judge Barbara Crabb ruled against the practice Friday, citing a risk to the public.

Lac du Flambeau Chairman Tom Maulson says it’s a traditional practice that hasn’t resulted in any incidents.

“On the reservation we’ve been doing night hunting since time immemorial.  From the time that Indian people held torches in their hands…till the time that they hold halogen lights.”

A 1991 decision - also by Judge Crabb - had already ruled against night hunting.  But several tribes raised the issue after the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources briefly allowed night hunting of wolves last year.  The tribes also pointed to nighttime harvesting of deer by DNR staff…to combat chronic wasting disease. 

But Judge Crabb was not convinced by those examples, since neither practice is ongoing.  She also notes government hunting to curtail a problem may be viewed differently than hunting for sport or subsistence. 

Wisconsin DNR Attorney Quinn Williams says the agency hopes this will end the court battle. 

“From the state’s perspective, we’re happy with the decision.  We believe the interests of the citizens of the state of Wisconsin have been protected, and that public safety has been upheld.” 

It’s not clear whether the tribes will appeal the ruling.