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Wisconsin Spotlight | July 23, 2020

MADISON  — In-person hunter education courses are back this month in the wake of a liberty lawsuit filed against the overreaching state Department of Natural Resources. 

In case you missed it, the DNR reversed course on June 26 and announced the resumption of in-person hunter safety courses — just nine days after the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) sued the agency in Marathon Circuit Court. Live instruction began last week. 

In response, WILL dropped its lawsuit.

As Wisconsin Spotlight first reported, WILL filed the lawsuit on behalf of Hunter Nation, a non-profit organization that works to protect the rights of hunters, after DNR prohibited all in-person hunter education courses amid the COVID-19 outbreak. The Milwaukee-based public interest law firm alleged the policy was unlawfully adopted, violated state law, and was an unconstitutional restriction on the right to hunt. 

“We are pleased DNR reversed course and quickly backtracked from their unlawful and unconstitutional policy. Wisconsinites can once again access in-person hunter education,” said Lucas Vebber, WILL’s deputy counsel, in a statement. 

State law requires all Wisconsin hunters born after Jan. 1, 1973 to take a hunter education course before obtaining a hunting license — through the DNR. 

Not only did the agency ban in-person hunter education courses, in true bureaucratic fashion it said it would not issue certificates to anyone who completes such in-person courses. 

“In light of COVID 19 and the (Gov. Tony Evers’) Safer at Home order, all DNR sponsored in-person recreational safety classes and R3 events are canceled for the duration of the public health emergency,” DNR’s ‘Go Wild’ website stated at the time.

Sara Hoye, the DNR’s communications director, last month told Wisconsin Spotlight the agency temporarily suspended all in-person safety classes following the March stay-at-home orders. 

“That includes not only providing educational safety courses for hunting, boating, and off-highway vehicles, but also ensuring the students and instructors who participate are as safe as possible from exposure to COVID-19,” she said in a statement. 

Luke Hilgemann, president of Hunter Nation, celebrated the return of a vital right for young hunters.  

“The right to hunt is guaranteed in the Wisconsin Constitution. Hunter Nation is pleased that DNR has rolled this policy back. We will always stand vigilant to protect and defend the right to hunt for all Wisconsinites,” he said

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