Wisconsin's Chippewa tribes are hoping to convince a federal judge they have the right to hunt deer in the dark.
They filed a cross motion in court Tuesday to ask permission to hunt deer at night. This comes after the Dept. of Natural Resources took the tribes to court on the grounds that the night hunt is prohibited because of the danger it poses to the public.
"We just haven't had time to educate the public about this," DNR secretary Cathy Stepp said. "This is just an outside of the process decision that's really been kind of sprung upon us and how do we educate the public on what things to expect and what things to watch out for if there's going to be actual shots fired at night."
The commission that oversees the tribes' off-reservation rights, the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, authorized tribal hunters to hunt deer after dark starting this week. Nearly 75 Chippewa tribal hunters have qualified to hunt deer at night.
"The circumstances have changed," said Susan Erickson, the GLIFWC's public information officer. "The state recently instituted a wolf hunt for the state, and part of the provisions of the wolf hunt, allowed a night hunt, and being able to illuminate at the point of kill."
Erickson says illuminating is different from shining--a practice the DNR has requested the tribes refrain from doing until the matter is settled--because it doesn't involve shining a flashlight to search for prey.
"We figure, if this is deemed safe in the state for over 1,000 wolf hunters to do it at night, why is it unsafe for tribal members to do this during their treaty deer season," Erickson said.
"We believe that it's very different when you're hunting a predator species versus a deer," Stepp said.
The tribes on Tuesday asked U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb to block the DNR from enforcing the prohibition on tribal hunters. The tribes argue they have the right to give their members more harvest opportunities.
The state allows hunters to kill wolves at night and tribal hunters must meet stringent safety requirements to get night permits.