Wild Things: Governor Signs Bill Allowing Airguns

Governor Tony Evers signed more than a dozen bills into law last week, including one that will allow hunters to use airguns for big game hunting.

Senate Bill 586, now known as Wisconsin Act 115, establishes that airguns – firearms that propel projectiles by the expansion of compressed air – can be used during an open season for hunting with firearms.

The new law also allows the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to promulgate rules limiting the types of airguns that may be used to hunt specific species.

Airguns have been legal for hunting small game species (such as rabbits and squirrels) in Wisconsin for many years. The new law provides that if there’s an open season for hunting an animal with a firearm, the season must also be open for hunting that animal with an airgun.

Wisconsin joins more than two dozen other states that allow airguns for hunting big game like deer, elk and bear.

Supporters say airguns are effective for closer ranges, generally less than 100 yards. Airguns are much quieter than traditional firearms, and there’s no hard “kick” on the shoulder. 

The best airguns for big game aren’t cheap; $1,000 to $2,000 is average. Some airguns even have interchangeable barrels for multi-caliber performance.

If you’re interested but don’t know much about them, there’s a wealth of information online. But it’s probably better to learn from experienced shooters at local ranges.

Meanwhile, here are some other bills of interest that Gov. Evers signed into law recently:

• SB 34 requires the DNR to designate the full weekend prior to the third Monday in January as a weekend when license and fee requirements to fish in the state are waived.

• SB 411 allows a person to transport a dressed or fileted game fish from inland or outlying waters if they provide a physical or digital photograph upon request that proves the time and date of the photograph and physical evidence of the fish’s length prior to the head and tail being removed.

• SB 415 changes the expiration date of annual vehicle admission receipts issued by the DNR from the last day of the calendar year for which they were issued to the final day of the 12th month following the month of issuance, effective Jan. 1, 2025.

• SB 310 adds identification cards issued by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to the list of evidence that can be provided to validate domiciliary intent for the purposes of verifying an individual as a resident of the state for DNR online license approvals.

• SB 587 statutorily defines muzzle-loading firearm as it applies to hunting to mean a firearm that shoots a projectile loaded exclusively from the muzzle.

Great Lakes Coalition

The Great Lakes Commission, Great Lakes Fishery Commission, and International Joint Commission recently signed a formal agreement to work together to protect local ecosystems and the economies that depend on them.

The memorandum of understanding directs the commissions to identify overlapping areas of concern and devise a collaborative approach to addressing them. 

“Policymakers hear a lot from a lot of people,” said Marc Gaden, executive secretary of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission. “The more united you are in messaging, the more effective you can be in communicating your needs to the policymakers.”

The Great Lakes Commission safeguards the region’s water resources, and the Great Lakes Fishery Commission does the same for its fisheries. Meanwhile, the International Joint Commission fosters peaceful relations between the United States and Canada.

“Anything that emerges as a stressor or a threat to water quality can serve as a disruptor for things like commercial fishing, recreational fishing, the ability to have commerce, transportation, recreation in our region,” said Heather Stirratt, Great Lakes regional office director for the International Joint Commission.

One of the commissions’ top priorities is strengthening their presence in Washington, D.C., and ensuring that Great Lakes issues are on the national radar.

Wild Turkey Leftovers

Zone 2 hunters gobbled up the 552 leftover permits for the fourth week in about 15 minutes Tuesday morning, and by late in the day, they’d purchased all of more than 7,000-plus that were available the fifth week and were more than 2,000 into the 8,000-plus available for the sixth and final period.

Any that remain go on sale again at 10 am, Saturday, limit one per hunter. 

Cost for bonus tags is $10 for residents and $15 for nonresidents. Hunters and anglers can purchase licenses and bonus tags via the state’s Go Wild site (, or in-person at any businesses that sell licenses.

Trout Tourneys

A pair of brown trout tournaments will be held in Kewaunee and Door counties next month: the Blue Door Brown Trout Derby, April 13, and the Baileys Harbor Brown Trout Tournament April, 18-21.

Learn more about the events at and