Protecting Wisconsin’s Hunting Tradition

Post by Jeanne Scherer, AIS Outreach Specialist for UW-Extension and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources; adapted by Sara Fox 

As summer winds down and a hint of color change is showing up in the leaves, Wisconsin’s hunters prepare to take to the waters for the 2018 waterfowl hunting season on opening weekend, September 29-30. This season marks the third year of Waterfowl Hunter Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Outreach efforts, where teams of DNR staff, statewide AIS Partners and volunteers station themselves at access points to talk to hunters about what they can do to stop the spread of AIS. You may have encountered AIS outreach at hunting sites before. This year, watch for volunteers and partners at the Mead Wildlife Area, Big Muskego, Horicon Marsh, along the Mississippi River, and in multiple counties across the state.

Waterfowl Hunter AIS outreach is modeled after the successful Clean Boats Clean Waters (CBCW) program that reaches boaters all summer long at boat landings in Wisconsin.  Waterfowl inspectors will conduct a hunting version of the CBCW survey and talk with them about specific aspects of duck hunting that risk AIS movement. Mud, for example, can hide seeds, the bulbils of starry stonewort, and the eggs or larvae of tiny invaders like spiny waterfleas. A threat of particular concern to the hunters is the faucet snail. These snails carry intestinal flukes that can kill thousands of ducks if they eat them.

AIS can get stuck in hunting gear, like this starry stonewort on a decoy. Credit- Brad Steckart.

Hunters who talk with inspectors are given a collectible bird band stamped with the Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers logo as a thank you for taking action to protect their favorite hunting sites. Since the hunters traditionally wear their duck bands as a collectible, the band also serves as a reminder to stop the spread of AIS.

Duck bands with the SAH! logo serve as a reminder to stop the spread of AIS.

Just a few minutes of preventative action can protect our hunting tradition for generations to come. Before launching into and leaving a waterbody, hunters must:

Inspect waders, boats, trailers, motors and hunting equipment, including boots, blinds and dogs.

Remove all plants, animals and mud.

Drain all water from decoys, boats, motors, livewells and other hunting equipment.

Never move plants or live fish away from a water body.

A special consideration for waterfowl hunters is to remove all seed heads and roots when using vegetation for your duck blinds. It is important to note that it is illegal to use phragmites in counties where the plant is listed as prohibited by NR40, in general these counties include the western half of Wisconsin.

For more information contact Jeanne Scherer, AIS Outreach Specialist, at

For more information about aquatic invasive species, including where they are prohibited and restricted, in Wisconsin, visit this WDNR webpage.

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