Germantown — Trustees on Monday prohibited the use of rifles in hunting zones throughout the village after the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources loosened its firearm restrictions for hunters.
Wisconsin regulations historically banned rifles for deer hunting in parts of the state, including in Germantown and Menomonee Falls. The DNR in September changed the hunting rules to allow rifles statewide in deer-hunting areas for this year's nine-day firearm season, Nov. 23 to Dec. 1.
The Germantown Village Board added a section to its municipal code restricting rifles. Hunters can only use shotguns in areas of the village where hunting is permitted.
Municipalities were given the ability to restrict the use of rifles. Despite a strong argument for rifles having been made, the Village Board was unanimous in supporting Police Chief Peter Hoell's recommendation for a ban.
Rifle shots travel at greater velocity than shotgun slugs, and can travel further. Rifle advocates point out that rifles are more accurate.
Hunting is allowed in certain areas of the Germantown, particularly in the northern portion of the village that is predominantly farmland. Hoell said if he lived close to these areas, he would be uncomfortable with people shooting rifles. Though he is an avid hunter, he said, "If I'm going to err, I'm going to err on the side of caution."
"There was a lot of debate out there, and it wasn't an easy recommendation to make," Hoell said.
The chief said he feels strongly about keeping the deer herd under control and backing people's right to hunt on their property, but given the layout of land and the growing population in the northern part of Germantown, he was uncomfortable with rifle use.
Before voting with fellow board members to prohibit rifle use, Trustee Al Vanderheiden made a case for sticking with the DNR regulations, meaning allowing rifles.
"I don't think it will make you any less safe," he said. "Deer hunters are safe hunters."
The same safe hunters currently using shotguns would be the ones using rifles, he said.
Germantown resident Thomas Roskopf echoed Vanderheiden, saying there have not been any incidents with rifles in other parts of the state and the same would be true in Germantown because hunters are responsible.
Trustee Terri Kaminski, who lives in the northern part of the village, was opposed to rifle use.
"I think the population of Germantown has grown, I want to keep hunting here, and in order to preserve that right, we have to be careful," she said.
Trustee Art Zabel said he sees both sides. He recommended they keep hunting status quo, meaning rifle free, this year and see how it plays out elsewhere. Then, Germantown can revisit the ordinance.
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