You’ve heard of hunters using bait piles to find game…. But how about the Freedom of Information Act.
State lawmakers have introduced a package of bills to stop hunters from using a FOIA request to learn where game is located in the state.
The bill is in response to at least one hunter using a FOIA request to learn the location of Ruffed grouse.
Grouse are ground-nesting game birds that can be difficult to find.
Republican Representative Scott VanSingel is himself a grouse hunter and introduced one of the bills in the package.
“It’s actually pretty clever when you think about it,” VanSingel said. “Grouse tend to live in little pockets in young growth aspen forests and those are kind of hard to find.”
Democratic State Representative John Cherry is another sponsor on the bill package. He said the DNR discontinued its grouse drumming survey in 2015 after learning that a hunter had used a FOIA of the survey to hunt.
“What you might describe as unsportsmanlike use of that data also invalidates the scientific validity of the survey.”
Cherry said the intent of the legislation is to bring back the survey and also to stop hunters from using FOIA requests to target other game animals as well.
Brent Rudolph is the Director of Conservation Policy for the Ruffed Grouse Society and worked for the DNR around the time that the drumming survey was discontinued. He said the survey is important for monitoring the overall population health of a species, particularly one that can be hunted.
“It just becomes one of the few tools that we have, apart from specific hunter-harvest data, to provide an independent insight and look at grouse abundance.”
The bill wouldn’t change the Freedom of Information Act itself but would allow the DNR to require anyone who FOIAs them for information to sign a waiver saying that the information won’t be used for hunting.