Real men — and women — could wear pink in Wisconsin's woods if a group of lawmakers get their way.
The Legislature's sportsmen's caucus, a bipartisan group of legislators who focus on outdoor issues formed last January, is preparing to unveil a bill next week that would legalize blaze pink for deer hunters. The group has scheduled a news conference Tuesday at the state Capitol to announce the measure.
Republican state Sen. Terry Moulton, one of the caucuses' co-chairmen, wrote in a column published in the Dunn County News that the blaze pink bill is designed to encourage women to become hunters and keep them involved in the sport.
A Moulton aide referred questions about the bill to Rep. Nick Milroy, another co-chairman, but Milroy's aide said he was vacationing and couldn't be reached. Nine female legislators are part of the group, including Democratic state Sen. Janet Bewley. She said she doesn't hunt but her husband does and she believes the bill is a great idea.
"Anything that gets people more excited about getting out in the woods and enjoying hunting is a good thing," she said.
Under current state law, no one can hunt anything except waterfowl during a gun deer season unless at least half of each article of clothing worn above the waist, such as jacket or a hat, is colored blaze orange. Violators face a $10 forfeiture.
According to state Department of Natural Resources data, female hunters made up about 10 percent of the state's gun deer hunters in 2014, 2013 and 2012. They made up about a quarter of hunters between ages 10 and 12 in 2014, however, and comprised 35 percent of new gun deer license buyers last fall.
Jeff Schinkten, president of Whitetails Unlimited, a national nonprofit organization that works to improve deer hunting and deer environments, said he'd never heard of legalizing blaze pink. He said he likes the idea of trying to encourage more women to become hunters, but he's worried the color isn't as visible as blaze orange and could lead to shooting accidents.
"I like the idea that we're catering to the women to get them into the sport ... but I'm more about safety than fashion," said Schinkten. "My buddies aren't going to wear any blaze pink, I can tell you that."
Moulton wrote in his column that the caucus met with Majid Sarmadi, a textiles expert at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He said Sarmadi conducted experiments on blaze pink and blaze orange visibility and concluded that blaze pink clothing is equally visible or more visible to the human eye than blaze orange.
Moulton did not explain Sarmadi's metholodogy in the column. Bewley said Smardi presented the caucus with an analysis he performed that showed the visual wavelengths of blaze pink and blaze orange are similar.
"We are so sure it's safe," Bewley said.
Sarmadi did not immediately return voicemail or email messages. DNR spokesman Bill Cosh declined to comment.