MADISON – Excitement was high throughout the state Saturday and Sunday, and 90,281 deer were registered in Wisconsin during the opening weekend of the nine-day deer season. This number is based on preliminary call-in numbers collected from registration stations by Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources staff.
Hunters saw a variety of conditions on Saturday, ranging from what many described as “ideal,” with snow cover and comfortable temperatures, to fog and rain. Many hunters who headed into the woods Sunday experienced fog and precipitation across a large portion of the state, and many wildlife managers and wardens in the field described Sunday as being very quiet.
Of 90,281 deer registered over the weekend, nearly 1,500 were registered by those who were selected to participate in the pilot program for an electronic registration system that will be available to all hunters in 2015. As expected, the statewide deer kill is down most significantly in the far northern counties.
“As we communicated throughout the past year, many factors influence deer numbers in the north that include severe winters, comparatively more large predators than in years past, land ownership patterns, and habitat issues to name a few,” said DNR big game ecologist Kevin Wallenfang. “We are attempting to increase deer numbers in the north, so many counties have a buck-only season framework this year which is intended to allow herd growth.”
A breakdown of opening weekend registrations by DNR region and county is available at dnr.wi.gov, keyword “deer.”
Enthusiasm for hunting remains high
The department’s license sales office reported 589,830 gun deer licenses sold by midnight, Nov. 21, prior to the start of the season Saturday. Deer license and tag sales will continue through the hunting seasons.
Approximately 22,000 new hunters have purchased licenses to deer hunt for the first time, or for the first time in 10 years. Female deer hunters have continued to increase in number, and accounted for 35 percent of resident First Time Gun Deer licenses and 36 percent of resident First Time Junior Gun Deer licenses.
“It is exciting to see all the female hunters so far this year,” said DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp. “We’re also seeing a large number of younger hunters and first-time hunters overall – traditions are being passed down and it is great to see such strong participation.”
In the days leading up to the nine-day season opener, the DNR call center set a record for calls handled, and provided excellent customer service to a number of hunters. On Friday, Nov. 21, the call center fielded 4,734 customer contacts, and From Nov. 1 through opening day, over 33,000 total calls were received. Hunters throughout Wisconsin have done an excellent job of learning new rules and regulations.
Hunters are encouraged to call toll free 1-888-WDNR-INFo (888-936-7463) with any questions. The line is staffed 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days per week.
There were no hunting-related incidents recorded during the first two days of this year’s nine-day gun deer hunt. This year marks the second time in the last ten years 10 years that there were no hunting incidents investigated during opening weekend of the deer gun season.
Chief Conservation Warden Todd Schaller credits the good news to safety-conscience hunters and dedicated hunter safety instructors. “Wisconsin is dedicated to providing hunters a safe and enjoyable gun-deer season which starts with education,” Schaller said. “There are thousands of hunter safety instructors who give their expertise to others of all ages who participate in this tradition and hunters who follow the safety points taught (TABK) – and another safe opening weekend reflects this key educational aspect.”
For more information regarding hunter education and tips for safe hunting in Wisconsin, search keywords “safety tips.”
Stories from the field
Fleming with her first deer, an eight-point buck.
Darby Fleming, age 10, from Mt. Horeb, was on her first ever deer hunt with her dad, Brendan, when she harvested this nice 8-pt in Lafayette County. After pulling the trigger she said to dad, “I don’t think I shot it.” Dad assured her she had made a great shot.
Miller with his largest deer in twenty years of hunting.
Kyle Miller from Omro shot this 18-pt buck on Sunday morning south of Mount Horeb. He’s been hunting for 20 years and the largest deer he’d harvested previously was an 8-pt. He was happy and in spite of the steady cold rain at Barneveld where he registered his trophy, the buck attracted dozens of hunters, most of whom when they saw it gave a soft whistle and a Wow!
Gruse with her buck.