Wisconsin’s nine-day gun-deer season saw a 24.9% drop in total harvest from a year ago, including a 21.3% decrease in antlerless deer and a 29.6% drop in bucks.
Preliminary figures show that 160,769 deer were registered during the nine-day gun deer hunt, compared to 213,972 in 2018. Of the deer harvested in the 2019 nine-day season, 75,236 were antlered compared to 105,315 in 2018. The hunt also provided successful hunters with 85,533 antlerless deer, a decrease from 108,657 in 2018.
The news was slightly better in Barron County, which saw drops of 21.8% in total harvest (4,601 to 3,596), 22.4% in antlerless (2,823 to 2,190) and 20.9% in bucks (1,778 to 1,406).
Total deer kill in surrounding counties fell 29.5% in Washburn, 38.7% in Sawyer, 28.6% in Rusk, 32.5% in Chippewa, 11.4% in Dunn, 14.5% in St. Croix, 4.8% in Polk and 25.8% in Burnett.
The only county in the state that saw an increase in total deer kill was Milwaukee, where the harvest increased from three to four deer.
By region, the kill was down 20% in the Central Farmland (including Barron County), 29.2% in the Central Forest, 38.2% in the Northern Forest and 23.9% in the Southern Farmland.
While opening weekend saw mild temperatures throughout the state with some snow in the north, hunting conditions deteriorated throughout the remainder of the season as heavy wind, snow and rain moved through the state. The largest declines in antlered harvest occurred in the northern forest zone, where blizzard-like conditions and significant snow accumulation hindered hunter access, the DNR reported.
However, the DNR reported that over opening weekend the statewide kill was off 26.7%, with the buck kill dropping 30.7% over those two days.
Reports from hunters around Wisconsin indicated low daytime deer activity throughout the gun deer season, the DNR noted. Hunters afield within even a few miles of each other reported varying levels of deer sightings, confirming that deer are not evenly distributed on the landscape.
Standing corn proved to be an additional factor that likely influenced success in the field. At the conclusion of the nine-day, corn harvest was 66% complete, 22 days behind the 2018 harvest.
Wisconsin held the earliest possible deer season in 2018 followed this year by the latest possible season opener. When this occurred between the 2012-13 and 2007-07 seasons, there were similar declines in year-to-year registration totals.
The following deer hunts are still available:
• Dec. 2-11, statewide muzzleloader hunt;
• Dec. 12-15, statewide four-day antlerless-only hunt;
• Dec. 24 to Jan. 1, 2020 - nine-day antlerless-only holiday hunt in select Farmland Zone counties;
• Now - Jan. 5, 2020 - remaining archery and crossbow seasons; and
• Jan. 5-31, 2020 - extended archery and crossbow seasons in select Farmland Zone counties.
Hunters may use any unfilled antlerless harvest authorization during any of these hunts, but they must be used in the zone, county and land type designated on the harvest authorization. For more information regarding hunts offered in each county, check out the interactive deer map at dnr.wi.gov, keyword “DMU.”
Hunters are required to register harvested deer before 5 p.m. Any hunter who failed to follow mandatory registration rules should do so now, despite having missed the deadline, according to the DNR.
In 2019, 564,664 gun deer licenses were sold through the end of the nine-day gun deer season, compared to 576,277 in 2018. This is a 2.02% decrease.
In total, 792,548 gun, archery and crossbow licenses (not including upgrades) had been sold through the end of the nine-day gun deer season, compared to 803,772 in 2018, a 1.40% decrease.
Of the licenses sold to date, 54% were sold in person through transactions at DNR license agents, including through DNR offices and agents. The remaining 46% of licenses were purchased online. Deer hunting license and harvest authorization sales will continue throughout the remaining deer hunting seasons.
The DNR Bureau of Law Enforcement reports four firearm-involved injuries and zero fatalities for the entire 2019 nine-day gun deer season.
Three of the four incidents occurred on Saturday, Nov. 23, in Oneida, Marathon and Fond du Lac counties:
In Oneida County, a 38-year-old man suffered a self-inflicted firearm-related injury, striking his left foot.
In Marathon County, a 29-year-old woman suffered a self-inflicted firearm-related injury, striking her left foot.
In Fond du Lac County, a hunter shooting toward a running deer struck a 19-year-old woman who was a member of his same hunting group in the left hand.
The fourth weekend incident occurred in Washburn County on Sunday, Nov. 24. A 31-year-old man was struck by a single bullet from a hunter in a different hunting group. The shooter has been identified. The investigation continues, and no additional details are being released at this time.
Wisconsin’s 10-year average for hunting incidents during the nine-day gun deer season is 6.8. The DNR credits the decline to hunter safety education given by Wisconsin’s volunteer instructors and conservation wardens. Wardens remind all hunters to use the four firearm safety rules as a cornerstone for safe outings:
T - Treat every Firearm as if it is loaded;
A - Always Point the muzzle in a safe direction;
B - Be certain of your target, what’s in front of it and what’s beyond it;
K - Keep your finger outside your trigger guard until you are ready to shoot.
“This is the fourth consecutive nine-day deer gun season without a fatality,” said DNR Chief Conservation Warden Todd Schaller. “Four incidents are tied with the lowest on record. This is certainly a tribute to our hunters and volunteer safety education instructors.”
Hunters Embrace GameReg
The GameReg internet registration system and call-in phone option worked well, while hunters continue to visit walk-in stations that offer these services.
On Saturday, Nov. 23, an average of 31 registrations were processed per minute, with peak sales exceeding 90 transactions per minute. To date, 68% of harvest registrations were completed online, and 32% were completed via telephone for the 2019 deer hunting seasons.
The accuracy of deer harvest numbers is directly related to the level of hunter compliance.
Hunters are reminded that CWD sampling opportunities are available throughout the remaining deer hunting seasons. To find a sampling location, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keywords “CWD sampling.”
The cooperation of hunters and private businesses has become increasingly vital to the success of the sampling process, the DNR reports. DNR staff would like to thank all those who continue to assist with CWD surveillance.
The Deer Hunter Wildlife Survey will remain active until all deer seasons have ended, and wildlife managers ask that hunters submit a report of what they observe during their time in the field. This information provides valuable data to improve population estimates for Wisconsin’s deer herd and other species.