Frigid weather affects gun deer hunt harvest
Though temperatures plummeted and winds blew for the first half of the season, hunters rose to the occasion and headed out to enjoy the traditions of the nine-day deer hunt.
Of the 633, 602 gun deer license buyers, Wisconsin welcomed nearly 27,000 new resident hunters to the field based on the number of people who took advantage of discounted licenses for first-time-hunters.
“This year, the traditions of the nine-day were shared with a large cohort of new hunters. I want to thank all the seasoned hunters who encouraged someone new to join in the traditions of their hunt this year, and for those new hunters who took advantage of the opportunity to try hunting,” DNR Sec. Cathy Stepp. “I am especially excited to see such a representation of new female hunters.
This year females represented 33 percent of resident adult First Time Gun Deer license buyers and 33 percent of resident First Time Junior Gun Deer license buyers. The number of female hunters aged 10 to 30 increased by 10 percent this year and overall, females made up 10 percent of all deer license sales, going into opening weekend.
Preliminary harvest summary
Cold temperatures opening weekend didn’t curb interest in going out hunting, only the ability to stay out hunting. By the second half of the week, hunters found much more favorable conditions and put it to good use.
“It was downright brutal out there early in the week and the opening weekend totals reflected that,” said Kevin Wallenfang, DNR big game ecologist who spent most of the week hunting and working in Vilas County. “Feedback from our deer hunter wildlife survey shows that, not surprisingly, hunters themselves felt the weather during the first half of the season ranked the poorest they’ve seen in the five years that we’ve done this survey.”
This year’s preliminary harvest totals indicate a total of 226,582 deer were killed, down 7 percent from 2012’s call-in numbers. The preliminary tally showed hunters harvested 97,765 bucks and 128,817 antlerless deer. This compared to 2012 call-in registration figures of 114,822 bucks and 128,917 antlerless, for a 15 percent decrease in the buck kill, while the antlerless kill was almost exactly the same as 2012.
Preliminary harvest numbers were down opening weekend throughout the state showing a total decrease of about 18 percent, due in part to the cold and windy conditions.
A breakdown of the harvest by DNR region and county is available in portable document format (pdf) on the DNR website.
The preliminary nine-day harvest numbers are collected through a call-around survey of over 600 deer registration stations all across Wisconsin and likely will increase when all registration tags are officially counted, Wallenfang said.
According to Wallenfang, DNR anticipated lower numbers in the north and hunter feedback confirmed it. He added that antlerless permit numbers across the north are at the lowest levels seen since the 1990s and a reduced antlerless harvest was expected this year. The neighboring states of Michigan and Minnesota saw similar conditions both during their hunts and last winter, and both have reported a comparatively lower deer harvest this fall.
Regardless of outcome, a steady flow of stories poured into registration stations, bars, and social media around the state.