DNR: Opening weekend exemplified safe hunting
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.”
In Lincoln County, 509 bucks and 139 anterless deer were registered opening weekend for a total of 648 animals. That number is down 36% from the total of 1,019 deer registered in Lincoln County during the 2013 opening weekend.
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 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.”
County Deer Advisory Councils
County Deer Advisory Councils have released preliminary recommendations regarding 2015-17 deer population objectives. These early recommendations, made on a county-by-county basis, are open for public comment through Dec. 5.
Those interested in providing comment have an opportunity to do so through a web-based survey found on the CDAC page. For more information regarding CDAC population objective recommendations, agendas and membership, search keyword “CDAC,” or email DNRCDACWebMail@Wisconsin.gov with any questions.
Total gun deer license sales as well as with other information regarding deer hunting in Wisconsin can be found at dnr.wi.gov, keyword “deer.”