Wisconsin’s gun deer hunting season opens Saturday
BY TINA L. SCOTT
Wisconsin’s nine-day gun deer hunting season begins this Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023, and 600,000 hunters are anticipated to take to the woods and fields for the hunt. Unfortunately, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR), that’s a 2% decline, and the number of hunters has been declining for a couple of decades.
Ethical deer hunting is a rural tradition for many in northern central Wisconsin-where young and old, boys and girls, men and women-can all participate and enjoy a sport that helps the state’s ecosystem. Without hunters and a hunting season to harvest an appropriate number of deer, a population increase would create a host of problems-from excessive crop damage to animals dying of diseases to an increase in deer vs. automobile collisions, some of which can prove to be fatal. Harvesting animals ethically and utilizing them as a natural resource for food is admirable, and the process teaches kids and youth gun and hunting safety, responsibility, the value of putting in the time and effort, and provides valuable bonding and mentoring opportunities between generations.
Before you head out to the woods or pack up your gear for annual trip to the hunting shack, take a few minutes to brush up on some tips for a safe and healthy hunting season.
The DNR reports conservation wardens investigated eight hunting incidents during the 2022 gun-deer season, and one of those was fatal. Half (four) of the incidents were self-inflicted gun shots. Almost all gun-deer season injuries are preventable.
“I especially want to stress the importance of muzzle control–as you can see from 2022, there are quite a few people who accidentally shot themselves,” said Lt. Mike Weber, DNR Hunter Education Administrative Warden. “If those same people had proper muzzle control, that likely would not have happened.”
- Always follow the four basic rules of firearm safety (TABK-see info box).
- Pace yourself according to your level of fitness. Walking, navigating difficult terrain, carrying a gun and gear, and tracking deer can be physically exhausting, so don’t overdo it. Understand your physical limitations. “Hunting often involves prolonged periods of exertion, which can put a significant strain on your cardiovascular system,” said Marcus Sublette, MD, Aspirus cardiologist. “The abrupt transition from a sedentary lifestyle to intense physical activity may lead to a sudden increase in heart rate and blood pressure, increasing the risk of heart-related issues. … Be realistic about your abilities and listen to your body. Rest when needed, and don’t take unnecessary risks.” Even for the heart-healthy, overexertion can lead to exhaustion and sometimes other medical emergencies.
- Dress for the weather. Check the weather before preparing for the day’s hunt. Dress in layers and use waterproof gear to stay warm and dry and prevent hypothermia.
- Eat properly and hydrate. “Long hours in the wilderness may lead to irregular eating habits and dehydration, which can lead to fatigue and other health concerns,” a press release from Aspirus Hospital said. “Ensure you have sufficient water and pack energy-rich snacks to keep your energy levels up.”
- Carry a well-equipped first aid kit and know CPR. “Every hunter should have a basic understanding of first aid and CPR,” Aspirus representatives said. “Minor injuries can quickly become more severe in the wilderness.” That first aid kit, CPR knowledge, and the ability to perform life-saving measures in the event of a cardiac emergency could save a life.
- Let others know where you will hunt, and carry a cell phone, satellite phone, or personal locator beacon. Understand that cell service may be limited or unavailable entirely in remote areas. “Always inform people close to you where you will be and what hours you plan to be there,” said Wisconsin DNR Lt. Conservation Warden Bryan Lockman.
With advance preparation and safety precautions, make this year’s deer hunting season the best one yet.
Four basic rules of firearm safety:
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 before it and what’s beyond it.
K-Keep your finger outside your trigger guard until you are safe to shoot.
Hunting regulation and rule reminders
The DNR reminds hunters:
- Anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 1973, must have a hunter education certification to purchase a hunting license unless hunting under the Mentored Hunting Law. [To learn more about safe hunting in Wisconsin and to register for a hunter education course, visit: dnr.wisconsin.gov/Education/OutdoorSkills/safetyEducation.]
- Only take aim during legal shooting hours.
- Hunters are required to wear blaze orangeo or fluorescent pink, to increase visibility of other hunters and to avoid incidents. At least 50% of the outer clothing above the waist must be blaze orange or fluorescent pink. Hats or head coverings also must be at least 50% blaze orange or fluorescent pink. Faded or stained clothing is unsafe, may not be legal, and should be replaced immediately. When hunting from a ground blind on state property during the gun-deer season, a minimum of 144 square inches of solid blaze orange or fluorescent pink material, visible from all directions is required.
Tree stand safety
Stand-related incidents are one of the leading causes of injury to hunters, according to the DNR. Unfortunately, most hunters overestimate their ability to avoid accidents and do not take proper safety precautions. Always inspect your tree stand, including straps, prior to each use.
- Always wear a safety harness when you hunt from any elevated stand, no matter what type of stand it is.
- Always unload your firearm before attaching it to your haul line. Your haul line is used to raise and lower your firearm or other gear.
- Always maintain three points of contact while climbing in and out of the tree stand. This means two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand at all times.
- Use a lifeline so you’re connected and safe at all times – while climbing up, while sitting and while climbing down.
- Check for worn or torn straps holding the stand to the tree.
- Take your time getting in and out of the stand. Think about each move you are making and be deliberate with your actions.
Deer drives can be an effective way to harvest deer while enjoying the fellowship of family and friends. With many people hunting or walking in the same area, it’s essential that safety is everyone’s top priority.
- Plan your hunt and hunt your plan. Make sure that everyone knows their role and sticks to it. No one deviates from the plan.
- Each hunter should have a safe zone of fire and only shoot at deer within their safe zone of fire.
- Reconfirm you have a safe backstop if you plan to shoot.
- Everyone involved with the drive should follow blaze orange clothing requirements.