Over 134,000 deer harvested, registered during gun deer opening weekend

MADISON – Though hunters define success in different ways, 134,772 deer were successfully harvested and registered in Wisconsin during the opening weekend of the nine-day deer season. The tally is based on preliminary call-in numbers collected from registration stations by Department of Natural Resources staff.

CLICK HERE for a breakdown of the harvest by DNR Region and county  

The preliminary numbers come from a staff call-around to deer registration stations Monday morning, November 19th. The final opening weekend tally will likely be somewhat larger, when all registration stubs are entered into the database over the next few months.

Weather is one of many factors that can influence harvest rates on opening weekend. The state saw a mix of conditions including fog in many central counties that hung on for several hours until it was burned off with the rising sun, and temperatures climbing into the 40s and 50s by mid-morning. Most other areas had excellent conditions, but statewide hunters missed the snow that they like. 

Overall, the statewide harvest is up over 19% from 2011, and registration increased in all regions. The warm weather likely had some hunters registering their deer right away instead of leaving them hang at camp, which likely bumped up the numbers.

Preliminary harvest numbers are up in all regions and bucks are up statewide by 24% over 2011. Though the harvest is up in all regions, there are areas of the state, primarily in the northern counties, where hunters are reporting low deer sightings.

The department’s license sales office reported 614, 435 gun deer licenses sold by midnight, Nov.16, prior to the Saturday start of the season. Deer license and tag sales will continue through the hunting seasons.

Nearly 26,000 new hunters also bought licenses to deer hunt for the first time, or for the first time in 10 years, this year. Females represented 32% of resident First Time Gun Deer licenses and 30 percent of residents bought first Time Junior Gun Deer licenses.

Deer hunters continued to engage in another standing tradition, buying their license on the way up to deer camp Friday. Between 4 and 5 p.m. Friday, deer license sales peaked at 200 licenses sold every minute. 105,948 licenses sold Friday before the season opener, a record one-day sale.

Some facts about Wisconsin hunters:

    There were three hunting related injuries reported. One incident was self-inflicted and two were two-party incidents. The incidents occurred in Columbia, Manitowoc and Portage County and are still under investigation. Additionally, Fort McCoy authorities are investigating the death of a hunter on the military base.

    Though DNR does not track non-firearm related incidents, there have been reports of injuries resulting from falls from tree-stands. About one third of all hunters will take a fall from a tree stand during their hunting careers.

    “This serves as an important reminder to everyone hunting during the remainder of the deer season to wear a full-body safety harness, use a haul line to raise and lower your unloaded firearm, and carry a cell phone in a secure pocket you can reach in the event of a fall,” Conservation Warden Jon King, Hunter Education Administrator said.

    King noted that historically about one-third of Wisconsin’s shooting incidents happen during deer drives, usually because someone wasn’t where they were supposed to be or someone shot at a deer when they did not have a safe backstop or in a direction they should not have been shooting.

    “Always be sure of your target and anything behind it, and if you aren’t sure, don’t shoot. Know where your bullet will impact if you miss. It is really important that hunting parties wanting to drive deer have a plan and that they follow that plan to the letter. Knowing where your hunting mates are and where safe shooting lanes are is critical," King said.