Contact(s): Bob Manwell (608) 264-9248
Laurel Steffes (608) 266-8109
MADISON - Early dense fog dampened some areas of the state on the opening day of Wisconsin's 2009 nine-day gun deer season, but hunters enjoyed balmy weather throughout much of the day that some thought was just a little too good.
In some areas the fog didn't burn off until mid morning. But the remainder of the day was calm, with temperatures in the 50s. One of the questions hunters were asked this year on the registration stub for the first time was to rate the weather. Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Supervisor Tim Lizotte said some hunters were giving conditions a 10 to 11 on a 10-point scale.
Alan Crossley, DNR wildlife biologist also working the registration station, said "it's kind of funny. If hunters shot a nice buck, they tended to rate the weather as a '10.'"
Wildlife managers at registration stations, especially in former earn-a-buck areas, were reporting a large percentage of older bucks, many with nice antler development. In many areas, deer appeared to still be in rut, or their mating season. Tom Hauge, director of the DNR Wildlife Management program, was able to watch two bucks sparring for about 10 minutes. At another station, a 7-year old buck was registered with antlers badly damaged from recent sparring.
Weston Paplham12, with his father, Dave, from Mishicot and the nine-point buck he shot opening day.
Jeff Pritzl, DNR wildlife expert aging deer in Northeast Region, recounted his favorite story of the morning: "A young boy on his first nine-day hunt shot a nine-point, 185-pound buck. The boy said his father had taught him that if he saw a doe that kept looking back, don't shoot, because a buck was following her. Sure enough, he saw a doe that kept looking back, he waited and the buck came into view. Though the young hunter landed a good shot, the buck moved away and he and his dad spent the next two hours searching the wetland. The dad found the deer, and called his son, teary with pride."
Tim Vandermale poses with DNR Secretary Matt Frank and his first buck at the Wautoma Skupes Corner registration station. Vandermale, a student at Michigan Tech, came home from college to hunt with his family near Coloma. He bagged his buck at 7:45 a.m. Saturday morning.
DNR Secretary Matt Frank, visiting with hunters registering deer in Montello, Westfield, Wautoma and Portage this morning, noted hunters were in good spirits, including one young girl registering her first buck at Wautoma.
"This is a great Wisconsin tradition, and it's just plain fun visiting with hunters and hearing their stories. Tomorrow, I will be out hunting myself. DNR is committed to maintaining a healthy deer herd so that we can enjoy deer hunting for many generations to come."
Jim Shurts, Wisconsin Conservation Congress delegate chair from Dane County, registered his deer this morning. He was hunting in Columbia County east of Wyocena and heard more shooting than in the last few years. In one of those rare outdoors experiences, Shurts said a large flock of turkeys roosting near him gobbled loudly every time they heard a shot.
As shooting hours opened, 626,404 hunters hit the woods for Wisconsin's grand tradition of Gun Deer Season. Of these, 9,592 were 10- and 11-year-olds who were able to participate in this year's hunt under the new Hunting Youth Mentorship Program. Nearly one-third of all hunters were under the age of 30.
DNR's on-line licensing system - known as ALIS -- didn't even break a sweat Friday as hunting license purchases peaked at 212 per minute at 5:30 p.m. Friday. All tolled 82,463 gun deer licenses were issued to anxious hunters who waited until the last minute to purchase. Nearly 270,000 licenses were issued in the eight days preceding the season opener. Deer license and tag sales will continue through the hunting seasons.
Of the hunters hitting the woods today:
Operators at DNR's call center began receiving calls at 7 a.m. Saturday morning from tree stands, deer camps and hunters afield. Questions ranged from, "Can I still buy a license" and "What is my hunter ed. number," to one hunter saying that as the fog lifted, a bunch of cows appeared and were loose on state land. He wanted DNR let other hunters know so that none got shot by accident.
On Friday, the DNR call center bested its daily record by more than 500, answering 2,591 calls. During the week prior to the opener, customer service staff received 10,140 calls and 588 internet chats. The call center expects to handle over 260,000 calls this year, with approximately one-third of calls received on nights and weekends.
"It's been really busy in the call center, and we love it. We've got a great staff just as excited about this season as the hunters are, and we're here for you if you have a question," said Customer Service Director Diane Brookbank.
Call center staff are available to serve customers from 7 a.m. through 10 p.m., seven days a week by calling 1-888-WDNR INFo (1-888-936-7463) or online at [dnr.wi.gov]. Spanish and Hmong service is available.
DNR call center staff manning the poacher hotline were also kept busy Saturday with reports of baiting violations, hunters shooting from the road, and ATV's on public land. Hunters wishing to report a violation can call 24 hours a day and seven days a week at 1(800)TIP-WDNR [800-847-9367] or cell #367.
By late afternoon Saturday, DNR Hunter Safety Administrator Tim Lawhern had been notified of two shooting incidents, both non-fatal.
A male hunter in Grant County was shot just below the buttocks, reportedly when a nearby hunter was unloading his gun. A hunter in Green County received a shotgun wound to the thigh; it was not self-inflicted. No other details were available at time of publishing.
Lawhern notes that every shooting incident can be traced back to hunters failing to follow the four basic firearm rules.
"Every hunter - no matter the level of experience or years in the woods - should have these rules so engrained they are automatic," Lawhern said. "Review these and review them with your hunting friends. It's in your best interest and theirs. Make these rules your habits."
The four rules are:
Treat every firearm as if it is loaded should be a habit.
Always point the muzzle in a safe direction at all times.
Be certain of your target and what is beyond it.
Keep your finger outside the trigger guard until ready to shoot.
Wardens wrote citations on opening day for illegal baiting, loaded firearms in vehicles and other violations, but no serious incidents were reported. A hunter in Clark County was cited after he cut down 25 pine trees on county property to improve a "shooting lane." Another hunter was arrested and booked into jail for carrying a firearm while legally intoxicated.
Spooner - Mike Zeckmeister, DNR Northern Region wildlife expert, was stationed at the Holiday South market in Spooner and reported a steady stream of vehicles bringing in deer. "Early morning conditions here were just about perfect," he noted, "temps were in the upper 20s with a clear sky and the marshes were passable." One woman he talked to said she'd seen 12 deer that morning. Mike took a call from his son about 8:45 a.m. who called dad to report he'd shot a nice doe. Mike also reported that a common question he was getting from hunters registering deer at the Holiday was whether or not there were any bonus antlerless permits left - they wanted to go back out. Bob Housel of Spooner was thinking his day was ruined when a tractor pulled into the field behind his stand and started plowing. Instead, the tractor kicked a group of does and a nice 2-year-old, eight-pointer out of a small creek bed along the field. The buck came past Bob's stand from behind and to the side headed toward the swamp Bob's stand was facing. He was able to bag it at about 70 yards.
Drummond - Fred Strand, DNR Northern Region wildlife area supervisor, was aging and registering deer at Bear County in Drummond. About mid-day he reported temps about 30 at the start of hunting hours with generally nice weather. Some nice deer were coming in early including at least one 10-pointer. One party of mother, son and daughter came in with a deer each. They were second and third generation hunters from Rice Lake area. Fred was talking to the folks operating Bear Country who said, "Yeah, they knew the grandfather who owned the family cabin and that the family hunted out of it every year."
Catawba - Pat Beringer, DNR wildlife biologist working at the Catawba Farm Supply registration station reported an opening temperature of 25 degrees and dense fog early that was starting to burn off around 10 a.m. He'd registered some nice bucks when a dad with two "smiling" daughters out of Kennan Wisconsin rolled up. Fourteen-year-old Kaley Otto shot a large seven-pointer by herself and 12-year-old Tessa Otto who was sitting with dad bagged a spike buck.
Jim Bishop, DNR's Northern Region public affairs manager reported pretty heavy fog in the early hours of the season. "It was like hunting inside a cloud," said Bishop. The fog dampened all sound and "you couldn't hear anything approaching until it was right on top of you and when the dew starting burning off the trees about 10 a.m. it sounded like rain."
Amery - Michelle Carlisle, DNR Northern Region wildlife biologist said conditions were clear and temps in low 30s at the opening hour. She said there was a mix of reports from successful hunters but that at least some of them volunteered that they had seen groups of deer. One happy 40-year-old hunter bagged a buck on this first ever deer hunt. He was hunting private land with permission of a friend who was in another stand a short distance away.
Antigo - Eric Borchert, Northern Region wildlife technician, also reported that a heavy fog settled in just about the time the season opened. Hunters he'd talked to reported visibility around 50 yards. A number of units around Antigo do not have any antlerless permits available so hunters were being careful to be sure they saw antlers before lining up a shot. Borchert noted - tongue in cheek - that by early afternoon things had warmed up and it was "very good sleeping weather" out in the woods.
St. Germain - Tom, working at St. Germain Sport Marine, reported a slow start to registrations. They also experienced morning fog in his area and it was still present in some areas at 1:30 p.m. There are also no antlerless permits available in nearby units so hunters were taking bucks only. One of the bucks he registered was shot by a classmate of his son from the fifth grade. The boy was hunting with his father under the new Mentored Hunting program and was very proud to bring in a six-pointer.
Crandon - Larry, working at the Northern Sport Shop, reported a slow start to the day with heavy fog greatly limiting visibility. By early afternoon he'd registered a dozen or so bucks. It was getting warmer and hunters were bringing in deer with a few parties planning to head back out now that the fog had cleared. Two of the bucks were brought in by young first time hunters.
Chelsea - Jeff, a Wausau seventh grader from Wausau, hunting for the first time shot a doe on his uncle's land. He had bow hunted the property during the early archery season without success. This time however things were different. He said he'd been sitting quietly in his stand early on when it was so foggy, but after a while he did some grunting and shortly after that the doe walked in and he shot at about 45 yards. He figured they were done for the day but would head out again on Sunday. Harold, who was working the Chelsea Conservation Club where Jeff registered his deer, reported a slow start to the hunt due to the fog.
Lake Namekagon - Mary, owner of the Loon Saloon, reported that her registrations seemed about on a par with previous seasons. "We're a little off the heavily traveled routes," she said, "we see mostly the same folks year after year and it seems they bring in a deer most years. They live in the area or have a cabin here that they spend time at so they know the area pretty well." Mary also said that about half of the hunters who registered bucks early purchased bonus antlerless tags and were planning to head out again to put some more venison in the freezer.
Green Bay - At Gander Mountain, Nick had registered nearly 20 deer by just after lunch. He said things were a little slower than previous years, but noted that there was no Earn a Buck up north this year, and that explained it. Hunters weren't hurrying in to register a doe and get a buck tag. He said he was seeing mostly five- and six-point bucks, but had registered "one really nice looking deer. It had a 13-point rack, can you could barely get your hand around the horn where it split." He said conditions were no rain and warm and said in Green Bay area, at least, fog wasn't a problem.
Newport State Park, Ellison Bay - Park Manager Michelle Hefty said "lots of bucks are coming in." She noted that the park was doing double duty in the area for registering deer, so they were busier than normal. She reported hunting conditions at the opening were foggy, and hunters said they had to wait until deer got very close to be sure of their targets. The fog lifted by mid-morning and hunters reported seeing deer. One 86-year-old man from Sister Bay brought in a buck and a doe for registration in the morning. He said the buck was following the doe, and he dropped them both, one shot each. He told Hefty his goal was to be out deer hunting when he was 90.
Oconto Falls - At Oconto Falls Riverview Quick Mart registration station, when asked about hunting pressure, one hunter said "Not much shootin' like there used to be." He had two deer in his pickup. Wildlife Manager Jim Robaidek manning this registration said, "It's early yet (about 11 a.m.). There's steady flow and it'll be picking up by noon." (three pickups waiting, two deer per bed.) About noon things did pick up. Trucks were coming in a steady stream. Several more trucks pulled in, some pulling trailers, and all with deer. There'd be no breaks for Wildlife Manager Jim Robaidek for quite awhile. All hunters were glad that the registering, aging and sexing of deer was handled quickly. "It's a warm day and they want to butcher or ice down their deer right away," Robaidek saod. Kirsten Schneider bagged her first buck, actually her first deer, shot using a .243 Ruger bolt action. She quietly stood by while her proud dad, Keith, told me that he might be more excited than she is. That's when Kirsten spoke up and said proudly, "I got him with one shot." One very good shot. While registering three deer one guy was holding his hand in a baggie full of ice. He showed his wound which will require several stitches and said, "They'll never let me gut deer again." When the deer were all registered, he asked the way to the hospital, told his buddies he'd see them in about a hour, and took off to the hospital emergency room. That's dedication -- register your deer before going to the hospital.
Manitowoc - Northeast Region Wildlife Supervisor Jeff Pritzl was aging deer at the Mobil 310 Mart, and he said, as expected it was busy and it was bucks. The area was Earn a Buck in the two previous years, and as a result this year hunters were shooting an unusually high proportion of 3- to 3-˝-year old bucks. Pritzl called hunting conditions in the area "near perfect - just a little warm." Fog wasn't an issue; there was just a little haze. Of the many stories Pritzl heard while aging deer, his favorite was that of a young boy on his first nine-day hunt who had shot a nine-point, 185-pound buck. The boy said he father had taught him that if he saw a doe that kept looking back, don't shoot, because a buck was following her. Sure enough, he saw a doe that kept looking back, he waited and the buck came into view. Though the young hunter landed a good shot, the buck moved away and he and his dad spent the next two hours searching the wetland. The dad found the deer, and called his son, teary with pride. Pritzl said of eight deer on the big buck board, four were taken by young hunters. "We're not seeing many does - the rut is still going. Hunters say the bucks are grunting and moving."
Athelstane - Jane at Athelstane Country Mart said registrations were coming in slow - by mid afternoon she counted eight antlerless and 13 bucks. She said fog wasn't much of an issue in the area - it wasn't dense and lifted by 7 a.m. She noted the day started in around 40 degrees, but it was in the 50s in the afternoon. "Hunters said they weren't seeing many deer," she said, "but of course, those are the guys bringing them in to register." She noted that during the bow season, a hunter brought in a "huge 13-pointer."
Wild Rose - DNR Area Wildlife Leader Tom Nigus taking deer heads for CWD surveillance at Mr. Ed's Place said deer registrations had been steady. DNR is sampling deer for CWD in the area due to positive deer being found at the Hall Wild Game Farm, located nearby in Almond. Nigus said that though there was fog early, it soon lifted, and hunters reported hearing a lot of shots taken around 8 a.m. "It's a good temperature for sitting," he said. Of the 40 bucks registered at Mr. Ed's by mid-afternoon, most were yearlings, but four had nice racks. One buck aged out at 4-years-old. He expected things to pick up. "It gets busy here after dark - it's not uncommon to have 30 cars and trucks waiting once the rush starts," he said.
Wild Rose - Jerry Apps joined his son, brother and nephews opening day hunting family land in Wild Rose. "Haven't missed a deer season since I was 12-years-old," Apps says, "and that goes back to a time when we wore red coats rather than blaze orange. I hunted with my dad back then, and walked miles from farm to farm—no trespassing signs in those days. Not many deer either." Apps says people sometimes seem surprised that he still hunts. "Yup," I answer with a smile he says. "And they look at me like I've lost a marble or two. My cynical answer is because I still can. But the reasons are more complicated than that. I hunt deer because my family has hunted for generations. My dad still hunted when he was 92. Deer hunting season is when I see my brother, and my three nephews, who all hunt. My son (now 46) has hunted with me since he was 12." The Apps party had seen a half-dozen deer Saturday morning but none had taken a deer by the time they broke for lunch. Fog hampered their ability to see much of the morning. "It's one more opportunity to be outdoors, in the quiet of a late November morning when the countryside is saying goodbye to fall and waiting for winter. The smells and sounds of fall are all around when I sit on the edge of a field on the back end of my farm," Apps says. "Oh, I still enjoy a slice of venison sausage. Nothing better, especially if it's home grown."
Omro - DNR Wildlife Technician Josh Jackl, aging deer at the Omro Store, said things were a little slower than last year, but it was a nice day and people were probably staying out hunting. The Omro area was Earn a Buck the last two years, and hunters were bringing bucks in today 2: or 3:1, ranging in age from 1 1/2 -years-old to 3-years-old. He noted one happy Omro-area hunter got his first buck today. His buddy said he just got home from serving in the armed forces in Iraq, and he wanted to go deer hunting.
Luxemburg - Aaron Buchholz, DNR wildlife biologist aging deer in Luxemburg reported two really nice bucks, a 15-pointer and a 19-pointer coming in to his station. He also talked to a 16-year-old hunter who was registering his first deer...after four years of trying. "That's persistence," said Buchholz. The crew working the phones at the 1-888-DNR-INFo line was able to help a father buy a hunting license for his 13-year-old son. The boy hadn't completed hunter education but wanted to try hunting. The INFo crew told him they needed to purchase a Jr. Deer Hunting License and then he could hunt with his dad under the new Mentored Hunting Law.
Kenosha County - DNR Wildlife Technician Paul Hainstock reported that this year was the steadiest it's ever been in the five years he's been working at Paddock Lake. As the area is within the CWD management zone, almost all the early deer registered were antlerless but by mid afternoon, he was seeing more bucks come in. Hunters reported they like the weather and Hainstock said "the average hunter is in pretty good humor." One interesting thing they have seen were three bucks that had grown just one antler. Hunters in the area believe it is a genetic abnormality that is taking place in a portion of the county. All three deer had come from this one locality and a hunter who brought in one of the one-antlered deer said he had seen three others like that.
Saukville - At Mac Carthy's in Saukville, things had been very slow, with just eight deer registered by 3 p.m. Those hunters who had come in said they hardly heard any shooting. Most reported the weather was too nice. The registration tag has a question for hunters to rate conditions, and most didn't know if they should rate it high because the weather was nice, or low because the weather was too nice.
Plymouth - DNR Wildlife Biologist Missy Sparrow reported it was a slow to start to the day, but things really picked up by mid morning. Fog had not really been a problem in this area. There was some, but not thick. Hunters were reporting seeing deer and in many cases were seeing groups of deer still moving together. One young hunter brought in his first buck. The deer management unit she was working in was a "regular unit" surrounded by herd control units. This meant hunters could not use the free antlerless permit in that unit, and Sparrow noted the only complaint she heard all morning was from a hunter who was upset the unit was not herd control. He shot a buck that had two does following it, and he was disappointed that he wasn't able to shoot one, because he hadn't bought a bonus antlerless permit. "He wished it had been a herd control unit so he could have used his free permit because, he said, 'I need the meat.'"
Delevan - DNR Wildlife Supervisor Tim Lizotte reported things were a bit slow in western Walworth County, but that wasn't surprising since conditions were excellent. Hunters were being asked to rate the hunting conditions and some were giving conditions a 10 to 11 on a 10-point scale. "The only thing that could be better is if there was some snow, but then it wouldn't be as nice out," Lizotte said. He had registered 16 deer by mid day, about half bucks, including and some very nice 3 to 4 year olds. "Hunters are saying that bucks are definitely still in rut. Bucks are actively chasing does and some that have come in still have swollen necks."
Whitewater - DNR Wildlife Technician Jenny Herrmann was working a registration station in the CWD management zone. She reported that despite the earn-a-buck requirement, hunters were bringing in a lot of nice bucks. Many hunters had tags that pre-qualified them for earn-a-buck. Most of the antlerless deer that were brought in by mid-day Saturday were fawns. Only had one hunter came in with a gripe. He was a bow hunter and was mostly upset about not being able to get his earn a buck tag because he hadn't gotten doe yet this year. There was quite a bit of fog early, which resulted in a slow opening.
East Troy - DNR Wildlife Technician Rachel Anderson, reported it had been a busy morning early but things slowed down by mid day. "Everyone seemed to be really enjoying the gorgeous weather, but one hunter did complain of not having any snow for tracking," she said. Anderson said hunters reported that deer were moving and hunters reporting seeing groups of deer on the move. She had registered more than 20 deer by 1 p.m., with a good mix of antlered and antlerless deer. "We had one 10-year-old come in who had been mentored by his father who was very excited. He shot a yearling buck within the first five minutes of the season." The family are local landowners and they knew the area and had done scouting before the season. "The dad thought his son would have a greater appreciation of the need to complete hunter education after getting out and participating in the mentored hunt. He was very proud of his son."
Monches - DNR Wildlife Manager Tom Isaac reported hunters had brought in several nice bucks to the registration station, including a 180-pound, nine-point buck that a hunter shot with a 7 mm/08 pistol at 100 yards. Some hunters reported a lot of shooting and others reported very little shooting. It was calm and in the 30s at dawn, but some very dense fog. Not too many antlerless were being brought in, but one hunter's doe aged at 6 to 8 years, which is quite old for this area of the state.
Allenton - DNR Wildlife Technician Angie Rusch reported things in Washington County were going "very slow. I think it's the beautiful weather. We just haven't seen hunters coming in with or without deer. I think it's so nice they are just staying in the field and we'll probably get a big rush at the end of the day." Rusch noted that of the deer she had registered, one lady came in with a couple of sons with three deer. "She had shot all three from her husband's deer stand while he was up north hunting."
Columbus - By mid-afternoon in eastern Columbia County, hunting had slowed a little. It took a while for the fog to burn off, there is a lot of standing corn, it's warm now, and hunters say they are either sticking to their stands or have come in for a break or were going to have to consider drives to start moving the deer, said Eric Lobner, regional DNR wildlife program manager. "We've had fairly steady traffic and constant business registering deer. We've seen a good number of large bucks, one shot by an 11-year-old and a few by 12-year-olds, Lobner says. "One 12-year-old registering a nice buck said this was the third time he had an opportunity to shoot at this same deer this year, Lobner says." He passed up a chance to take it during the Youth Hunt and again during the October hunt, but when it presented itself for a third time this morning, the young hunter figured it was a good time to take it. Father and son were in excellent spirits and were looking forward to processing the deer and getting back into the field.
Pardeeville - Bob Nack of DNR game farm staff had just sampled a deer when we called, and we spoke with the successful hunter. Fourteen-year old Jessilyn Balsiger of Pardeeville was hunting with her dad from tree stands near the edge of a forested area. She saw a nice buck about 9:15 a.m., but could not get it in the scope before it moved behind some brush where she could not get a clean shot. Jessilyn waited and not 15 minutes later, another buck came into view and she got a clear shot at about 80 yards. It ran about 150 yards before dropping. Her dad, Michael, tracked it down. This was Jessilyn's second season hunting but her first buck.
Dane County - Frank Hinze at the Black Earth registration station says registrations are running ahead of last year with close to 70 registered by 3 p.m. "We're getting more bucks then we saw in the last few years, Hinze says. "I'd say it's running about 60 percent bucks to 40 percent does right now. "We've also had a few first-time hunters and a few registering deer for the first time," Hinze adds. "I give them a little 'Treats For Kids' - a pencil, ruler or a little memento from the DNR; something to remember their first hunt. I always tell them 'This is something you are going to remember, cherish and we hope you will keep getting out and hunting every year.' The smile on their face makes my day."
Dodge County - Bob Sletto at the Holliday Food and Sport in Waupun said registrations are a bit slow compared to past years. "One reason may be the morning fog, but more hunters have said that there is a lot of standing corn, the deer are hiding out in it and consequently, the hunters just have not been hearing a lot of shooting. "We heard one good story of a hunter who shot a deer near the shore of Beaver Dam. That deer headed out into the water and swam out to an island. The hunter had to go get his boat and motor out to the island to retrieve his deer that died on the shore. That buck had an interesting rack: about a 17-inch spread that circled around so the antlers came with three inches of touching each other."
Grant County - "I've talked to a lot of satisfied customers," says Wildlife Biologist Bruce Folley who was registering deer in Fennimore at Casey's General Store. "In fact, right now I'm looking at a big buck that must weigh about 250 pounds and has an atypical rack that looks more like a moose rack. I've never seen anything like it. It has some broader flat areas and the guys who are counting it say that it has maybe 30 little points, but it is hard to say how many of those would be counted." "It was foggy here until about 10 o'clock, then when it lifted and the hunt began. We must have gotten a really good start because we've been seeing a lot of deer by 3 p.m."
Green County - Dennis at Hoesly's Meats in New Glarus said registrations are up a bit from past years with several people taking both a doe and fawn. "The most unusual story I heard was one guy who came in because he had hit a buck with his truck about a quarter after six this morning. That deer totaled his truck. I asked him how he got the deer registered so early in the morning and he said 'A warden drove up behind me not five minutes later and registered it.' I asked him if he was going to go out hunting and he said, 'Nope. I'm done.'"
Iowa County - Registrations are fairly steady, though down a bit by early afternoon because the fog didn't lift here in the Barneveld area until between 9:30 to 10 in the morning, says local DNR Wildlife Biologist Travis Anderson. Still, most people seem very happy with the hunting weather and are now taking their deer home so they can quickly cool them down and process them to avoid spoilage. "I'd say we've seen a few more younger hunters registering their first deer. I'm working one of three carports at Barneveld where we are registering deer, and by early afternoon on Saturday I have already registered deer for five different young hunters, which is a good thing," Anderson says. "By 2 p.m., we've also had 20 hunters donate their deer to the food pantry program, which is really great."
Jefferson County - Jamie Olson, 15, of Watertown, was up by 4 a.m. Saturday ready to hunt with his father, Timothy Olson. The father-son team had cleaned their guns and hanged their blaze orange apparel outside the night before to air it out. They skipped taking showers and headed straight to land they had hunted before - a private farm and woodland in Concord. Olson took a hunter education course when he was 11 but had been lured to the sport years before as a spectator. "My dad was always a hunter and I went hunting with him as a little kid," Olson recalls. "But since I've been hunting, I haven't even gotten a shot off." Still he was optimistic about the season and had his 12-gauge ready should opportunity walk his way. "Hunting with my dad usually brings us closer," Olson says. "Hunting is a good time. It is good to get in touch with the outdoors and not be so dependent on video games. I encourage any kid to take up hunting - it's a good time." Olson says he will hunt throughout the week moving between a tree stand and assisting in a deer driving party.
Lafayette County - Denny at Holverson Meat Processing in South Wayne said registrations are down about 50 percent from last year, "but it stayed foggy here in the bottomlands until about 10 this morning and there is a LOT of standing corn here in the area."
Milton - DNR Wildlife Technician Ed Alt reported things in Rock County were steady, but not real busy. "We've had hunters come in all morning." Because the area is a CWD zone with earn-a-buck requirements, they were seeing a lot of fawns and some does being brought in. There have not been a lot of big bucks registered, but they did have "one 7-year-old that came in with his antlers all busted up, so it was pretty apparent he had been doing some pretty heavy sparring lately." Hunters are reporting that bucks are still in rut and actively pursuing does. We did have one 12-year-old shoot his first buck. He was happy and his dad was too.
Richland County - Registrations were a bit slow in Port Andrew by the Wisconsin River in Richland County. Wildlife Biologist Nancy Frost said the fog was thick until about 9 a.m. and it has remained cloudy all day. A few hunters had asked where they could donate deer and were directed to nearby food pantry drop-off spots.
Ithaca - Tom Hauge, chief of the DNR Bureau of Wildlife Management called to report foggy early morning conditions and what he described as a "soft" start to the season there with shooting slowly picking up as the morning fog burned off in the area around his deer camp that had "a bit more standing corn than usual." Hauge had a couple of unique experiences. He got to watch two bucks sparring for 10 minutes before they broke off the tussle and disappeared. His son, TJ Hauge, had an experience of a lifetime. A buck came into his stand, TJ lined up on the buck's neck and took the shot. The deer dropped in its tracks, and so did the buck standing behind it that TJ couldn't see. TJ had two buck tags and tagged them both. He texted the other members of the camp, "two bucks, one bullet." The real discussion at "Mel's deer camp," as the group calls itself, is since TJ used only one bullet will he be allowed to add the scores from both bucks for his entry into the camp's "buck pool?" Later in the day, Tom was sampling deer at a registration station when new hunter Cody Hofer brought in his first ever deer. When asked for his hunter number he recited it from memory - "he was excited and he was ready" said Hauge.
TJ Hauge with his "two deer, one bullet" opening day success.
Tom Hauge Photo
Sauk County - The weather was foggy until about 8:30 a.m. and those hunting ridge tops got clearer shooting opportunities earlier than those who were lower or nearer the Wisconsin River, says Mike Foy, DNR wildlife biologist, working the registration station at the Ace Hardware store in Sauk City. One of the questions we are asking this year on the registration stub for the first time to rate the weather, says Alan Crossley, DNR wildlife biologist also working the registration station. "It's kind of funny. If hunters shot a nice buck, they tended to be rating the weather as a 'ten'; if they shot a fawn, they tend to rate it as a 'two' or a 'three.'" Other than the fog, people are very happy about the comfortable hunting conditions and the lack of wind. "I spoke with a couple of young folks who were registering deer for the first time," Crossley said. "One was about 16 or 17 and had taken his hunter's education class a few years ago. He was rightfully proud of a nice buck fawn he brought in. The other was part of a father-and-son team who were just raving about the great experience they had earlier in the year on a mentored hunt. The dad was bringing in a nice buck today, but their thoughts were still back on the awesome experience they had on that mentored hunt.
Plainfield - "It's been horribly slow today," says Stacy Knaus, working the deer registration station at the Wagon Wheel. "We've had 28 deer come in - four nice bucks but other years at this time we would have registered in the 100s and 200 to 300 total deer opening day." Knaus says public hunting grounds in the area have been popular sites this year but hunters weren't seeing many deer there. "I heard there were 118 vehicles parked in one area," she says. One highlight for Knaus was meeting a boy who had gotten into hunting through the recent inaugural mentored hunt program. "He said his dad was his mentor and his dad looked so proud that his son brought in a deer," Knaus says. Keith Warnke, DNR big game ecologist, reported that he was on his way to his hunting camp but that he'd heard from the folks already there that things were starting slowly with no deer shot in the morning.
A party of hunters on a parcel of private Adams County property, largely surrounded by timber land that is open to the public, came across a man and his young daughter who was on her first hunt. It turns out they had inadvertently crossed onto the private property. Keith Williams of Beloit, whose uncle owns the property, told the man and his daughter to stay put. He said it was a good day and they had a good location. "I told them now we know where you are so there won't be any miscommunications about firing lines," Williams told a DNR communications specialist working opening day. Williams handled that situation really well, said wildlife biologist Jon Robaidek. "That leaves a pretty good impression on a young hunter, on how things can be handled between groups of hunters," Robaidek said. This act of kindness didn't put a crimp in William's hunting, Robaidek said. The four hunters in his party registered three deer opening morning, including an eight-point buck shot by Williams, and were heading back out.
Fountain City - Becky Auer, working at the Kwik Trip, says it was quiet in Buffalo County, usually home to trophy whitetail deer hunting. Like other stations statewide she reported hunters were disappointed that fog kept them from seeing deer all morning. Most reported hunting on private land and the Kwik Trip had registered equal numbers of bucks to does -- just 36 deer, which is down from 50 or 60 at the same time opening day past years, Auer says.
Modena - Dennis Urness, working registration at the Modena Garage, also was having a quiet opener registering just 15 deer by mid-afternoon but expecting a rush later in the day. "Hunters are complaining about fog, standing corn, and warm weather in general," he says. "We've only had one deer to brag about - a 10 pointer."
Dunn County - Wildlife biologist Jess Carstens, aging deer at a registration station in Colfax said hunters reported the deer were not moving as much because of the fog.
Taylor - "It's been a very slow day," says Kristine Krencis, working her fifth year registering deer at the Taylor County Store. "We've registered 36 deer so far," she says. But she was seeing registration pick up later in the afternoon after the morning fog had cleared out. "The deer have been small - the largest is an eight-point buck so far. Most people seem to be sticking to private land."
Camp Douglas - Ron Kasulke, working at the Eagles Nest Resort, reports a slow opener. "I've only registered eight bucks and nine total deer," Kasulke says mid-afternoon. But he expected registration to pick up before close. "The hunters are sticking with it and staying out. It was hard to see with the fog this morning and some came in for a while but have gone back out and I think we'll see more deer coming in." Kasulke, a bow hunter, says he enjoys working the registration station during the gun hunt because of the people he meets. "I just love to talk to hunters and hear them get excited and share their stories. Young girls and boys to older hunters. That's what it's all about."
La Crosse County
Onalaska - This was the first year the La Crosse Archery center has been a gun-deer season registration station. Laura Rosenthal, center owner, says license sales were steady on Friday but deer registrations were slow on Saturday. "When I was selling licenses I was seeing people I had never seen, which means they are not local archers," Rosenthal says. She adds that the center became a registration center this year because the city has an urban deer hunt (archery only) and center was able to handle qualifications for the hunt. Rosenthal was joined by her daughter, Hannah, on Saturday and they were expecting a nine-point buck to be registered later in the day. The first deer they registered was a doe at 10 a.m. "The guy was waiting for us when we opened," Rosenthal recalls. "He said he had to get his deer early and get home because his wife had other plans for him the rest of the day," she says.
Marathon County - Regional Wildlife Supervisor Kris Belling was aging deer at Stratford in where she entertained two students from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. The young women, Katie Rymer and Emily Starke, are in the natural resources program and had volunteered to collect soft tissue samples for a study on deer genetics at UW-Madison. UW researcher Stacey Robinson is mapping the family relationships of deer and their dispersal patterns, information that can be critical as scientists struggle to understand and contain chronic wasting disease in deer. "It's kind of like a big CSI investigation," Rymer said. The real fun, Rymer said, was working with Belling and learning how to age deer by examining their teeth.
Sparta - Don Schmitzler, owner of Don and Vi's Hunting and Fishing, says he was selling a lot of back tags and had registered 63 deer by 2 p.m. including 34 bucks and 29 antlerless. "We just had a real nice buck with a 21.5-inch spread and eight points," Schmitzler says. Registrations were steadier than past years when Schmitzler says there would be a run on registrations followed by down time. "It's the warm weather," Schmitzler says. "Hunters are just bringing the deer in as they get them."
Durand - "Registration seems slower this year because of the fog this morning but we are expecting a rush this evening," says Clarissa Norbert, working her second year registering deer at the Durand Travel Stop. "We're often at over 100 deer registered in a day and we are only at 34 right now," she says mid-afternoon. "But we have photos of a bunch of happy kids with their deer - girls and boys - and that's been fun to see how happy they are. And most were heading back out for more."
Junction City - Betsy Tushkowski, co-owner of Mike and Betsy's Hiawatha, reports some disappointed hunters because of the weather. "Hunters are telling us it's been a rough day," she says. "Fog didn't lift until 10 a.m. and it looks like it might settle in again this evening." There also is a lot of standing corn in the area and deer were reported to be lying in fields. "But when hunters saw deer, they got them," Tushkowski says. Buck registration was ahead of antlerless. "And hunters have been real receptive to allowing the DNR to take glands rather than whole heads for testing this year," she says. "That's been a very popular change."
St. Croix County - Many farmers hunted the morning but were back on their combines by midday, harvesting the late-standing corn crop. Wildlife biologist Harvey Halvorsen said some hunters were positioning themselves to take advantage of this activity, hoping to spot deer pushed out of the corn fields. Otherwise, Halvorsen said, it was a slow morning with most of the wildlife viewing being provided by migrating geese.
Wildlife technician Jed Hopp said registrations were steady in northern St. Croix County. "For the most part, people have been seeing some deer around," Hopp said. "We had one really happy mentor come in with his 10-year-old daughter. She'd shot a really nice eight-point buck. Her name is Molly Boe. I asked her if she was restless, sitting still for three hours before the deer dame in. She said not really. She'd taken a little nap."
Viroqua - John Johnson was registering deer at Mary's Quick Trip on Saturday and reported a couple of big bucks including a 13-pointer with "huge beams." "We are registering a lot more bucks this year than does," Johnson says. "But the total number of deer we are seeing come in is a little down this year maybe because of all the fog," he says. "There are a lot of really decent size bucks but most are young deer - 1-and-a-half to 3-years-olds." Johnson says he also was seeing a lot of young hunters. "We had a little boy come in with a nice eight-point buck and it was his first deer," Johnson says. "And it's always nice to see a kid get his first deer - he was so happy."
Hillsboro - Bob Coppermoll, owner of Hillsboro Hardware and Rental, gave up hunting this year to devote more time to working the deer registration station. "I miss the camaraderie of hunting but I'm seeing a lot of familiar faces today coming in to register deer," he says. In fact, he had registered 80 deer by mid-afternoon at a 50:50 buck to doe ratio. "It's been a little slower, than past years," he says, "because hunters said they couldn't see anything until 9 a.m. when the fog lifted." He adds, "The deer look good and healthy." Among those registered was a 19.5-inch spread 10-point buck taken by a 14-year-old boy. "What a way to spoiled a boy," Coppermoll says of the boy's photo-worthy experience. Most deer in the area were being taken on private lands including a 21.5-inch 10-point buck.
Wood County - Hunters throughout west central Wisconsin found themselves shrouded in fog. "One guy said he couldn't see past the end of his gun barrel," reported wildlife biologist Greg Dahl, who was aging deer. The weather, which most hunters graded as less than desirable on their registrations stubs, did provide a few lucky hunters with a dramatic moment when a large buck deer came out of the fog, seeming to materialize out of thin air. Hunters were also hindered by thick condensation which fell from the trees like a light rain, creating a constant pitter patter of sound that made it difficult to hear deer as well as see them.