Contact(s): Keith Warnke (608) 264-6023
MADISON - A survey of Wisconsin deer registration stations conducted by the state Department of Natural Resources has yielded a preliminary tally of 195,647 for the just-ended, nine-day November gun deer hunt. This includes a buck tally of 86,251 and an antlerless tally of 109,396.
This number is preliminary and is expected change before a final report is published in late winter. It does not include harvest information from the archery, October antlerless gun deer hunt, muzzleloader, December antlerless deer gun hunt or late archery seasons. The preliminary harvest count in 2008 was 276,895.
"Deer populations are variable throughout the state," said Keith Warnke, DNR's big game biologist, "and we believe people when they say they did not see deer in their hunting area. We have also received reports from successful camps. As always, local populations make all the difference.
"Wildlife management and especially deer management is a process of continual adjustment. In response to hunter input we adjusted seasons this year to reflect lower populations across the north and central forests and suspended EAB in many areas."
DNR wildlife officials anticipated the total harvest would be down due to changes in season structure that significantly reduced the antlerless deer harvest, lower fawn production and tough weather conditions for deer and hunters alike. In some northeastern units it was not possible to shoot an antlerless deer and in other northern region units the small supply of bonus antlerless deer tags did not meet demand. Careful adjustment of antlerless tag numbers is an important tool in managing deer numbers.
"There are still days to hunt in 2009 in herd control units where deer are above goal and in CWD units. The muzzleloader hunt is underway and the December antlerless hunt is around the corner."
In February, DNR biologists will compare unit-level harvest numbers against overwinter population estimates and will adjust the recommended season structure for 2010 to address any significant trends.
"A pillar of Wisconsin deer management is the accurate harvest figures provided by hunters," said DNR wildlife biologist Jeff Pritzl. "Periods of stable deer populations have always been relatively short-lived in Wisconsin. Mandatory deer registration allows us to respond quickly to changing population levels. We have annually adapted our harvest strategies, and will continue to do so in consideration of what the 2009 harvest tells us about the deer population."
"This year, in response to hunter input, we moved 29 units from earn-a-buck to herd control status and 38 units from herd control to regular unit status. The total number of regular units grew from 21 in 2008 to 59 this year." said Warnke. "The result was inevitably less antlerless opportunity and lower antlerless harvest numbers."
A table of county by county (pdf; 39kb) harvest broken down by DNR region, with a comparison to the 2008 preliminary harvest is available on the DNR Web site.
"What is really exciting, is the 9,907 mentored hunting licenses purchased by 10- and 11-year olds," said Diane Brookbank, chief of DNR's licensing and customer service unit. "These are the future hunters and conservationists that will step into the woods in place of the hunting 'retirees' as our population ages."
Wardens reported no firearm incidents among these young hunters.
DNR hunter education administrator and conservation warden Tim Lawhern said there were seven hunting incidents during the nine-day gun hunt. A possible eighth incident remains under investigation.
"Our hearts go out to the families whose loved ones suffered injury during the hunting season," said Lawhern. "Our goal is to eliminate all injury and loss of life while hunting. Every incident is investigated to learn what happened so we can work to prevent such incidents in the future."
Self-inflicted gunshot injuries accounted for 57 percent (4 of 7) of this season's incidents. Deer drives contributed to 25 percent of all incidents. Both categories and all firearm related incidents can be attributed to failure to observe one of the basic rules of firearm safety according to Lawhern.
Still, noted Lawhern, hunting remains a safe sport and has gotten safer over time as more and more hunters are graduates of hunter safety education courses. This is especially true in Wisconsin where the incident rate for hunters is well below the national average. The incident rate for 2009 in Wisconsin was 1.11 incidents per 100,000 hunters - the national average is 3 per 100,000.
"This was the fourth safest season ever and the fourth time in history that we've had a gun deer season with less than 10 incidents," said Lawhern, "Nonetheless, our goal is zero incidents."
DNR's automated License Issuance System, known as ALIS, peaked at 200 transactions per minute at 5:30 p.m. on the Friday before gun season. The 638,040 gun licenses sold through the end of the season on Nov 29 represent a near identical number of hunters as in 2008 when 642,419 hunters hit the woods.