Contact(s): Kevin Wallenfang, DNR Big Game Ecologist, 608-261-7589
Tom Hauge, DNR Wildlife Management Bureau Director, 608-266-2193
Jon King, Conservation Warden, 608-575-2294
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.
"Congratulations to all hunters who were able to harvest a deer opening weekend of the nine-day. Though getting a deer is often the ultimate goal of the hunt, it is the whole experience of getting out there with friends and family that keeps us coming back each year," said DNR Sec. Cathy Stepp. "I hope those that weren't able to get a deer during the season opener will get back out there and enjoy the rest of the days of the season."
"I am particularly excited by the numbers of new hunters and female hunters that we are seeing in the field this year. From the pictures and stories that are being shared, there has been quite a bit of hunting success amongst this new generation of hunters," said Sec. Stepp. "There's nothing like a good first hunt to get a hunter excited for future hunts. I speak from first-hand experience on that.
"This was my second year as a deer hunter, and the thrill was even greater. I am proud to have a deer represented in this year's preliminary tally along with hundreds of thousands of others."
A breakdown of the harvest by DNR Region and county [PDF] is available in portable document format on the DNR website.
"We want to remind folks that these preliminary numbers come from a staff call-around to deer registration stations this morning," said Tom Hauge, director of the DNR wildlife management program. "The final opening weekend tally will likely be somewhat larger, when all the registration stubs are entered into the data base over the next couple of 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. "Though a light dusting of snow would have provided ideal conditions for hunting, warm and dry weather does tend to allow people to stay out in the field or the tree stand longer," said Hauge.
Overall, the statewide harvest is up over 19 percent 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. "Generally, we see about 60 percent of the overall harvest in the first weekend, but we hold drawing of conclusions until the season is complete," Hauge said.
Preliminary harvest numbers are up in all regions and bucks are up statewide by 24 percent 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, according to Hauge.
"This is Wisconsin's 161th modern era deer gun season. It is a fall, family tradition cherished by over 600,000 hunters. These preliminary numbers are just a small part of the event we know as 'opening weekend.' I suspect for every deer reported there are 10 great deer camp stories out there. It appears that this season is well on its way to creating life long memories and more importantly, starting traditions for thousands of new hunters," added Hauge.
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 percent of resident First Time Gun Deer licenses and 30 percent of residents bought first Time Junior Gun Deer licenses.
"I find this statistic particularly exciting. If we get the women involved in hunting, we get the family involved. It is so important to be getting youth out there in the tree stand. We will all be looking to them to keep our wonderful hunting heritage alive," said Stepp. "But I also want to recognize that 66 first time licenses were sold to hunters 80 and older. The involvement of so many generations in the deer hunt truly illustrates how deep the deer hunting tradition runs in Wisconsin."
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:
For more facts about Wisconsin hunters in the field this year, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keyword "deer." A licensing table and breakdown is regularly updated on this page.
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," said Conservation Warden Jon King, Hunter Education Administrator. "Please refresh your knowledge of tree stand safety on our web site."
"As the season continues, we want to stress the importance of hunters keeping safety foremost in their minds at all times on the hunt -- and during all deer drives," said King.
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," said King. "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."
"Hunters can make 2012 a good, safe season. This is the best deer hunting tradition to maintain. A safe hunt is a successful hunt," concluded Sec. Stepp.