MADISON - Though temperatures plummeted and winds blew for the first half of the season, hunters rose to the occasion and headed out to enjoy the traditions of the nine-day deer hunt.
Of the 633, 602 gun deer license buyers, Wisconsin welcomed nearly 27,000 new resident hunters to the field based on the number of people who took advantage of discounted licenses for first-time-hunters.
"This year, the traditions of the nine-day were shared with a large cohort of new hunters. I want to thank all the seasoned hunters who encouraged someone new to join in the traditions of their hunt this year, and for those new hunters who took advantage of the opportunity to try hunting," DNR Sec. Cathy Stepp. "I am especially excited to see such a representation of new female hunters.
This year females represented 33 percent of resident adult First Time Gun Deer license buyers and 33 percent of resident First Time Junior Gun Deer license buyers. The number of female hunters aged 10 to 30 increased by 10 percent this year and overall, females made up 10 percent of all deer license sales, going into opening weekend.
Cold temperatures opening weekend didn't curb interest in going out hunting, only the ability to stay out hunting. By the second half of the week, hunters found much more favorable conditions and put it to good use.
"It was downright brutal out there early in the week and the opening weekend totals reflected that," said Kevin Wallenfang, DNR big game ecologist who spent most of the week hunting and working in Vilas County. "Feedback from our deer hunter wildlife survey shows that, not surprisingly, hunters themselves felt the weather during the first half of the season ranked the poorest they've seen in the five years that we've done this survey."
This year's preliminary harvest totals indicate a total of 226,582 deer were killed, down 7 percent from 2012's call-in numbers. The preliminary tally showed hunters harvested 97,765 bucks and 128,817 antlerless deer. This compared to 2012 call-in registration figures of 114,822 bucks and 128,917 antlerless, for a 15 percent decrease in the buck kill, while the antlerless kill was almost exactly the same as 2012.
Preliminary harvest numbers were down opening weekend throughout the state showing a total decrease of about 18 percent, due in part to the cold and windy conditions.
A breakdown of the harvest by DNR region and county is available in portable document format (pdf) on the DNR website.
The preliminary nine-day harvest numbers are collected through a call-around survey of over 600 deer registration stations all across Wisconsin and likely will increase when all registration tags are officially counted, Wallenfang said.
According to Wallenfang, DNR anticipated lower numbers in the north and hunter feedback confirmed it. He added that antlerless permit numbers across the north are at the lowest levels seen since the 1990s and a reduced antlerless harvest was expected this year. The neighboring states of Michigan and Minnesota saw similar conditions both during their hunts and last winter, and both have reported a comparatively lower deer harvest this fall.
Regardless of outcome, a steady flow of stories poured into registration stations, bars, and social media around the state.
Continue the memories and excitement of the season by visiting DNR's Facebook page at www.facebook.com/#!/WIDNR .
Also, commemorate a first deer harvest by getting a free DNR First Harvest Certificate, new this year! This is a great way for those who harvest a deer for the first time to preserve this special hunting memory. Information about when and where the deer was harvested, who you were hunting with, and even a picture can be displayed on the certificate. Visit dnr.wi.gov, search keyword "deer," fill out the form, and we'll email a customized certificate back to you for free.
There are additional opportunities to hunt deer in Wisconsin after the close of the nine-day season. The muzzleloader season is currently open through Dec. 11. The late archery season is also underway and continues until Jan. 5, 2014. There is also a statewide antlerless hunt Dec. 12 to Dec. 15, and a holiday hunt in the Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) zones of south central Wisconsin, which starts Dec. 24 and runs until Jan. 5, 2014.
This year a total of eight shooting related incidents were reported.
Four of the hunting related incidents can be directly attributed to unsafe muzzle control. "Always Point Your Muzzle in a Safe Direction is one of the four firearm safety rules taught in our hunter safety education courses," said Conservation Warden Jon King, Hunter Education Administrator.
The remaining four incidents involved violating firearm safety rule number three; be certain of your target and what is beyond.
Of the gun deer hunting incidents, 38 percent involved deer drives and shooting at running deer. "It is difficult enough to successfully shoot a running deer, let alone pay attention to everything in front of and behind that deer while it is running as you are shooting," said King. "As a group, plan these deer drives very carefully and remind everyone that no deer is worth hurting someone or taking someone's life," said King.
Total reported incidents for 2013 is below the 10 year average, which is nine.
More than 30,000 students complete the hunter's safety program every year, thanks to the work of more than 4,200 volunteer hunter education instructors. Before the hunter education course started, hunter fatalities during the season commonly ran into double digits.
"As always, we want to remind hunters participating in the remaining seasons to remember and follow the four rules of firearm safety or TAB-K," said King. "Treat any firearm as if it is loaded, always point the muzzle in a safe direction, be certain of your target and what's beyond, and keep your finger outside the trigger guard until ready to shoot."
The Deer Hunter Wildlife Survey is still active until the end of all deer seasons and wildlife managers are asking hunters to send in a report of what they saw during the just completed nine-day gun hunt and during any hunting trips they make through the end of all deer hunting seasons. This information provides valuable data biologists use to improve population estimates for Wisconsin's deer herds and other species.
Additional information on the 2013 deer season, and continuing deer hunting opportunities, can be found by visiting dnr.wi.gov, search keyword "deer."
With the end of the 162nd Wisconsin nine-day gun deer season, Gov. Scott Walker and DNR Sec. Cathy Stepp share a video message with hunters and their families, thanking them for being part of the deer season, and for continuing to be our partners in conservation.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Kevin Wallenfang, DNR Big Game Ecologist, 608-261-7589; Jon King, DNR Conservation Warden, 608-575-2294; or Jennifer Pelej, DNR dep. communications director, 608-264-9248