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November 25, 2013

MADISON - Though opening weekend temperatures were cold, more than 615,000 people bought deer licenses to go out hunting, nearly 27,000 of them buying licenses to go out hunting for the first time. Many hunters went out with hopes of getting a deer, knowing that despite extremely cold temperatures, they would likely all be guaranteed the making of warm memories.

Though hunters define success in different ways, 110,797 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 endured the cold and were able to harvest a deer opening weekend of the nine-day. Though getting a deer is often the ultimate goal, it's the whole experience of spending time with friends and family, engaging in the traditions, and getting outdoors that makes the hunt so fun, even if a deer is not brought home," said DNR Secretary 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."

"We saw quite a few new hunters taking part in the traditions this year, with females representing 33 percent of resident First Time Gun Deer licenses sold," Stepp said. "With the extremely cold temperatures opening weekend, many of these new hunters had quite the initiation. This makes me even more proud of the stories and the photos being shared with us, showing them having fun whether they got a deer or not. If people haven't checked out our Facebook photo album of pictures collected over the weekend, they really should. It's a great reminder of what the season is all about!"

To view some of the photos and stories shared, please visit DNR's Facebook page.

Winter makes an entrance for opening day

Opening weekend saw temperatures as low as -9 degrees and winds gusting to 25 mph.

"This is one opening weekend of the gun deer season that hunters won't soon forget," said Tom Hauge, DNR wildlife management bureau director. "In over 40 years of hunting I don't recall a deer season that started out this cold. So it comes as no surprise that the weather conditions had a direct impact on the harvest throughout the state. But the season is still young and there are plenty of deer to be hunted, so I hope folks will get back out there and enjoy the rest of the season."

Overall, the statewide harvest is down just under 18 percent from 2012, and registration decreased in all regions.

A breakdown of the harvest by DNR Region and county is available in portable document format (pdf) on the DNR website.

The 2013 preliminary count of 110,797 is down 17.8 percent from last year's opening weekend tally of 134,772. The preliminary buck harvest for the 2013 opening weekend is down 25 percent at 53,865 (71,989 in 2012). The preliminary antlerless harvest is down 9 percent at 56,932 (62,783 in 2012).

"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, but it played a big role this year.

"Reports from up in this area, as well as from around the entire state, say that a lot of people were leaving the woods by mid-morning on Saturday because they just couldn't take the cold any longer," said DNR big game ecologist, Kevin Wallenfang, who spent the weekend working at registration stations in Vilas County. "I believe Sunday was even colder, so it stands to reason that the overall effort in trying to get a deer was down considerably for a lot of people this weekend. Before the hunt started, we speculated about factors that could impact the harvest like the late opener and rutting activity. But this year, weather was the biggest factor, and something we cannot predict."

In addition to hunting conditions, another factor that is expected to impact overall harvest in the north is permit levels. Wallenfang said that antlerless permit numbers across the north are at the lowest levels seen since the 1990s and a reduced antlerless harvest is expected this year. The reduced permit levels are a reflection of low deer numbers in some areas and the department's efforts to allow local herds to grow in areas hit hardest by last winter's lingering snows and late spring that cause some direct losses of deer as well as below average fawn production. The neighboring states of Michigan and Minnesota saw similar conditions, and both have reported a comparatively lower deer harvest this fall.

"These preliminary numbers are just a small part of the events of opening weekend that we all look forward to. Over 615,000 people purchased licenses to take part in the hunt and I suspect that for every deer reported there are 10 great deer camp stories made. We can't tally the life long memories made or the value in sharing the traditions of the hunt with thousands of new hunters, but we know it's high," said Hauge. "This is Wisconsin's 162nd deer season, with generations of hunters going to the field, sometimes getting deer and sometimes not. In my experience, the thing that keeps people coming back year after year is the camaraderie and the chance to keep the traditions of the season alive," added Hauge.

Enthusiasm for hunting remains high, though temperatures were low

The department's license sales office reported 615,872 gun deer licenses sold by midnight, Nov. 22, prior to the Saturday start of the season. Deer license and tag sales will continue through the hunting seasons.

This year, 26,690 new hunters also bought licenses to deer hunt for the first time, or for the first time in 10 years. Females represented 33 percent of all residents who purchased First Time Gun Deer licenses.

"I am really excited to see the number of women heading to the field. This is a segment we have been focusing on, knowing that if we get the women involved in hunting, we also get the family involved. It's such an important way to keep our hunting heritage strong," said Stepp. "I also want to recognize that 54 first time licenses were sold to hunters 80 and older going into opening weekend. The involvement of so many generations in the deer hunt truly illustrates how deep the deer hunting tradition runs in Wisconsin."

Keith Warnke, DNR hunting and shooting sport coordinator reports efforts to reach out to female hunters appear to be successful, with the number of female hunters aged 10 to 30 increasing by 10 percent this year and overall, females making up 10 percent of all deer license sales.

Deer hunters continued to engage in another standing tradition, buying their license on the way up to deer camp Friday, with 102,742 licenses sold Friday before the season opener.

Some facts about Wisconsin hunters, going into opening day:

For more facts about Wisconsin hunters in the field this year, visit and search keyword "deer." A licensing table and breakdown is regularly updated on this page.

Injury report

There have been six hunting incidents reported through the opening weekend. Four incidents were self-inflicted and two were multi-party incidents. The incidents occurred in Grant, Oconto, Kewaunee, Green Lake, Monroe, Sheboygan counties and are still under investigation.

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."

Additional safety reminders and tips are available by visiting, search "tree stand safety," and also view a safe hunting feature.

"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."

"Making 2013 a safe season is the best deer hunting tradition to maintain. A safe hunt is a successful hunt," Stepp concluded.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Kevin Wallenfang, DNR Big Game Ecologist, 608-206-1107 (cell); Tom Hauge, DNR Wildlife Management Bureau Director, 608-266-2193; Jon King, DNR Conservation Warden, 608-575-2294; or Keith Warnke, DNR hunting and shooting sports coordinator, 608-576-5243

Last Revised: Monday, November 25, 2013

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