Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
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Hunters Field Observations of Deer During the Season
   This metric provides voluntary hunter observation data that is collected either during the process of registering a deer, or from submitted field observations through an on-line reporting form. For additional Information….
Starting in 2009 deer hunters were ask to volunteer information on the number of hours hunted, deer seen, and weather ranking on the day they harvested their deer at the time of registration. Simultaneously, a second survey also allowed deer hunters to volunteer information on deer and other wildlife observations they made throughout the deer season while out hunting deer.
Collection and analysis methods
Deer Registration Observations:

Starting in 2009, successful deer hunters were asked at the time of registration to voluntarily rate the weather conditions, deer seen, and hours hunted on the day they killed their deer. Along with the date, hunter information, deer type, and locational information collected to complete the registration, hunters rated the weather on a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being the worst, and provided the hours they hunted and deer seen that day.

Deer Hunter Wildlife Survey Methods:

Since deer hunters spend many quiet observation hours waiting for deer; they can be a source for information on species that may be hard to observe. A survey form was developed for hunters to report their wildlife observations while hunting deer. In addition to an online survey any hunter could fill out, a sample of 17,000 (240 per county) deer hunters were drawn and mailed a paper survey form. Surveys were mailed in early September before the start of the archery deer season. Deer hunters could submit observations directly via the online survey form or by returning the mailed paper survey form. Survey instructions were found on the webpage or on the reverse side of the mailed paper survey form.

Both survey methods asked hunters to report the date they hunted, number of hours, a rating of the weather from 1–10 (1=worst 10=best), and the number of deer, turkey, skunk, house cat, ruffed grouse, red fox, gray fox, coyote, wolf, raccoon, porcupine, opossum, badger, bear, bobcat, fisher, elk and otter they saw while hunting. The survey also contained a comment field where hunters could write in any other wildlife not listed that they may have observed. Hunters could also provide their email address to have a personalized summary sent to them at the end of the survey period. Hunters were encouraged to report their hunting activity even if no wildlife was sighted.

Hunters were asked to report the zone (DMZ) they hunted in (Central Forest, Central Farmland, Northern Forest, and Southern Farmland) and DMU, now designated by county and tribal reservation. Sixty-three DMUs follow county boundaries and nine counties (Adams, Clark, Eau Claire, Jackson, Juneau, Marinette, Monroe, Oconto, and Wood) are split into two DMUs each, totaling 81 DMUs. There are also 5 tribal DMUs. In addition to zone and county, hunters were asked to report the land type they hunted on, public or private.

Hunters who signed up for e-mail updates on deer issues (˜25,000) were sent an informational e-mail about the survey and a link to the survey’s informational web page before the start of the archery and gun deer seasons. Hunters were allowed the option of signing up for e-mail updates that specifically applied to the deer hunter wildlife survey. A press release was issued about the survey and an informational link was put on the Wisconsin DNR’s main web page. A tally sheet was made available on the webpage so hunters could record their observations while they were away from a computer for an extended period of time. The survey webpage was anonymous, and allowed any hunter with computer access to report their observations without a user ID or password. A link was provided for deer hunters to send in via e-mail any trail camera pictures of endangered species, or of animals that are not normally seen in their hunting area.

Using the metric
Both sets of deer hunter observations are compiled for hours hunted, and deer seen and are expressed as a ratio of deer seen per hour hunted. Data is compiled at the unit level and from data that is provided from throughout the season.

The ratio of deer seen per hour hunted should not be interrupted to be distributed evenly across any one unit or at all times of the deer hunting season. It is more of an index to abundance that can you used to judge what hunters are seeing while hunting at varying population levels.

Year to year variations in the deer sighted ratio should be viewed with caution as changes in season structure, antlerless permit levels, weather, deer movements, hunter behavior, and participation rates can influence the ratio and may have a short term effect. A longer view in the overall direction of the trend should be taken to best represent changes in deer sight ability.

Limitations and precautions
Both survey methods rely on hunters to volunteer information to the department on what they are seeing. Biases toward people that see lots of deer or people that see no deer probably exist but are not corrected for. Weather conditions can and do influence deer movements and hunter behavior and can affect deer sight ability.

Units that are small in size, have low numbers of deer, or are lightly hunted may have inadequate numbers of reports to accurately represent the number of deer in a unit. Year to year variations in hunter movements and the seasonal time they hunt could also cause unknown biases to exist.

Methodologies in solicitation of volunteers has changed from year to year for both surveys and may have made year to year comparison less valuable. Hunter interest and participation in both surveys has also ebbed and waned and probably had an effect on year to year comparisons.

Future needs
The department continues to seek ways to get both successful and non-successful hunters to participate in these deer sightability surveys. Cultivating a culture of willingness of hunters to participate in these surveys will be a constant challenge. Also, getting adequate sample size from lightly hunted units will continue to be an issue.
Additional background materials related to this metric
Most harvest and hunter survey reports are available for viewing on the Wisconsin DNR website: Wildlife Survey Reports

Deer Seen Per Hunted Hour
2020 Deer Stub Deer Seen per Hour: 1.11 2019 Deer Stub Deer Seen per Hour: 1.04 2018 Deer Stub Deer Seen per Hour: 1.08 2017 Deer Stub Deer Seen per Hour: 0.93 2016 Deer Stub Deer Seen per Hour: 0.95 2015 Deer Stub Deer Seen per Hour: 0.92 2014 Deer Stub Deer Seen per Hour: 0.92 2013 Deer Stub Deer Seen per Hour: 0.88 2012 Deer Stub Deer Seen per Hour: 0.84 2011 Deer Stub Deer Seen per Hour: 0.79 2010 Deer Stub Deer Seen per Hour: 0.82 2009 Deer Stub Deer Seen per Hour: 0.69 2020 Hunter Survey Deer Seen per Hour: 0.70 2019 Hunter Survey Deer Seen per Hour: 0.62 2018 Hunter Survey Deer Seen per Hour: 0.69 2017 Hunter Survey Deer Seen per Hour: 0.73 2016 Hunter Survey Deer Seen per Hour: 0.45 2015 Hunter Survey Deer Seen per Hour: 0.65 2014 Hunter Survey Deer Seen per Hour: 0.45 2013 Hunter Survey Deer Seen per Hour: 0.43 2012 Hunter Survey Deer Seen per Hour: 0.38 2011 Hunter Survey Deer Seen per Hour: 0.31 2010 Hunter Survey Deer Seen per Hour: 0.27 2009 Hunter Survey Deer Seen per Hour: 0.19
For questions on this deer metric data contact:
Brian Dhuey 608-221-6342 Brian.Dhuey@wisconsin.gov