Wisconsin deer harvest down 20 percent
Associated Press Writer
Here is a regional breakdown of the 276,985 whitetail deer that Wisconsin hunters registered with the Department of Natural Resources from the nine-day gun season that ended Sunday, according to a preliminary count released Tuesday:
- 19-county west-central region: 103,411 (34,927 bucks, 68,927 antlerless), down 16 percent from a year ago.
- 18-county northern region: 70,686 deer (28,520 bucks, 42,166 antlerless), down 30 percent from a year ago.
- 15-county northeast region: 53,860 deer (20,253 bucks, 33,607 antlerless), down 24 percent from a year ago.
- 11-county south-central region: 42,660 deer (13,597 bucks, 29,063 antlerless), up 3 percent from a year ago.
- 8-county southeast region: 6,368 deer (1,986 bucks, 4,382 antlerless), down 5 percent from a year ago.
Wildlife officials say the number of antlerless deer is important because it includes does, and killing them is a way to reduce the growth of the herd in areas already overpopulated.
WAUSAU, Wis. (AP) - Hunters killed 276,985 whitetail deer during Wisconsin’s nine-day gun season, down 20 percent from a year ago based on preliminary counts, the state Department of Natural Resources reported Tuesday.
“The down numbers may mean the population is moving toward goal. That is a good thing, and that hunting is having a positive effect on deer herd management,” DNR deer expert Keith Warnke said. “If this is true, as populations get toward goals, lower harvests like this will become the norm.”
The season ended Sunday.
According to the DNR, hunters registered 178,145 antlerless deer - down 19 percent from a year ago - and 98,840 bucks - down 21 percent.
Killing antlerless deer is key to checking the growth of the overpopulated herd because it means the number of does is being reduced.
Of the five regions in the state, only one - south central - killed more deer than a year ago, the DNR sai d. The number was up 3 percent.
The DNR estimated up to 1.7 million whitetail deer roamed the fields and woods this fall - some 100,000 fewer than a year ago.
Warnke said the preliminary registration figures suggest two things:
1. The preseason herd estimates in some areas of the state were too high. Perhaps more deer died during a harsher winter and fewer healthy fawns were born.
2. The earn-a-buck regulation in major portions of the state requiring hunters to kill an antlerless deer to qualify to shoot the more coveted buck are working in lowering deer numbers.
“Think about it from the upside. We still have a very high harvest in Wisconsin and very strong deer hunting opportunity when you look around,” he said.
None of the typical variables in the annual hunt can account for the drop in deer killed, Warnke said.
“The weather this year was pretty good,” he said. “There is nothing that is glaring to me about weather, the late season or P ackers games that can be accountable for all of the preliminary decline. Licenses were stable.”
In fact, the DNR sold about 1,000 more hunting licenses this season, putting 642,419 hunters into the field.
Adam Hickson, owner of Northern Waters Angling and Archery near Conover, said his store registered 207 deer this year - 234 fewer than a year ago.
“What exactly does that number tell me? There is half the deer I think. It only makes sense,” he said. “The number of hunters were there. We have done exactly what the DNR has wanted us to do - harvest as many deer as we can.”
Many hunters were disappointed, some calling it “the worst year in their memory,” he said.
Hickson said he wasn’t surprised by the drop, given there’s also more natural predators for deer in the area, including wolves.
“An unsuccessful hunter who sees 50 deer would probably be more happy than a successful hunter who sees one,” he said. “Being angry at the DNR is a constan t. They have to revise their numbers, and I believe they will.”
Near Eau Claire, The Welcome Mat registered 241 deer, compared with 311 a year ago, bartender Tim Wick said.
“Most people were fairly disappointed because a lot of them hadn’t seen nearly as many deer as they normally had,” he said. “I don’t know what the cause of it was. We just didn’t see as many hunters either. That probably prevented the deer from being pushed.”
The news was better in west central Wisconsin.
Steve Wyss, owner of Hatfield’s Sports Shop in Jackson County, said his store registered 348 deer, down just 6 percent from a year ago.
“Most hunters were very satisfied,” he said. “We had several parties that filled up with bucks. It seemed that everybody was satisfied.”
There are still more chances to shoot a deer in Wisconsin.
A hunt for hunters who use muzzleloaders started Monday and continues through Dec. 10. That’s followed by a four-day statewide antlerle ss-only hunt that begins Dec. 11.
During a four-day antlerless-only season in October, hunters shot at least 32,000 deer, Warnke said.