Wild Things: Another Shot at Holiday Venison

If you’re a deer hunter who’s still looking for venison in 2023, you’ve got another shot coming up.

Door, Kewaunee and Brown counties are among those participating in the antlerless-only holiday gun deer hunt Dec. 24-Jan. 1. 

That means blaze orange clothing is mandatory for all hunters during that span, except those after Canada geese. Though participation in the hunt is expected to be very light, it’s still a good idea to wear a blaze vest, jacket or cap outside, even if you’re just taking a hike.

As always, review the hunt plan and safe gun handling procedures with members of your group before heading afield.

Archers and crossbow deer hunters can legally pursue a buck through Dec. 23, then can only target antlerless deer until Jan. 2. 

Through Dec. 17, crossbow users had registered 52,237 whitetails, including 32,483 bucks. Archery hunters had tallied 34,304 deer, including 21,074 bucks.

The all-seasons 2023 fall deer harvest stood at 146,098 bucks and 137,219 antlerless deer (about one-fourth are typically buck fawns) for a total of 283,317. That includes 3,473 (1,702 bucks) in Door County and 2,720 (1,297 bucks) in KC.

Meanwhile, fall wild turkey hunters had reported 3,766 birds. Hunters in our zone, Zone 2, tallied 1,175 through last weekend, double the combined total of Zones 1 (576) and 4 (598). Zone 3 hunters registered 778, Zone 6 276, Zone 5 220 and Zone 7 143. 

The fall wild turkey hunt in Zones 1-5 runs through Jan. 7. There are no leftover Zone 2 bonus tags, but Zones 1, 3 and 4 have many available.

2024 Opener Nov. 23

The current issue of Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine includes a calendar that says the 2024 gun deer hunting opener is Nov. 16. That’s a mistake. The opener will be Nov. 23, the latest possible under the current nine-day format that includes Thanksgiving weekend.

Because the rut is past peak, late gun deer openers typically result in fewer deer harvested. And considering this season will see one of the smallest state harvests in the past 40 years – despite the earliest possible gun deer opener – that’s something to think about.

Airgun Bills

A pair of Wisconsin Assembly and Senate bills (AB 633 and SB 586) would make it legal for hunters to pursue big game with a .30 caliber or larger airgun utilizing a pre-charged pneumatic power source. 

The National Deer Association (NDA) says about half the states already allow the firearms, which have less recoil and lower noise output. The group is encouraging hunters to show their support at