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Wild Things: Christmas in November?

Deer hunters expect snow for opener 

by KEVIN NAZE, [email protected], Peninsula Pulse contributor

A cold, windy and white opening day of the 2022 gun deer season is expected to greet area hunters Saturday morning. And other than the wind, such conditions are just about ideal for the thousands of blaze-orange-bundled men, women and youths who are hoping to at least see some whitetails.

Light snow began to fall Tuesday, and it was expected to continue on and off through Sunday. High temperatures only in the 20s after that means that whatever is on the ground so far will still be there when hunters walk to their stands in the dark.  

“Snow and cold? I’ll take it,” said Jeff Pritzl, DNR deer program specialist. 

A week ago, on Nov. 10, high temperatures away from Lake Michigan and Green Bay reached the lower 70s. On Deer Hunt Eve ’22, lows in the teens are predicted.

Cold weather could help to get deer moving, and light snow on the ground will aid sightings and assist in tracking.

“Maybe two out of 10 years, we might get those conditions,” Pritzl said. “Cold and snow can give people optimism. And we’re approaching that earlier opener, which can make a difference in catching some of that rutting activity.”

The corn harvest is near the five-year average: About 71% of some 3 million acres of corn statewide had been harvested as of Nov. 14. With the cost of drying corn skyrocketing due to high natural-gas prices, some farmers are leaving corn unharvested to dry in the field. If you have some in your hunt area, it’s a mixed blessing: more food to hold deer, but more cover to hide them.

Through Nov. 14, hunters in bow, crossbow and youth seasons had registered more than 89,000 whitetails. The buck count of more than 52,000 was down about 6%, but the antlerless harvest of nearly 37,000 was up 17%. Overall, the kill was up about 2%.

Locally, Door County hunters reported 898 deer (488 bucks): 557 with crossbows, 230 with bow, and the rest during the youth gun weekend. Kewaunee County hunters tallied 718 (405 bucks), including 394 with crossbows and 217 with bows. The remainder were taken by youths during the two-day October gun hunt.

The big increase in antlerless registrations isn’t so much an increase as it is a return to normal, Pritzl said. For whatever reason, the antlerless harvest was suppressed last year.

“More bow and crossbow hunters putting an antlerless deer in the freezer early likely leads to them being even more selective than usual with their buck permit,” he said.

Door and Kewaunee County hunters get three free antlerless permits with each license, but Pritzl said many use only one, and some don’t use any.

“Fewer than half take a second deer,” he said. “It seems they get much pickier once they have a deer in the freezer.”

DNR safety-education specialists are reminding hunters to follow all gun-safety rules and to be aware that others may be afield on properties that are open to the public. Additionally, with millions of ash trees dead or dying from emerald ash borer, they’re urging hunters to avoid placing tree stands in them – or hunting close to dead or dying trees – because of the danger of trees falling in high winds.

Hunters no longer need to attach their tag to a deer they harvest, but they must still register it – online or by phone. Be sure to print out or have a screenshot of your unique permit number; you’ll need it when registering. Photo by Kevin Naze.

Register, Then Process 

All deer shot by hunters must be registered no later than 5 pm on the day after recovery. You can do that via the Hunt Wild Wisconsin phone app, online at gamereg.wi.gov or by phone at 1.844.GAME.REG (1.844.426.3734). You’ll need the unique deer-harvest authorization number located on your printed permits. 

If you’re in southern Door County and want electronic-registration assistance, visit Rouer’s Grand Slam, where they offer that service. And, if you’re looking for a place to dispose of deer carcasses, GFL Environmental Disposal in Sturgeon Bay and Riverview Transfer near Kewaunee accept them for a fee.

Hunters who don’t butcher their own deer can expect to pay somewhere between $70 and $100 for processing, depending on whether the hide is on or off and what you want for cuts. The cost can easily double or triple if you want sausage, hot dogs, jerky and other treats made from some of your venison.

DNR Violation Hotline

Call or text 1.800.TIP.WDNR (1.800.847.9367), and your information will be relayed to a DNR officer for investigation. You do not need to leave your name when reporting a violation, but it can be helpful if an officer is able to follow up to verify facts and let you know the outcome of the investigation. 

You can also submit a violation tip online at dnrx.wisconsin.gov/rav.

Donate a Deer

If you have access to a spot with more whitetails than you need, consider donating one or more to the state’s deer-donation program. Dozens of processors across the state accept legally registered whitetails and grind the venison into hamburger for food pantries. Check who’s taking deer in your hunt area at dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/hunt/donation.html.

Snow Is Great for Tracking

If your deer didn’t drop on the spot or within eyesight, snow on the ground will aid tracking. Keep in mind that you need to have permission to track a wounded deer onto private property.

License Sale Locations

Haven’t picked up your license yet? You can do so online or in person. Find a list of license sale locations at dnr.wi.gov/permits/csrsp/licenseagents.aspx.

DNR Customer Helpline

Have a license, registration or regulation question? Operators are available 7 am – 10 pm at 1.888.WDNRINFo (1.888.936.7463).

Vehicle Deer Kill

Don’t hunt but bagged a buck (or baldy) with your vehicle? You can keep the deer by calling 608.267.7691 to register it.