Thousands of acres of corn could influence what hunters see – or don’t see – while on stand in fields and forests opening day of the gun deer hunting season Saturday.
Statewide, about one-third of more than 3 million acres of corn planted for grain was still standing early this week. Locally, less than half of the corn had been harvested, though many farmers were making progress this week.
Mild air early in the week was expected to cool to more seasonable temperatures opening weekend, with lows around 30, and highs in the mid-40s. There’s an outside shot at some snow by Tuesday before temps turn sharply colder, with highs barely hitting freezing the remainder of the nine-day hunt.
More than 85,000 whitetails were registered through the first two months of this fall’s deer hunts. Firearm hunters are expected to surpass that total the first two days of the regular season alone, and more than double that after nine days.
That’s a lot of venison, and area processors will be busy.
The same can’t be said for northern Wisconsin, where the early bow and crossbow totals are down about 30 percent. A snowy winter and predation by wolves, bears, coyotes and bobcats are all suspected causes for the dip.
While the regular hunt ends Nov. 26, it’s immediately followed by a 10-day muzzleloader season here and an extended firearm hunt in the Brown County metro subzone. After that, it’s four days of antlerless-only Dec. 7-10.
All hunters, except those after waterfowl, must comply with blaze orange regulations during those 23 days of gun deer hunts.
As of Nov. 13, hunters had already taken nearly 2,700 whitetails from the fields and forests of Brown, Door and Kewaunee counties, including 1,519 antlered bucks.
Brown County hunters had 988 (584 bucks), Door 949 (502 bucks), and Kewaunee 753 (433 bucks).
Statewide, crossbow users accounted for 46,240 (29,215 bucks), bow hunters 31,142 (19,317 bucks) and youth gun hunters 7,858 (3,951 bucks).
This week’s ag report noted that only about half the corn for grain had been cut in northeast Wisconsin. Also running behind was the soybean harvest, though now nearly 90 percent complete.
For more on the gun deer hunt, visit dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/hunt/deer.
Volunteer hunter education instructors hope that thousands of recent graduates remember what they learned about safety – and remind their adult mentors, too.
Most years, about half of the shooting accidents statewide are self-inflicted. That includes four of the eight last year.
As always, instructors say safe hunting is no accident when you follow the rules of firearm safety: treat every firearm as if it is loaded; always point the muzzle in a safe direction; be sure of your target, and what’s in front of and beyond it; and keep your finger outside the trigger guard until you’ve identified your target and it’s safe to shoot.
Having done this for nearly 50 years, I’d add that it’s important to keep your emotions as much under control as possible so you can make a good decision in the heat of the moment.
Visualize the perfect shot angle, and wait for it. Don’t shoot unless you’re absolutely certain you can make a shot into the deer’s vitals.
Additionally, don’t let competition for that trophy buck make you try something stupid. Play by the rules, and turn in those who don’t. You can report poaching tips anonymously by calling or texting 1.800.847.9367 or visiting dnr.wisconsin.gov/contact/Hotline.
For much more on the 2023 deer hunts, visit dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/hunt/deer.
Bear Kill Drops
A very warm fall and huge acorn crop are being blamed for a big drop in the black bear harvest this fall. The preliminary total of 2,922 is more than 1,000 fewer than the recent annual average, and the fewest taken since 2008.
Hunter success – about 23 percent statewide, down from the recent five-year average of about 32 percent – ranged from about 5 percent in Zones E and F to 59 percent in Zone A.
A record number of people, nearly 138,000, applied for a bear hunting license or preference point. There were 12,760 licenses available.
Hunters need to apply for a license or preference point for the 2024 season by Dec. 10.
Fish Art Contest
The 25th anniversary of the State Fish Art Contest has added a new debris division. Artists will use waste plastic and other found objects from a habitat cleanup to create their artwork of a game fish. The regular fish paintings and drawings category will continue.
The contest is open through Feb. 28 for students from kindergarten through 12th grade. Its aim is to connect students to nature and conservation while introducing them to the world of fishing. Learn more at www.wildlifeforever.org/home/fish-art/.
Christmas Gift Idea
Audubon says don’t wing it this holiday season. Instead, pick up a sure-hit gift for the bird and nature lovers in your life.