If you didn’t bring home some venison during the gun deer season, you’re in good company.
Based strictly on license sales and harvest, one might figure that about 380,000 hunters failed to get a deer. But since some hunters shoot multiple whitetails, it’s likely that well over 400,000 members of the blaze orange gang were skunked during the nine-day season that ended Nov. 26.
Some of that, of course, is by choice. Many hunters target only mature bucks, and let everything else walk. Still others – believing that too many antlerless deer have been shot in recent years – refuse to shoot a doe.
But all one needs to do is take a stroll on social media sites to find out that there are a lot of hunters who just aren’t seeing the deer they’d like to.
Up north, there’s no doubt a bad winter played a big role, and predation by wolves, bears, coyotes and bobcats is certainly a factor.
Closer to home, it’s a tale of two worlds. Much of Kewaunee and southern Door counties still holds large numbers of whitetails, but that’s not necessarily the case as you move farther up the peninsula.
Then there’s the increasing use of crossbows in the two months leading up to the gun opener.
Whatever the case, the preliminary nine-day season harvest of 173,942 was down 17.6 percent from last fall, and 11.1 percent below the five-year average. The buck harvest of 85,390 was down nearly 15 percent, and the antlerless take of 88,552 was down about 20 percent.
Locally, kills were down about 10 percent in both Door and Brown counties, and five percent in Kewaunee County. The harvest was still significant, with more than 5,000 deer taken. The breakdown included 1,214 in Brown (628 bucks), 2,203 in Door (1,100 bucks) and 1,733 in Kewaunee (786 bucks).
Including all seasons – youth gun, disabled gun, bow, crossbow and nine-day gun – more than 266,000 deer have been registered statewide, including more than 142,000 bucks.
As of Nov. 27, the Door County count was 3,261 (1,665 bucks), Brown 2,296 (1,271 bucks), and Kewaunee 2,553 (1,267 bucks).
Department of Natural Resources Deer Program Deer Specialist Jeff Pritzl said Kewaunee County hunters led the Central Farmland unit in harvest density by killing about 14 deer per square mile of deer range, or about five deer per total square mile. Door County hunters killed 4.5 deer per total square mile, and 7.3 if just counting deer range. Brown County hunters killed 2.3 total area and 7.7 deer range.
As of Monday, sales of all licenses allowing bow, crossbow and gun deer hunting reached 788,797. Year-to-date sales are down less than one percent. Hunters have all 50 states and 27 countries have purchased a license this year.
The 553,479 hunters who bought licenses allowing gun deer hunting privileges were largely safe, with just three non-fatal shooting incidents reported, including a self-inflicted shot to the foot.
The 10-day muzzleloader season in Kewaunee and Door counties and extended firearm hunt in the Brown County metro subzone ends Dec. 6. It’s followed by four days of antlerless-only deer hunting Dec. 7-10.
All hunters, except those after waterfowl, must comply with blaze orange regulations when gun deer hunting is open. In addition, bow and crossbow hunters may not target antlered bucks during the antlerless-only gun hunt.
Meanwhile, the fall wild turkey hunt in Zones 1-5 runs through Jan. 7. All Zone 2 bonus tags have been sold.
The northern duck zone is closed, but duck hunting is open through Dec. 3 in the southern zone and through Dec. 12 in the open-water zone.
The northern goose zone hunt ends Dec. 16, the southern zone Dec. 3, but then reopens Dec. 16 and runs through Jan. 2.
See all the fall and winter hunting season dates and regulations at dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/hunt/regulations.
Apply For 2024 Tags
Applications for spring wild turkey hunting and fall black bear hunting are due by Sunday, Dec. 10. Apply at any licensing agent, or online via your gowild.wi.gov/ account.
If you want to be guaranteed a spring turkey tag, be sure to check that you’d accept a tag for any available period after your first and second choices. In other words, don’t limit yourself to just one or two periods unless those are the only ones you’d be able to hunt.
Ice Fishing Expo
An Ice Fishing Expo will be held Dec. 8-10 at Sunnyview Expo Center in Oshkosh. Hours are Friday 1-7, Saturday 9-7 and Sunday 9-4. Cost is $10 for ages 13 and up. Parking is free, as is admission for those age 12 and under.
There will be more than 100 exhibitors as well as seminars and an opportunity to try a variety of ice shelters and other equipment. Product reps will be there to answer questions. Learn more at icefishexpo.com/.