Opener at dawn Nov. 19
by KEVIN NAZE, [email protected], Peninsula Pulse contributor
It’s almost go-time for one of Wisconsin’s famous fall traditions: the nine-day gun deer-hunting season.
Although a quarter-million or so hunters are already participating in the archery and crossbow deer hunts, opening day of the 2022 gun deer season Nov. 19 is expected to lure about 600,000 men, women and youth to the fields and forests across the state.
Locally, more than 10,000 hunters will try to stay warm in their blaze-orange clothing while waiting for a whitetail to take home and process into steak, hamburger, stew meat and other goodies. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) deer program specialist Jeff Pritzl is hoping hunters target more antlerless deer.
“There are a lot of deer out there again this year,” said Pritzl, who has been encouraged by an increased harvest of does by bow and crossbow hunters so far this fall. “In the past, a lot of hunters have tended to wait. But there’s a good opportunity to get some venison early on. Deer wise up and change their patterns relatively quickly [once the gun season is underway].”
Door and Kewaunee county hunters each receive three antlerless tags and one buck tag with their license purchase. Although many hunters shoot only one doe, extra tags are an incentive for those hunting in areas with large herds to better balance buck-to-doe ratios.
No matter what size or sex deer you choose to target, any harvested whitetails 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.
Anyone who’d like electronic-registration assistance in southern Door County can visit Rouer’s Grand Slam. 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.
Tracking and Recovery
A growing number of hunters are taking advantage of leashed, four-legged friends to find deer that didn’t leave an easy-to-follow blood trail.
Door and Kewaunee counties have at least five dog-and-handler teams that may be able to assist you in finding a deer taken with a bow, crossbow or firearm. They are listed on the website of the United Blood Trackers, a group dedicated to promoting resource conservation through the use of trained dogs in the ethical recovery of big game.
I talked recently with Nathan Petersilka of Red Dog Recovery of Kewaunee. He said that although most hunters wait for that perfect broadside, double-lung shot, less-than-ideal hits still happen. When in doubt, he recommends waiting for at least an hour before checking for blood. Unless you’re absolutely certain the deer is down and dead, mark the last spot and back out.
In addition to Petersilka (920.360.7108), other handlers taking calls include Jack Tong of Little John’s Tracking and Recovery in Sturgeon Bay, 920.495.3250; Joseph Wojtyra of Forestville, 920.559.3739; Josh Routhieaux of Brussels, 920.493.8773; and Eric Schmidt of Baileys Harbor, 920.660.8329.
State’s Top Bucks
Wisconsin’s top typical bucks with bow and crossbow were both taken last season. The new state archery No. 1 – a 19-pointer from Dane County – scored 205 4/8 using the Boone & Crockett antler scoring system. Meanwhile, the No. 1 crossbow buck – a 13-pointer from Trempealeau County – scored 192 5/8.
The state record nontypical bow and crossbow bucks were shot in 2013 (bow) and 2019 (crossbow): a 28-pointer from Waukesha County that scored 249 5/8, and a 19-pointer from La Crosse County that scored 221 7/8, respectively.
Although most of the highest-scoring bow and crossbow deer have been shot during the past decade, only two of the top-five gun-buck typicals were shot in the past 76 years: one in 1979, the other in 1999. And of the top-five nontypical gun bucks in the Wisconsin Buck & Bear Club record book, only one has come since the turn of the century (2008).
Wisconsin’s No. 1 typical gun whitetail is the famous James Jordan 10-pointer taken in 1914 in Burnett County. It scored 206 1/8 inches: the largest in the world until 1993.
The No. 1 nontypical buck taken with firearms is a 30-pointer from Buffalo County in 1973 – long before “let ’em go, let ’em grow” took off. That giant scored 253 inches.
Tops in the pickup (found dead) category include a 213-point nontypical from Rock County in 2020 that scored 250 6/8, and an 11-point typical in Monroe County in 2009 that scored 193 3/8.
Bonus: Deer Donation
If your hunt area has more whitetails than it should, consider participating in the state’s deer-donation program. Dozens of processors across the state accept whitetails from hunters and grind the venison into hamburger for food pantries.
Locally, two were listed on the DNR website last week: Haberli’s Deer Processing, 920.743.5736; and Marchant’s Foods, 920.495.7013. You can check across the state at dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/hunt/donation.html.
Some bonus permits are still available. See what’s left for public and private land, and where, at dnr.wi.gov/permits/bonusavailability.html.
Public Lands Search
Whether you’re looking for a spot for hunting or hiking, this state website can help: dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/fl/RealEstate/PALApplication.
More Deer Online
For a complete look at all the 2022-23 deer-hunting opportunities and historical data, check out dnr.wi.gov/topic/hunt/deer.html.