MADISON, Wis. (WBAY) – Close to 100,000 hunters tagged a whitetail buck during Wisconsin’s nine-day gun-deer season. That’s more than last year, but the overall harvest is down slightly this year.
Preliminary numbers from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources show a total of 97,892 hunters bagged a buck during the hunt, an increase of 5,282 from 2015. (That adds up to a 5.7 percent increase.)
Overall, the number of deer harvested was down less than one percent, with hunters tagging 196,785 deer this season compared to 198,057 in 2015.
The Northern Forest Zone was the place to be to bag a buck. Hunters in that zone harvested 30 percent more bucks from 2015.
Wildlife biologists say given the challenging weather conditions on opening weekend, which is when half the deer are generally taken, this year’s harvest reflects a positive outcome.
“I think one of the leading issues is that statewide that buck kill was up, but it was really up in the Northern Forest, and that’s what we were looking for and expecting after a combination of two years of mild winters, two years of really conservative antlerless harvest. What we saw were those fawns from 2015 were now in the population as adult deer and available and they showed up in the Northern Forest,” DNR regional wildlife biologist Jeff Pritzl said.
In counties where the deer population is estimated to be too high — like Door, Kewaunee, Shawano and Waupaca — hunters responded and the antlerless harvest went up. Hunters bagged 6.2 percent more antlerless deer than in 2015, and the numbers were highest in the Farmland Zones.
“Those counties where we had drawn attention to, and the advisory councils had as well, bucked that trend and their harvests were up from last year, so that was a good thing to see,” Pritzl said.
The DNR broke down all the numbers by zone:
- Northern Forest Zone: 23,445 (+30%) antlered and 8,955 (-21%) antlerless;
- Central Forest Zone: 5,067 (-2%) antlered and 2,943 (-2%) antlerless;
- Central Farmland Zone: 48,872 (+1.4%) antlered and 62,612 (-8.2%) antlerless;
- Southern Farmland Zone: 20,508 (-3.4%) antlered and 24,383 (-10%) antlerless;
- Total: 97,892 (+5.7%) antlered and 98,893 (-6.2%) antlerless.
Gun-deer hunt license sales were down this year. The DNR says 598,867 licenses were sold by the end of the season, down from 612,377 in 2015.
Pritzl reminds hunters the nune-day gun harvest is just part of the overall picture. The DNR says harvest numbers will climb as the hunters enjoy the muzzleloader hunt through Dec. 7, and statewide antlerless hunt Dec. 8-11.