Wisconsin’s deer hunting heritage lives and grows through the sharing of hunting stories. If each licensed hunter created one new story to share at camp this year, there are 633,460 new stories to pass along, with more than 243,000 of them ending with the harvest of a deer. This year’s preliminary tally indicates 243,739 deer were registered by gun deer hunters between Nov. 17 and Nov. 26.

“It’s great to see the level of hunter participation that we do in Wisconsin, and equally as great to see that more hunters had success than last year,” said Kevin Wallenfang, big game ecologist for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. “I’ve talked to several hunters that saw more deer than in past years in much of the state but also to some who saw less. So there are areas where deer observations were low, as we knew there would be. This sort of feedback, along with the harvest numbers, is important as we continue to work with hunters to best manage deer populations in the state.”

The preliminary nine-day harvest numbers are collected through a call-around survey of 600-plus deer registration stations all across Wisconsin and likely will increase when all registration tags are officially counted. This year’s preliminary harvest totals are up 7.7 percent from 2011. The preliminary tally showed hunters harvested 114, 822 bucks and 128,917 antlerless deer. This compared to 2011 preliminary harvest figures of 102,837 bucks and 123,423 antlerless, for a 12 percent and 4 percent increase respectively.

breakdown of the harvest by DNR region and county is available in portable document format (pdf) on the DNR website.

“Once again Wisconsin was the deer hunting destination for hundreds of thousands of hunters. Hunting is about family, friends, fun and tradition. More than 600,000 people were out connecting with the land, and in doing so renewed their commitment to sustaining our natural resources for generations to come,” said DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp.

Of the total number of licenses purchased this year, nearly 29,000 were First Time Buyer licenses. New female hunters represented 33 percent of this total, and another 33 percent of first time buyers were youth, ages 17 and under. Additionally, 80 First Time Buyer licenses were sold to hunters 80 and older.

“Seeing so many new buyers, along with some returning or new hunters over the age of 80, illustrates how deep our deer hunting heritage runs,” said Sec. Stepp. “Getting women and youth involved in hunting is essential for continuing our state’s hunting heritage. When women and moms are involved, the family follows.”

Late Seasons Now Open

There are additional opportunities to hunt deer in Wisconsin after the close of the nine-day season. The muzzleloader season is currently open through Dec. 5. The late archery season is also underway and continues until Jan. 6, 2013. There is also a statewide antlerless hunt Dec. 6-9, and a holiday hunt in the Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) zones of south central Wisconsin, which starts Dec. 24 and runs until Jan. 6, 2013.

Please visit dnr.wi.gov and search keyword “deer” for more information on season dates and regulations.

Shooting Incidents below average, but one fatality in 2012

This year seven shooting related incidents were reported, one was fatal.

“Our sincere condolences go to the family and friends of the fatally injured hunter. Any shooting-related fatality — or injury for that matter — is one too many,” said Conservation Warden Jon King, Hunter Education Administrator. However overall hunter safety has increased over the years, said King. Total reported incidents for 2012 is below the 10 year average, which is nine.

“Statistically we have continued our safe hunting tradition. But for me to truly consider a deer season a hundred percent successful, all hunters would have returned home unharmed,” said Sec. Stepp. “And that’s a goal we all should continue to strive for.”

More than 25,000 students complete the hunter’s safety program every year, thanks to the work of more than 3,800 volunteer hunter education instructors. Wisconsin marked its one-millionth graduate in 2012. Before the hunter education course started, hunter fatalities during the season commonly ran into double digits.

“As always, we want to remind hunters participating in the remaining seasons to remember and follow the four rules of firearm safety or TAB-K,” said King. “Treat any firearm as if it is loaded, always point the muzzle in a safe direction, be certain of your target and what’s beyond, and keep your finger outside the trigger guard until ready to shoot.”

Hunters asked to participate in online Deer Hunter Wildlife Survey

The Deer Hunter Wildlife Survey is still active until the end of all deer seasons and wildlife managers are asking hunters to send in a report of what they saw during the just completed nine-day gun hunt and during any hunting trips they make through the end of all deer hunting seasons. This information provides valuable data biologists can use to help provide an additional human element to the completed deer season.

Logo courtesy Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

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