Hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites and visiting non-residents eagerly await the arrival of the 2013 nine-day gun deer season, which runs from Nov. 23 to Dec. 1. To help prepare hunters for the season, Department of Natural Resources shares a season forecast, and tips for a successful hunt.
“Nearly 10 percent of Wisconsin residents will take to the field for the annual hunt, along with thousands more who will participate by providing food, hotels, and other services. Deer hunting such an important part of the Wisconsin culture and economy,” said Kevin Wallenfang, DNR big game ecologist. “It’s a tradition that many hunters and businesses look forward to all year long. We want to do our part to make sure the hunt is as fun, successful and safe as possible.”
According to Wallenfang, forecasting this year’s hunt is a little tricky as there are several factors to consider that are the exact opposite of what was seen last year.
“Instead of a very early opener, we have a late opener which could mean reduced rutting activity,” Wallenfang said. “And unlike last year, we have some fairly wet conditions in many areas that could decrease hunter access. Our late spring and wet conditions also mean there is about 40 percent of the state’s corn crop still standing that will provide cover for deer.”
Numbers wise, deer are abundant in many areas of the south but reports from the north are pointing to a different story.
“Bow hunters have reported that they didn’t see many deer in some northern areas,” Wallenfang said. “This isn’t surprising considering the long winter we had that resulted in some direct losses of deer and lower than average fawn recruitment this spring. As a result, the antlerless quotas in the north are the lowest they’ve been since the late 1990s.”
Deer populations throughout most of the farmland region of the state are strong, says Wallenfang, especially on private lands. Still, despite comparatively high deer numbers, farmland units can be difficult to hunt, especially for those spending their season on public lands where hunting pressure is often much higher than surrounding private properties.
There is good news for those still looking for a place to hunt. Wisconsin has more than 1 million acres of private lands open for public hunting in addition to millions more made up by state, national, and county forests. A recent DNR news release summarizes key ways to locate lands open to the public in Wisconsin.
Even with increasing deer populations in many units, hunter success during the gun season can vary based on a wide range of factors. Hunter effort, weather events, rut activity, hunting pressure, and stand site locations in addition to deer numbers can all play influential roles in whether or not individual hunters see and harvest deer. “Deer are not distributed evenly across the landscape and their movements vary greatly from one day to the next,” says Wallenfang. “Some hunters simply have access to better hunting and more deer. While some hunters will see lots of deer, their neighbor may have a season that does not live up to their expectations for a variety of reason.”
Another step hunters can take to increase their opportunities and enjoy their season is to take advantage of more days in the field. “There has been an increasing trend of hunters spending fewer days in the woods than in years past, often hunting just the opening weekend,” Wallenfang says. “Although deer sightings can be fewer after opening weekend, there are still deer to be hunted and the later part of the season can be more relaxing than the high pressure of opening weekend.
“It looks like we’re going to have some very cold temperatures and wind for the state of the season,” Wallenfang said. “So hunters will need to dress extra warm, but be patient. As other hunters get cold and start moving around, it often gets the deer moving during mid-day as well”.
Of utmost importance, Wallenfang stresses safety. “No deer is worth risking the safety of someone else or yourself,” he says. Hunters should practice the four rules of firearm safety TAB-K: Treat every firearm as if it is loaded; Always point the muzzle in a safe direction. Be certain of your target and what’s beyond it; and Keep your finger outside the trigger guard until ready to shoot. And anyone hunting from an elevated tree stand should wear a safety harness.
“Bring yourself and your partners home safely and have fun,” Wallenfang said.
Logo courtesy Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources