The deer harvest for the opening weekend of the state’s nine-day gun deer hunting season was down about 20% locally and 14% statewide, according to the Department of Natural Resources. The season continues through Sunday. (File photo)

Opening weekend total declines nearly 20%

By SLN staff

Deer harvest numbers were down across the Southern Lakes Area and throughout the state during the opening weekend of the traditional nine-day gun deer hunting season.

Registration numbers released by the Department of Natural Resources Tuesday show hunters in Kenosha, Racine and Walworth counties bagged 447 deer, which is down 19.5% from 555 during the opening weekend of the 2020 season.

The decline was similar across the state with the total harvest last weekend 14% lower than it was in 2020, the state’s wildlife agency reported. Hunters killed 85,860 over the weekend compared to 99,832 in 2020. A total of 47,529 bucks were registered on opening weekend, compared to 51,241 in 2020.

DNR officials attributed the decline in part to blustery weather on Sunday that chased some hunters out of the woods.

“While hunter reports of deer activity varied around the state, most regions experienced excellent hunting weather conditions with cool temperatures and low wind on opening day,” the agency stated in a news release. “Visibility was lower due to a lack of snow cover.

“By late Sunday morning, wind speeds increased, and the north saw an accumulation of sleet and snow. Hunting effort likely decreased on Sunday as a result,” the agency continued.

“However, light snow cover in the north will make for excellent hunting conditions going into the rest of the nine-day season.”


A closer look locally

Walworth County again accounted for the bulk of the local harvest with and opening weekend total that included 183 antlered deer and 122 antlerless deer. The total of 305 was down 22.4% from 2020 (393), but just 6.7% off the average over the past five years.

Kenosha and Racine counties, which have the second and third lowest deer harvests in the state behind Milwaukee County, totaled 65 and 77 deer, respectively. Kenosha’s total included 37 antlered deer and 28 antlerless deer while Racine’s total featured 47 antlered and 30 antlerless. Kenosha County’s total was actually four deer higher than it’s 2020 opening weekend number. Racine’s total was down by 24 (24%).

The regular gun deer season continues through Nov. 28, followed by the statewide muzzleloader season (Nov. 29-Dec. 8), the statewide antlerless-only season (Dec. 9-12) and antlerless holiday hunts in 36 counties.


Hunting licenses

Not surprisingly, the number of hunting licenses sold this season was down from the 2020 total.

As of midnight Sunday, Nov. 21, sales for gun, bow, crossbow, sports and patron licenses reached 795,039. Of that total, 551,809 were for gun privileges only, including gun, patron and sports licenses. The year-to-date sales for all deer licenses are down 1.5% from the same time last year.

The number of non-resident licenses increased this year.

Final license sales figures will be available in January, according to the DNR, which plans to perform a thorough analysis and interpretation of the figures.

Despite the decline, the DNR offered an optimistic assessment of the season’s impact.

“Wisconsin continues to be a destination location for hunting white-tailed deer,” the agency stated. “People of all ages, genders and races search out the great public and private land hunting opportunities across the state to pursue deer, make memories and to put a sustainable protein source on their table.”


Hunting incidents

As of midday Tuesday, the DNR reported three firearm-involved hunting incidents during the opening weekend. The agency provided the following summaries of the incidents:

  • Door County, Brussel Township: On Nov. 20, at approximately 6:45 a.m., a 40-year-old male suffered a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the hand. He sought medical attention, was treated and released.
  • Door County, Sturgeon Bay: On Nov. 21, at approximately 7 a.m., a 10-year-old male was the victim of a gunshot wound. A 45-year-old male shooter was hunting from his residence when he shot at a deer. The shooter attempted to unload his firearm, at which time it discharged inside of the house and struck the victim. The victim was transported to a hospital and treated.
  • Waukesha County, Ottawa Township: On Nov. 21, at approximately 6:21 a.m., a 30-year-old male suffered a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the leg. The victim was in a tree stand when he tried to hang the gun on a hanger. The gun discharged, striking him in the right leg. The victim was transported to a hospital and treated.

Wisconsin’s 10-year average is approximately six hunting incidents for the nine-day gun deer hunt, according to the DNR.

DNR officials attribute the decline in incidents in recent years to hunter safety education given by Wisconsin’s volunteer instructors and conservation wardens.