Hunters register 112,581 deer opening weekend of 2011 season; kill up 5.6 percent
MADISON - Among more than 600,000 hunters who headed afield Saturday morning for Wisconsin's annual gun-deer opener, more than one in six were successful by Sunday evening. A preliminary call-in tally showed hunters registered 112,581 deer over the two day period.
"As I listened to deer hunters over the opening weekend, there is a lot of excitement about the changes implemented this year; particularly the fact that hunters are no longer required to harvest an antlerless deer before harvesting their first buck in the CWD zone," said DNR Executive Assistant Scott Gunderson. "As we all expected, this change is extremely popular amongst hunters which is important as the DNR wants the hunting public to 'buy-in' to our herd management structure."
"It is also important to remember that harvesting antlerless deer remains an important part of deer management in Wisconsin," said Gunderson. "I would encourage hunters to keep this in mind as they hunt the remaining days of the traditional season and when they return to the woods during the December statewide antlerless hunt and the Holiday Hunt in the CWD management zone."
A breakdown of the harvest by DNR Region and county (pdf;35 kb) is available in portable document format.
"We want to remind folks that these preliminary numbers come from a staff call-around to deer registration stations this morning," said Tom Hauge, director of the DNR wildlife management program. "The final opening weekend tally will likely be somewhat larger, when all the registration stubs are entered into the data base over the next couple of months."
Hunters experienced mixed weather including snow, rain turning to snow and moderate temperatures depending on where they hunted. The 2011 preliminary count was up about 5.6 percent from the opening weekend count of 106,404 from 2010. Preliminary buck harvest statewide in 2011 was 57,977 (54,263 in 2010) and preliminary antlerless harvest was 54,604 (52,141 in 2010).
The department's license sales office reported 603,919 gun deer licenses sold by the start of shooting hours on Nov. 19. Deer license and tag sales will continue through the hunting seasons.
The long custom of buying a license on the way to deer camp is also intact. DNR licensing managers reported selling a record 99,998 licenses on Friday, Nov. 18. At one point in late afternoon Friday, computers showed license sales coming in at a rate of 220 per minute.
Some facts about Wisconsin hunters:
-- There were 53,914 females this year, an increase of 1,486 from 2010. They comprise 9 percent of all hunters.
-- Deer hunters hail from all 50 states. 571,491 of hunters are Wisconsinites, with Minnesota (16,058) and Illinois (7,737) the next highest. And hunters love Wisconsin's deer hunt so much that 209 came all the way from Alaska and 12 came all the way from Hawaii to participate.
-- Nearly 30,000 hunters are 70 and older, and of them, about 2.6 percent are women. In contrast, 103,151 hunters were 20 or younger, and more than 18 percent were girls.
-- There were 71 customers from foreign counties, with the most hunters coming from Canada, 17; Germany, 9; and Mexico and Norway, each with 5.
-- Internet sales topped hunter preferences on where to get a gun deer license. Top selling over-the-counter locations were Mills Fleet Farm in Appleton, Green Bay, Germantown, Stevens Point and Wausau, with more than 137,000 licenses sold from Fleet Farms in the Fox River Valley.
There were no fatal shooting incidents recorded during the first two days of the hunt and two non-fatal shooting injuries -- one to a non-hunter doing a deer drive in Clark County on Sunday and another in deer drive in Waukesha County on Monday. Both are still being investigated, according to DNR Conservation Warden, Todd Schaller, DNR's chief of recreational safety.
"We wish a speedy recovery to the victims. These injuries are sober reminders that safety has to be foremost in every hunters mind at all times on the hunt -- and during all deer drives."
Schaller noted that historically about half of Wisconsin's shooting incidents happen during deer drives, usually because someone wasn't where they were supposed to be or someone shot at a deer when they did not have a safe backstop or in a direction they should not have been shooting. In 2010 there were no shooting related fatalities during the 9-day gun deer hunt.
"Always be sure of your target and anything behind it, and if you aren't sure, don't shoot." Know where your bullet will impact if you miss.
"It is really important that hunting parties wanting to drive deer have a plan and that they follow that plan to the letter. Knowing where your hunting mates are and where safe shooting lanes are is critical," he said.