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Preliminary deer harvest count is 226,260

MADISON - A call around survey of 600-plus deer registration stations all across Wisconsin completed today shows a preliminary harvest total of 226,260 for the just completed nine-day gun deer hunting season, up 3.6 percent from 2010. At the same time, hunters posted the second all around safest season on record.

The nine-day harvest numbers are preliminary and are expected to change before a final report is published in late winter. The total does not include harvest information from the archery, October antlerless gun deer hunt, muzzleloader, December antlerless deer gun hunt or late archery seasons. The preliminary nine-day gun harvest count in 2010 was 218,144 and in 2009 was 201,994.

"Overall participation was good. We had a 3.6 percent increase in deer harvested compared to 2010 and the reports that we've been getting in from the field are that in many parts of the state hunters saw more deer," stated Tom Hauge, wildlife director for the state Department of Natural Resources. "That said, we do know that not everyone got a deer this year, or saw a deer. The herd in parts of the state is still rebounding and that even within counties with higher harvests, deer aren't distributed evenly."

The preliminary tally showed hunters harvested 102,837 bucks and 123,423 antlerless. This compared to 2010 preliminary harvest figures of 102,121 bucks and 116,160 antlerless.

"Harvests suggest that deer herds are increasing in some of the units where deer numbers were previously below goal," Hauge said. "We also saw an increase in buck harvest in the CWD zone with the new provision this year allowing hunters to shoot a buck first before having to go to earn-a-buck rules for a second buck in the zone. This was a popular change among hunters I've heard from."

"As far as hunting conditions and deer observations, we will be interested in seeing the data hunters provided on their registration stubs," added Hauge. "We know broadly what weather conditions were like, but data from individual hunters in the field provides a much more personal and localized perspective. We will summarize these finding along with the harvest totals in February."

In February, DNR biologists will use unit-level harvest numbers to develop overwinter population estimates and will propose season structures for 2011 in March.