(The Center Square) – Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources is not surprised by the low numbers out of the state’s first weekend of gun deer hunting and not worried, yet.
The DNR reported hunters harvested 92,050 deer last weekend, compared to 103,623 for the first weekend last year.
“In general, I think the most common theme and as people are discussing the weekend, I think they’re using the words quiet and slow to a certain degree,” DNR Deer Program Specialist Jeff Pritzl told reporters. “That’s based on what people see and hear in terms of shots fired and hearing about deer harvested.”
Overall, Pritzl said the first weekend numbers are down 16% from 2022, and 10% below the 5-year average.
But Pritzl said the lower deer harvest numbers are not a surprise.
“It wasn’t unexpected,” Pritzl said. “Comparing last year, we had snow cover we didn’t this year. So, we kind of anticipated we wouldn’t hit last year’s opening weekend marks.”
Pritzl also says there were simply fewer antlerless deer in the state for hunters to shoot at. Last winter’s harsh conditions, particularly in northern Wisconsin seemed to have thinned the deer herd this year.
The DNR, ahead of this year’s deer season, sounded an alarm about the aging population of deer hunters and the need to get more young people involved.
Pritzl said that remains a worry for the future, based on the number of hunting licenses sold in Wisconsin this year.
“Our total license sales, that we track every day as we lead up to the gun season, were down, as it’s been the case. But it’s down less than 1%, we’re at about 0.6% off of last year at this time,” Pritzl said. “That is total license sales. A lot of our deer hunters in Wisconsin now are dual license purchasers. They participate in both the archery seasons and the gun season.”
The DNR is also reporting two hunting related shootings.
One, in Forest County, saw a hunter shoot himself in the foot while trying to adjust his rifle sling. The other saw a hunter in Adams County shoot a woman in the stomach while she was walking her dog through the woods. She had to be flown to the local hospital.