The right place at the right time.
That’s where 12-year-old Nicole Hensel of New London found herself less than an hour after the state’s gun deer season kicked off Saturday, Nov. 19.
Hensel was hunting with her father, Dave, north of New London and shot her first buck, a 12-pointer, at about 7 a.m.
“He told me it was a buck and to shoot it,” Nicole said shortly before registering her deer at Pup’s Irish Pub in Northport. “I shot it and he told me it was a 12-pointer.”
“I was shaking as bad as she was,” Dave said. “This one was chasing a doe. I’ve been wanting to get him with a bow for months, but I’d just as soon have the kids get them.”
The Hensels were just one of several local opening day success stories.
Although opening weekend harvest figures from the state Department of Natural Resources weren’t available at press time, Waupaca County’s 11 deer registrations saw a steady stream of visitors.
Ryan Przybylski of Iola registered his 7-pointer at about 10 a.m. at the Waupaca Travel Center in Waupaca.
“It was pretty nice out and I saw a lot of deer,” he said. “This is what I hope for every year. When I first saw him, my heart started pounding. It’s one of the greatest feelings in the world.”
Jake Fries, a DNR wildlife biologist for Waupaca County, spent Saturday at the travel center with Emily Mitchell of Waupaca and Carlene Disch of West Bend, natural resources students at Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton.
“We’re collecting age and sex data,” he said. “We’ll use that in our population estimation model.”
Up the road in Iola, Rick Ertl of Milwaukee showed up at J.R.’s Sport Shop with a 7-pointer that he shot on his parents’ property near Iola.
Shortly afterward, Mindy Wierzba, 15, a freshman at Amherst High School, registered her 7-pointer at J.R.’s Bar & Grill in Big Falls.
She shot her first deer at about 8 a.m. east of Big Falls.
“He was the only one I saw,” she said.
Bruce Wolberg of the town of Helvetia registered his 8-pointer at Sandbur Corners, between Iola and Symco.
“I saw two bucks and another one bigger than this one,” he said. “There are some nice ones running around.”
Wolberg shot his deer at about 8 a.m., less than two hours after the season opened.
“It kind of takes the fun out of it,” he said.
Tyler Dorn and his dad, Mike, of Neenah hunted together on family land just east of Ogdensburg and Tyler shot his first buck shortly before noon.
“He was chasing does,” he said. “It was an 80-yard shot.”
The property has paid off, as Mike shot a 16-pointer on the property with a pistol last year.
“We usually do pretty good with one big one,” he said.
While the Hensels were at Pup’s registering Nicole’s deer, Ben Casey of New London pulled in with his 9-pointer, shot at 11 a.m. near New London.
“It was perfect,” he said of the weather. “You couldn’t ask for anything better.”
Tyler Colligan registered deer at the Weyauwega Cenex in Weyauwega. He said the convenience store registered 40 deer – 27 bucks and 13 does – by 11 a.m. Saturday.
Connor Knutzen of Waupaca registered his 10-pointer at the station. He shot it at 7 a.m. in the town of Lind.
“I sat out there for 45 minutes and there he was,” he said. “I thought it was a doe because of his lighter antlers and the dead grass.”
Generally good conditions greeted hunters across Wisconsin for the start of the state’s 160th gun deer hunt. Hunters brought in a steady stream of bucks and does throughout the morning and early afternoon until wet, sloppy precipitation spread into most of the north and central areas, slowing registrations.
Wisconsin’s mentored hunting law again proved popular, as many youngsters arrived at registration stations with their first deer and a beaming mom or dad.
Even youngsters who simply accompanied parents and grandparents into the woods found excitement. One Rhinelander area grandmother took her young granddaughter, who was visiting from Australia, out with her. The grandmother bagged an 11-point buck and the granddaughter was so excited she insisted Grandma and Grandpa leave the truck’s tailgate down as they drove away from the registration station so that everyone could see “Grandma’s deer.”
According to the DNR, 603,913 licenses had been sold by midnight Friday. At peak, Friday licenses sales were running at a rate of 220 per minute with 99,988 licenses sold Friday as hunters made their traditional “Friday before the opener” purchase.
There were no shooting incidents reported by 3 p.m. opening day.