County hunters registered a state-high 8,532 deer during the gun deer season that wrapped up Sunday, Nov. 27, according to preliminary numbers from the state Department of Natural Resources.
Hunters in Waupaca County registered 3,947 bucks and 4,585 antlerless deer during the nine-day season. The 8,532 deer is up 12 percent from last year’s total of 7,605.
Marathon and Marinette counties, which are both more than twice the size of Waupaca County, had the second- and third-highest number of registered deer with 8,506 and 6,328, respectively. Polk (6,304) and Sauk (5,609) counties rounded out the top five.
Other totals from area counties include Portage, 4,690 (1,987 bucks and 2,703 antlerless deer, up 33 percent); Waushara, 3,467 (1,597 bucks and 1,870 antlerless deer, up 9 percent); Winnebago, 1,421 (625 bucks and 796 antlerless deer, up 17 percent); Outagamie, 2,795 (1,307 bucks and 1,488 antlerless deer, up 6 percent); and Shawano, 4,667 (2,315 bucks and 2,352 antlerless deer, down 2 percent).
A call-around survey of more than 600 deer registration stations across Wisconsin completed Tuesday, Nov. 29, showed a preliminary harvest of 226,260, up 3.6 percent from 2010. At the same time, hunters posted the second all-around safest season on record.
The 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 counts in 2010 and 2009 were 218,144 and 201,994, respectively.
“Overall participation was good,” DNR wildlife director Tom Hauge said. “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. 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 even within counties with higher harvests, deer aren’t distributed evenly.”
The preliminary tally showed hunters harvested 102,837 bucks and 123,423 antlerless deer, compared to 2010 preliminary harvest figures of 102,121 bucks and 116,160 antlerless deer.
“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,” he added. “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.”
DNR biologists will use unit level harvest numbers in February to develop overwinter population estimates and propose season structures for 2011 in March.
The books may have closed on Wisconsin’s 160th gun deer hunt, but the season’s memories and tales will live for years to come. The DNR’s new Facebook page received dozens of pictures of happy hunters and some pretty impressive deer. People can join the conversation by visiting Facebook.com/widnr.
There are still days to hunt in 2011. The muzzleloader hunt is under way through Dec. 7 for hunters holding unused gun buck and antlerless deer tags. There is also a statewide antlerless deer hunt Dec. 8-11.
“We could use some extra help in the CWD zones and herd control units, so we want to encourage hunters to take advantage of our remaining seasons,” Hauge said. “Consider taking an extra deer for the freezer or for the deer donation program to help those in need of the meat.”
Hunters are reminded that the Dec. 8-11 antlerless deer hunt in regular units is open only to hunters with a valid antlerless deer tag for the unit in which they are hunting. Regular unit antlerless tags are still available for many units at $12 each.
The Deer Hunter Wildlife Survey is still active until the end of all deer seasons and wildlife managers are asking hunters to send in a report of what they saw during the just-completed gun hunt and during any hunting trips they make through the end of all deer hunting seasons. This data helps to provide valuable data biologists can use to help provide an additional human element to the completed deer season.
“Hunters can be proud of a second consecutive firearm-related, fatality-free year and the third fatality-free season on record,” DNR law enforcement administrator Tim Lawhern said. “This is an important milestone and one we hope to see again and again in future seasons.”
Overall, there were six hunting incidents during the nine-day deer gun season. The agency only tracks firearm-related incidents and does not keep track of deaths or injuries due to heart attacks, tree stand falls or other causes.
This would make it the second all-around safest hunt ever in Wisconsin. The lowest number of incidents occurred in 2004, when there were four incidents and two of those were fatal.
Three of the incidents occurred during deer drives and two of the incidents were self-inflicted injuries. Four incidents involved rifles and two involved shotguns. Two of the incidents involved juvenile shooters. Four of the six shooters in these incidents had completed the hunter safety certification course.