Temperatures dipping down to 5 degrees at sunrise and winds gusting to more than 30 mph made for challenging conditions Nov. 23 on the opening day of Wisconsin’s 2013 gun deer season.
“The predawn cold and winds made it clear that opening morning was going to test the will of deer hunters today,” said Tom Hauge, wildlife management director for the state Department of Natural Resources, who hunted opening day near Plain in Sauk County. “Even our blind did not offer much shelter.”
DNR Land Division administrator Kurt Thiede reported “even the squirrels were hunkered down today” near his hunting stand in southeastern Richland County.
“There were a few distant shots from the ridge tops and valleys, but I didn’t hear any shots from our guys,” he said. “That wasn’t the story everywhere, though. As I headed in to warm up and get some brunch I had a nice buck with an 18-inch-wide spread on a tailgate go by.”
One of the busiest DNR deer registrations in Waupaca County was Sandbur Corners, a convenience store north of Ogdensburg on State Highway 161.
At least eight hunters with deer parked their vehicles in the store’s parking lot during the noon hour opening day, including 11-year-old Cayleb Zander of Manawa, who bagged his first buck while hunting on his great uncle’s land in the Town of Helvetia.
“My uncle shot at one and he missed and this one ran out,” he said.
Meanwhile, Kasi Miller of Redgranite pulled into the Waupaca Travel Center in Waupaca with her six-pointer that she shot at about 7 a.m. near Tustin, south of Fremont.
“Windy and cold,” she said when asked about the conditions at the time she shot her first buck. “It was with a group of them, all does.”
Adam Spierings of Weyauwega showed up at the Weyauwega Cenex, another registration station, with an eight-pointer that he shot at about 6:45 a.m. near Royalton.
It didn’t start out windy in the north, but very cold temperatures and up to 6 inches of snow on the ground in some areas made it a frigid opening.
“The morning started out nice in the northwoods,” said Kevin Wallenfang, a DNR big game ecologist who was aging deer at a registration station in Conover. “We heard about a dozen shots before the wind picked up at 8 a.m.”
He had registered 13 bucks by mid-morning.
“There were some nice older bucks, but not big antlers,” he said. “It’s obvious that winter had an impact on size.”
Wildlife biologists had expected the heavy snows from late last winter and early spring across the northern Great Lakes to have an impact on deer mortality and health. Michigan wildlife officials reported that at about halfway through the season, the harvest in the Upper Peninsula appeared to be down. Minnesota also experienced a drop, with wildlife officials there reporting the harvest down 6 percent from 2012.
Zach Czaikowski, 11, of Milladore shot a buck opening morning while hunting near home with his grandfather, Ed Czaikowski.
“There was a lot of shooting,” he said. “Two fawns walked out. My grandpa told me not to shoot them because they were small. An hour later, the buck came out.”
Sam Botwinski and his father, Mike, both from rural Mosinee, spent opening day in Marathon County and each harvested a deer. Mike James of La Crosse took advantage of the reduced $5 deer hunting license for any first-time hunter or anyone who hasn’t hunted in the last 10 years. In his first time back out in the field in 25 years, he shot a 14-point buck while hunting between Fennimore and Boscobel.
DNR licensing officials reported 26,690 people took advantage of the reduced first-time licenses and 33 percent of the resident adult first-timers were female.
DNR assistant deputy secretary Scott Gunderson mentored Anna McCabe, a first time hunter partaking in the traditions of deer camp near Thorp.
“While we were disappointed to not get any deer by mid-afternoon, everyone was having a great time taking part in the hunting tradition,” he said.
Not all female hunters are new to Wisconsin’s deer hunting tradition. Jeannette Gull of Black River Falls has been hunting for 61 years, ever since she was 12. She bagged an eight-point buck, but said her real motivation for hunting is fun, family and tradition.
Opening weekend totals by county were not available at press time.