The sun hadn’t even been in the sky for an hour, but John Carl already had what he wanted.
The Port Washington hunter pulled into the parking lot at J.R.’s Sport Shop in Iola with a 10-point buck strapped to the back of Carl’s truck.
He shot the deer on his land near Iola shortly before 7 a.m. on opening day of Wisconsin’s gun deer season.
“About ten to 7, he came out running in front of my all by himself,” Carl said. “That’s the only one I saw so far.”
Shortly after Carl registered his deer, Jim Kranz of Milwaukee pulled into the parking lot of the Waupaca Travel Center with his hunting party.
“Beautiful,” he said when asked about the conditions. “A little warm, low 30s, hardly any wind.”
Kranz and his son, Jim Jr., also of Milwaukee, shot their deer while hunting on land they lease near Waupaca.
“We lease a good chunk of land,” the elder Kranz said. “I’ve hunted up here since I was a teenager. We love the restaurants and everything to do, just the whole area overall.”
Carl also makes an annual trip to Iola to hunt.
“I hunt up here every year,” he said. “I’ve had a place up here for probably 20 years. I like it for the deer population and the time for me to get here isn’t that long.”
Kranz and his son hunted with four other family members.
“This was the only one I saw,” he said. “(There are) definitely less deer. We used to let all the little ones go, but we can’t do that anymore. You might not have another shot.”
Carl has also noticed fewer deer in the area.
“Less deer, but bigger deer, he said.
Jake Fries, a state Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist for Waupaca County, spent part of opening day registering deer at the Waupaca Travel Center and recording the ages of deer.
“It’s a very popular registration station,” he said. “It’s been steady this morning. We usually get a big noon rush and a huge rush in the evening.”
Fries said hunters are happy with the weather conditions, which were much more mild in the Waupaca area than the days leading up to the hunt.
“I had one guy say from 1 to 10, he thought the weather was a 10 today,” he said. “I’ve had more than one person tell me that they liked it.”
Fries expects Waupaca County to have one of the state’s highest harvests.
“The last couple years, we’ve harvested 11 to 12,000 deer in the county,” he said. “I don’t see any reason for it to change much. That being said, there have been a lot of changes to our season structure and unit structure and antlerless tags with the way we go about distributing those. It’s hard to make predictions with so many changes. Once they get to the registration station with their animal, the biggest change they’re going to see, if they don’t already know, is finding out that their deer management unit has gone away and has been replaced by a county unit.”