DNR releases deer-harvest numbers
Waupaca County hunters harvested the second-highest number of white-tailed deer during this year’s gun hunt, according to preliminary figures from the state Department of Natural Resources.
Waupaca County hunters registered 7,328 deer, including 3,095 bucks and 4,233 antlerless deer, while Marathon County led the way with 7,663 deer.
Waupaca County’s total is up 467 from last year’s total of 6,861.
Preliminary totals were down from last year in Waushara, Portage, Outagamie and Winnebago counties, but up in Shawano County.
Totals for area counties include Waushara, 3,382 (1,574 bucks, 1,808 antlerless); Portage, 4014 (1,853 bucks, 2,161 antlerless); Outagamie, 2,191 (1,055 bucks, 1,136 antlerless); Winnebago, 1,126 (570 bucks, 556 antlerless); and Shawano, 6,701 (2,849 bucks, 3,852 antlerless).
Close to 600,000 deer hunters participated in the nine-day hunt, which wrapped up Nov. 27.
“The gun deer hunt is one of our more anticipated outdoor traditions and it’s very important to Wisconsin’s economy and conservation while providing millions of hours of enjoyment in the field,” DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp said. “White-tailed deer are one of our greatest natural resources and it’s exciting to see the passion so many people have for hunting and conservation in our state.”
Preliminary registration figures indicate 97,892 hunters were successful in their pursuit of a buck, an increase of 5,282 (5.7 percent) compared to 2015. Overall, hunters harvested 196,785 deer, compared to 198,057 in 2015.
The largest change in buck harvest occurred in the Northern Forest Zone, which saw a 30-percent increase from 2015 after two consecutive mild winters and limited antlerless tags.
“While many factors influence hunter success, the buck harvest is one of our best indicators of how the population is responding to harvest strategies in the forest zones,” DNR big game ecologist Kevin Wallenfang said. ”The harvest is never uniform, just as deer densities aren’t uniform, but overall, it is encouraging to see the increase in the northern counties and statewide harvest levels similar to last year.”
The nine-day hunt also provided successful hunters with 98,893 antlerless deer, a 6.2-percent decrease from 2015, mostly in the farmland zones. However, those numbers are expected to climb as hunters take advantage of the ongoing statewide muzzleloader hunt, a statewide four-day antlerless-only hunt and a nine-day antlerless-only holiday hunt in select farmland counties.
Hunters can use any unfilled antlerless tag during the latter two hunts.
DNR conservation wardens are investigating five nonfatal hunting incidents in four counties during the gun-deer season. One incident occurred in Waukesha, Oconto and Ozaukee counties and two in Taylor County. There were no fatalities during the nine-day gun deer hunt.
Five out of the last 10 deer seasons were fatality-free and nine out of the last 10 deer season involved single-digit incidents.
Chief Conservation Warden Todd Schaller said this downward trend in hunting incidents is because hunters know and use firearm safety principles and the thousands of volunteer hunter education instructors who host hunter safety courses statewide.
“We saw hunters following the firearm safety message of TABK and take time to educate those who don’t,” he said. “It was great to see hunters and families of hunters out in the woods enjoying a Wisconsin tradition.”