Wisconsin gun deer hunting: A letdown for many


The Mirror reporter

The Wisconsin nine-day gun deer season always starts with what many hunters consider a holiday, opening weekend. Around 600,000 hunters take to the woods on the first Saturday in November, but only a lucky few will harvest a deer.

Preliminary reports indicate this year’s opening weekend harvest was down 12 percent from previous years. This may have been caused by the unseasonably warm weather conditions, or even a lack of hunters (588,387) the lowest number in 41 years.

The number of hunters was even bolstered by sales of licenses to 10 children under the age of one and 52 under the age of five. All children under the age of 10 were able to purchase licenses for the first time after Wisconsin lawmakers passed a bill which created no minimum age requirement for hunters. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR), also said that, new for 2017, hunters would not have to validate their hunting tags upon harvest of an animal.

With new registration systems and better weather conditions, the chance should have been greater for hunters to harvest a deer but it never manifested. Last year the winds were over 40 miles per hour on opening day which, according to the WDNR deer hunting summary, “Caused many hunters to avoid hunting from elevated stands with fears of falling out or having trees fall on them.”

Even with the terrible conditions hunters managed to kill about one percent more deer than the year before. If initial reports were correct, final deer kill numbers for this year will be down.

Not all hunters experienced failure. This year had its fair share of success stories including me. I was able to harvest a very nice eight point buck as well as a large doe, but those two deer were the only ones I had an opportunity to shoot. This was the problem as many success stories came with “but’s.”

Hunter and Stevens Point Area Senior High School (SPASH) student Luke Babl said of the year, “I was able to harvest a small buck, but that was the only deer I saw all week. It was a rough gun season.”

Hunter and student Nick Wachowiak who harvested a beautiful six-point buck was no exception. He said, “It was great that I was able to get a buck opening day, but it didn’t seem that there were that many deer on the land I hunted. The buck I harvested was the only male deer our hunting group saw all season.”

SPASH understands student’s roots with the nine-day gun deer season. The school allows students to miss the two days of school Thanksgiving week if they get their parent’s permission. SPASH teacher Jill Donahue said, “It is a good family bonding experience for everyone and it creates family time for some students that don’t normally have that opportunity, but the students do need to make sure they make the work up in the end or their grades will suffer.”

With so many factors in the hunter’s favor, one would think the total deer kill numbers should have been up for the entire season. In the end, the WDNR says that there was a one percent decrease in the number of deer shot during the nine-day gun deer season. It is hard to believe that the deer kill numbers were up that much the rest of the week to fix the 12 percent deficit that opening weekend left behind.

The WDNR could make up whatever numbers they would like, and the public will take their word for it. They are unchecked which allows them to do whatever they would like, potentially skewing numbers in order to make more money. By doing this they are hurting the hunters because they are seeing fewer deer than years past which in turn causes the hunter’s numbers to decline. The WDNR needs to do what is right and report the right numbers no matter what it causes in the short-term.