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DNR Wardens Expect Busy Archery, Crossbow Deer Seasons Amid Pandemic

Archery, Crossbow Seasons Begin Saturday

A deer peers through the woods from near a tree on the first day of regular firearms deer hunting season in most of Pennsylvania, Monday, Nov. 26, 2018, in Fombell, Pa. The Pennsylvania firearms deer hunting season runs through Dec. 8 in most of the state. Keith Srakocic/AP Photo

Wisconsin’s fall hunting seasons are getting underway, with deer season for archery and crossbow hunters opening Saturday.

“If the summer use on our lakes and trails are any indication as to what to expect for the hunting season, I expect a pretty busy season this year,” said Jason Roberts, a warden with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Hunting, a solitary, outdoor activity, will likely appeal to many people amid the coronavirus pandemic, he told WPR’s “The Morning Show.”

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So far, deer tag sales have been comparable to past years, though most tags are sold closer to gun deer season, said Bob Nack, big game section chief for the DNR. Across the board, hunting license sales are trending higher than past years, he added.

Fox Valley outdoor retailer The Reel Shot has sold more archery tags this year than last year, said floor product specialist Ty Hanson.

The store has found it difficult to keep some supplies in stock this summer as the coronavirus pandemic has caused an increase in demand and supply chain disruptions, he said.

In particular, a lot of fishing equipment comes from overseas, which has led to major delays, though staff has been able to find substitutes for most items, Hanson said. Hunting equipment has been affected too.

“A lot of the major companies that make crossbows and compound bows, they are almost completely sold out of everything as far as new equipment goes,” he said.

But the companies aren’t at fault, there are just more people getting into the sport, he added.

The Reel Shot is still waiting on some items it ordered months ago, but still has bows and accessories available for the upcoming season, Hanson said.

Hunting season is already open for some migratory bird species. With the pandemic encouraging people to spread out, Nack said he’s spoken to hunters who went online to find new areas to hunt. He’s already encountered hunters in spots he’d never seen them before.

“I really encourage people to do a little research, and they may find a little piece of state or private property that’s open to hunting that others might not have found,” he said.

A safety education course is required for new hunters born after 1973. Adults can take the course online, but minors must complete an in-person component. The DNR is limiting class sizes to encourage social distancing, Roberts said.

“The training you receive in hunter education courses are, in essence, your license to hunt for the rest of your life,” he said. “We don’t want to water down training in light of the pandemic because this is something that stays with you.”

Registration is closed for gun deer season for hunters with disabilities, which opens Oct. 3. Gun deer season opens Nov. 21. Gun deer hunters should buy their ammunition now, Hanson said.

“As we get closer to gun season, that’s going to start disappearing more and more than it already is,” he said. “Just with all the other chaotic stuff going on in the country right now, it’s just been difficult to keep ammunition on the shelves.”

Staff at The Reel Shot has been tracking down ammunition all summer to make sure it’s available for gun deer season, he said.

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