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Wisconsin Deer Hunters Register Fewest Kills In Nine-Day Season Since 1982

As Deer Kills Decline, Children Under 10 Can Now Obtain Hunting Licenses

hunter in field
m01229 (CC-BY)

Hunters shot fewer deer during the state’s gun-deer hunt than any time since 1982.

Hunters electronically registered 195,738 deer during the nine-day hunt. That’s similar to last year’s numbers but still marks the lowest gun-deer harvest in 35 years. Also, license sales for the rifle season hit a 41 year low. But state Department of Natural Resources big game ecologist Kevin Wallenfang isn’t worried. He said comparing this year’s gun hunt with those in decades past is like comparing apples and oranges.

“We’ve seen a real trend over the years that the percentage of deer during the nine-day season, in the total harvest, is going down while these other seasons and especially the bow hunting season, those animals are coming out of the bow season at a higher rate than they were in the past,” said Wallenfang.

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Wisconsin now has multiple deer hunting opportunities including an archery, crossbow, rifle and muzzleloader season.

While the state’s traditional archery season has also seen smaller harvests in recent years, the number of deer killed with crossbows has increased substantially.

But while the crossbow season seems to have given a boost to Wisconsin’s deer hunting tradition in the short term, overall license sales for archery and gun hunting have been on the decline. Wallenfang says that’s because a wave of baby boomers are becoming less likely to head into the woods.

“As those folks begin to get older it’s quite possible and it’s projected that we will continue to see a decrease in the overall license sales,” said Wallenfang.

Children Under Ten Can Take Up Hunting

While baby boomers become less likely to head into the woods, children under 10 are now allowed to obtain hunting licenses.

Since the change in legislation this season, 1,814 hunting licenses were sold to children under the age of 10, according to the Associated Press.

State lawmakers removed age restrictions for mentored hunting earlier this month.

More than half of the licenses went to 9-year-olds in the state. But 52 permits were issued to children under the age of five. Ten of those went to infants less than a year old.

These numbers have some hunting organizations concerned.

“A little kid like that, they can’t even pick up a rifle to shoot,” said Sue Hoffman from the Wisconsin Deerhunters, Inc. “Kids that age shouldn’t be shooting a gun to start with, there’s no reason for it.”

Supporters of removing age restrictions say it should be up to parents to decide when their children are mature enough to hunt.

But Hoffman said allowing young children to participate is a safety concern for all hunters.

“It’s going to end up where more and more hunters are going to get shot in the woods accidentally or whatever because of a kid,” Hoffman said.

There were seven hunting incidents reported during this year’s season, none involving mentored youth hunters.