Wisconsin hunters killed 16 percent fewer deer during opening weekend of gun deer season

A woman out walking her dog was shot by a hunter in Adams County

Deer walking
Melissa Ingells/WPR

Wisconsin hunters killed fewer deer during the opening weekend of gun deer season than in previous years, according to preliminary numbers from the Department of Natural Resources.

Hunters bagged 92,050 deer statewide, a 16 percent decrease compared to the same point in the 2022 season and 10 percent lower than the five-year average.

The DNR said a majority of the decline was in the antlerless deer harvest, which usually picks up later in the season.

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

The number of bucks killed so far is down 13 percent compared to last year, with a total of 51,870 registered on opening weekend.

The number of deer hunters also decreased slightly. Hunters bought a total of 774,369 licenses as of midnight Nov. 19, down 0.6 percent from the same time last season.

The gun deer season started on Nov. 18 and runs through Nov. 26.

Woman shot walking her dog was not a hunter

Two people were shot on the opening weekend, the DNR reported. On Nov. 18 in Forest County, a 53-year-old man suffered a self-inflicted gunshot to the foot. He was transported to the hospital for non-life-threatening injuries.

On Nov. 19, a 47-year-old woman in Adams County was shot in the abdomen while walking her dog on private property. A 62-year-old man in a vehicle shot at the dog, which he believed to be an antlerless deer, with a semi-automatic rifle, striking the woman, according to the agency.

The victim was transported via MedFlight for her injuries.

The man was a disabled hunter who was allowed to hunt from a vehicle, Lt. Mike Weber said. The investigation is ongoing, he said.

Last year, six individuals were shot during opening weekend, including an 11-year-old who was killed by a member of his hunting party. Three of the six were self-inflicted gunshot wounds.

Weber said it is rare for someone to be shot during gun deer season who is not a member of a hunting party.

He said anyone participating in the rest of the season should follow the four basic rules of firearm safety.

“Treat every firearm as if were loaded, always point the muzzle in a safe direction. Be sure of your target, what’s before it and what’s beyond it, and keep your finger out of the trigger guard until you’re ready to shoot,” he said.

Weber said hunters are encouraged to cover at least 50 percent of their upper bodies in fluorescent colors, including any head coverings.

“It’s obviously a good idea for non-hunters during any deer firearm season to consider wearing blaze orange, fluorescent pink, or a high visible color when being out there in the woods when those seasons are going on,” he said.

DNR anticipated a decrease this season

DNR Deer Program Specialist Jeffrey Pritzl said hunters described the opening weekend as “quiet and slow to a certain degree.”

Earlier this month, the DNR forecasted hunters would not match last year’s numbers.

“Last year we had snow cover. We didn’t this year, and so we kind of anticipated we wouldn’t hit last year’s opening weekend marks,” Pritzl said.

An abundance of available food for deer could also be a factor, he said.

“There’s some past data that suggest years of bumper acorn crops actually can suppress hunter harvest because food availability just means deer aren’t on the move as much as they would be,” he said.

The agency is urging hunters to test deer for chronic wasting disease.