DNR: Nine-day gun season deer kill drops 8% from 2020

Deer hunters walk into woods

MADISON, Wis. (WISC/AP) — Hunters killed thousands fewer deer during Wisconsin’s nine-day gun season this year than in 2020, according to preliminary state Department of Natural Resources data released Tuesday.

The DNR offers multiple deer hunting seasons each fall but the nine-day season remains the pinnacle for hunters. It began at dawn on Nov. 20 and ran until nightfall Sunday. Hunters killed 175,667 deer, down 8% from the 190,646 animals killed during the 2020 nine-day stretch. The number of bucks killed was down 1.3% from last year. The antlerless take was down 13%.

Hunters killed 9.3% more deer in the northern forest management zone this year than last, the only one of the state’s four management zones that saw an increase. The southern farmland zone, which includes most of the southern third of the state, saw a 17% drop in kills.

In Dane County, hunters killed a total of 2,071 deer, including 1,077 antlerless and 994 with antlers.

Other county totals include:

  • Columbia County: 3,325 (1,664 antlerless and 1,661 antlered)
  • Crawford County: 2,815 (1,626 antlerless and 1,189 antlered)
  • Dodge County: 2,443 (1,371 antlerless and 1,072 antlered)
  • Grant County: 4,152 (2,319 antlerless and 1,833 antlered)
  • Green County: 1,529 (835 antlerless and 694 antlered)
  • Iowa County: 2,242 (1,182 antlerless and 1,060 antlered)
  • Jefferson County: 1,723 (971 antlerless and 752 antlered)
  • Lafayette County: 1,477 (842 antlerless and 635 antlered)
  • Richland County: 3,277 (1,745 antlerless and 1,532 antlered)
  • Rock County: 1,160 (623 antlerless and 537 antlered)
  • Sauk County: 3,670 (1,917 antlerless and 1,753 antlered)
  • Walworth County: 735 (350 antlerless and 385 antlered)

The number of hunters who could have ventured into the woods remained virtually unchanged from 2020. The DNR reported it had sold 564,440 hunting licenses that would allow someone to kill a deer using a gun during any of the state’s multiple gun seasons as of the Sunday close. That’s down about 0.8% from the 564,440 licenses sold at the same point last year.

DNR Deer Program Specialist Jeff Pritzl called the diminished numbers in the south “eye-catching” but could offer no explanation for the lower kill rate there or elsewhere in the state.

“There’s human nature and sociology involved in here as well as biology,” he said, “so it’s probably more complicated than making a presumption right now that one particular thing is going on.”

The DNR issued a news release saying weather conditions were generally good, although a lack of snow may have hindered visibility and wetlands weren’t frozen over, making access difficult.

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Pritzl speculated that more hunters may have opted for bow hunting — that season runs from mid-September to the end of January — and success on those outings may have kept them home during the nine-day gun season. As of Tuesday, bowhunters had taken almost 36,000 deer.

“This nine-day gun season is still the pinnacle, by far, but certainly we’re seeing a shift and it influences people’s decisions during the nine-day that are participating in other seasons,” Pritzl said.

Hunters also may be waiting for the state’s muzzleloader season, which began Monday and runs through Dec. 8, or the December antlerless-only season, he said.

“If you asked 10 deer hunters about their experience over the last week, how often they hunted and whether they decided to take a deer or not, you’d get 10 different answers,” Pritzl said.

“It’s probably more complicated than making a presumption right now about one particular thing that was going on,” he said.

The DNR recorded five firearm-related injuries and one fatality during the nine-day season.

Three incidents involved unintentional self-inflicted wounds. In Door County, a 45-year-old man was unloading his gun on Nov. 21 when he shot a 10-year-old boy. The boy was taken to a hospital and treated. In Iron County, a 65-year-old man was moving around on Nov. 23 when he knocked over his gun and it discharged, striking another 65-year-old man in the chest. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

The DNR said it is still waiting to get results on the number of deer that tested positive for chronic wasting disease. While there were “some additional positives” in places outside surveillance areas in the southern part of Wisconsin where the disease is present, the agency said there have been no new detections in wild deer in new areas.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.