Hunters register 106,404 deer opening weekend of 2010 season
Good to very good hunting conditions on opening day gave way to misty-rainy weather on day two of the 2010 gun deer hunt.
Hunters participating in the traditional November nine-day gun deer hunt registered a preliminary tally of 106,404 deer over the first two days of the hunt.
In St. Croix County, 1,147 deer were registered on opening weekend (521 bucks and 626 antlerless), or a 17.52 percent increase in the harvest compared to last year. In Polk County, 4,359 deer were harvested (1,850 bucks and 2,509 antlerless), or a 31.26 increase over last year. Pierce County saw a 3.08 decline in the opening weekend harvest, with hunters registering 1,604 deer.
The 2010 preliminary count was up about 6.3 percent from the opening weekend count of 100,330 from 2009. Preliminary buck harvest statewide in 2010 was 54,263 and preliminary antlerless harvest was 52,141.
"We want to remind folks that these preliminary numbers come from a staff call-around to deer registration stations this morning," said Tom Hauge, director of the DNR wildlife management program. "The final opening weekend tally will likely be somewhat larger, when all the registration stubs are entered into the data base over the next couple of months."
"The hunters I talked to opening day were upbeat with most saying they were seeing deer," said Hauge. "Conditions were especially good in the northwest where they had some snow on the ground improving both tracking and visibility."
While the opening weekend is the deer hunting event of the year, "there is still a lot of hunting left," according to Keith Warnke, DNR big game ecologist.
As of early Monday afternoon, 450 "opening weekend" hunting trip reports had been recorded on the department's new online reporting database. This is down from 2009 when hunters filed 570 reports. Data from the reports is used to track wildlife population trends and abundance.
"We encourage hunters to continue to file reports," said Warnke. "The value of this information increases over time and with the number of reports filed each year. We share this information with hunters on our website and it gives hunters an idea of what other hunters are seeing when they are in the woods.
Enthusiasm for hunting remains high
The department's license sales office reported 607,926 gun deer licenses sold by the start of shooting hours on Nov. 20. This number was down 3 percent from the comparable day in 2009 but in at least one important category, 10 and 11 year old hunters, sales were up 15 percent from 2009.
Deer license and tag sales will continue through the hunting seasons.
The long custom of buying a license on the way to deer camp is also intact. DNR licensing managers reported selling 89,593 licenses on Friday, Nov. 19. At one point in late afternoon Friday, computers showed license sales coming in at a rate of 333 per minute. Hunters purchased 235,547 licenses in the five days preceding the season opener.
Of the hunters hitting the woods on Saturday:
564,825 were residents and 32,056 were nonresidents;
More than 86,000 youth hunters under 18 years old participated in this year's hunt.
Females represent 8.6 percent of the total hunters, and 20 percent of new 10- and 11-year-old hunters;
Hunters throughout the U.S. and 22 foreign countries purchased a Wisconsin gun deer license. The highest number of nonresident hunters came from Minnesota (16,017), Illinois (7,968), Michigan (1,012), and Florida (838);
The greatest number of foreign hunters came from Canada (32), Germany (19) and U.K. (9).
There were no fatal shooting incidents recorded during the first two days of the hunt but there were five non-fatal firearms-related incidents, reports DNR Hunter Education Administrator Tim Lawhern.
"We wish a speedy recovery to the victims, but the fact remains that all five could have been prevented if strict firearm safety rules had been observed by the shooters."
Four incidents occurred on Saturday.
In Wood County, a hunter was struck in the chest by a bullet fired at a running deer from more than 600 yards away.
In Marquette County, a hunter suffered a grazing surface wound to the head as the victim and the shooter both fired at a moving deer.
In Marathon County, a hunter was wounded below the left shoulder. The victim was a stander in a deer drive and the shooter was a member of the drive.
In Door County, a hunter was shot through the right thigh. Both victim and shooter were participating in a deer drive.
On Sunday, a Douglas County hunter was wounded in the high right shoulder. Both the victim and the shooter were participating in a deer drive.
Hunter Safety Administrator Tim Lawhern noted that historically about half of Wisconsin's shooting incidents happen during deer drives, usually because someone wasn't where they were supposed to be or someone shot at a deer when they did not have a safe backstop or in a direction they should not have been shooting.
"Always be sure of your target and anything behid it, and if you aren't sure, don't shoot." Know where your bullet will impact if you miss.
"It is really important that hunting parties wanting to drive deer have a plan and that they follow that plan to the letter. Knowing where your hunting mates are and where safe shooting lanes are is critical," he said.
Statistically, about half the hunting incidents happen during opening weekend.
"I am hoping we buck that statistic and can avoid further incidents this year," Lawhern said. "Compared to the 'good ole' days,' hunting is safe and getting safer. In 1915, of the state's 155,000 hunters then, 24 were killed and 26 were injured. That meant 1 in about 3,100 hunters could expect to be killed or injured. Today it's 1 in 100,000 or better. Still any shooting incident is one too many. Hunters need to remember the shooting TAB-K safety rules and be careful with deer drives later this week," he said.