More than half a million hunters purchased licenses to enjoy opening weekend of Wisconsin’s 168th gun deer season.

Preliminary License Sales Data

As of midnight Nov. 24, preliminary figures indicate that the number of deer hunters in Wisconsin is near par with last year.

Sales for gun, bow, crossbow, sports and patron licenses reached 782,815 as of midnight Sunday. Of that total, 555,227 were for gun privileges only. This number includes gun, patron and sports licenses.

Of the total licenses sold, 46.7% were sold online, and 53.3% were sold by DNR license agents, which includes private business across the state. Final license sales figures will be available in January, at which time DNR staff will perform a thorough analysis and interpretation.

“The DNR’s Recruitment, Retention and Reactivation program continues to grow, bringing in new hunters and inspiring experienced hunters to stay in the game,” said Keith Warnke, DNR Recruitment, Retention and Reactivation coordinator. “With the full support of our partners, DNR will be able to maintain our hunting and angling tradition.”

Preliminary Registration Totals and Future Outlook

In total, 90,286 deer were harvested by gun and registered statewide during the opening weekend of the gun deer hunt in 2019, compared to 123,090 in 2018. A total of 46,866 bucks were registered on opening weekend, compared to 67,636 in 2018.

Hunter reports of deer activity varied around the state and within regions. Some reported excellent deer activity while others reported very little, including in areas where deer abundance is known to be high. Reports of rutting activity were far less common compared to last year, which was expected with the latest possible gun season opening date.

“In 2018, we held the earliest possible deer season followed by the latest possible season in 2019. This occurred between the 2012-13 and 2007-08 seasons as well, and we saw similar declines in opening weekend registration totals,” said DNR big game ecologist Kevin Wallenfang.

With temperatures staying low and snow coming to many parts of the state mid-week, hunters can expect more opportunities for success and are encouraged to head out to enjoy the remainder of the nine-day season hunting with family and friends.

A more detailed summary of preliminary registration totals can be found on the DNR website here.

Pictures and stories from all over Wisconsin continue to flood in as hunters share their experiences. Be sure to follow DNR on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to share your experience and for more updates, photos and stories throughout the gun deer season.

Regional and statewide contacts regarding deer hunting in Wisconsin are as follows:

Statewide - Kevin Wallenfang, Department of Natural Resources big game ecologist, 608-206-1107;

Northern Wisconsin - Marc Kenyon, DNR wildlife management supervisor, 715-697-3235;

Northeastern Wisconsin - Jeff Pritzl, DNR wildlife management supervisor, 920-366-3450;

West-central Wisconsin - Kris Johansen, DNR wildlife management supervisor, 608-396-1062; and

Southern Wisconsin - Bret Owsley, DNR wildlife management supervisor, 920-210-2451.

Registration of Deer Required with GameReg

As a reminder, hunters are required to register their deer by 5 p.m. the day after recovery. For more information, visit the DNR website here.

“The registration process is critical to the management of Wisconsin’s deer herd, so hunters who forgot to register their deer are encouraged to complete this process, even if they do so beyond the 5 p.m. deadline,” said Wallenfang. “Knowing life is busy; the best practice is to register your harvest immediately so that you do not forget. Some hunters are completing the registration while still in the field, which works great.”

Opening Weekend Hunting Incidents

As of the publication time of this news release, the DNR Bureau of Law Enforcement reports four firearm-involved hunting incidents during the opening weekend - Nov. 23-24 -- of the 2019 nine-day gun deer season.

Three of the four incidents occurred on Saturday, Nov. 23, in Oneida, Marathon and Fond du Lac counties.

In Oneida and Marathon counties, the two separate incidents involved hunters who discharged their firearms, striking their left feet. The Oneida County incident involved a 38-year-old man whose discharge struck his left foot and a 29-year-old woman in Marathon County whose discharge struck her left foot.

In Fond du Lac County, a hunter shot toward a running deer and struck a 19-year-old woman in the left hand.

The fourth weekend incident occurred in Washburn County on Sunday, Nov. 24, when a 31-year-old man was struck by a single bullet. The shooter has been identified. The investigation continues, and no additional details are being released at this time.

Wisconsin’s 10-year average is approximately three hunting incidents for the opening weekend of the nine-day gun deer hunt. The trending decline in incidents over time is the direct result of hunter safety education given by thousands of Wisconsin’s volunteer instructors across the state and hunters knowing and following TABK. As part of this push for safe hunting, wardens remind all hunters to use the four firearm safety rules as a cornerstone for safe and successful outings:

T - Treat every firearm as if it is loaded;

A - Always point the muzzle in a safe direction;

B - Be certain of your target, what is in front of it and what is beyond it;

K - Keep your finger outside your trigger guard until you are ready to shoot.

To learn more about safe hunting in Wisconsin, visit the DNR website.

DNR VIOLATION HOTLINE: Anyone with information regarding natural resource violations may confidentially report by calling or texting: VIOLATION HOTLINE: 1-800-TIP-WDNR or 1-800-847-9367.

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