Hunters Harvest Nearly 300,000 Deer
A preliminary call-in tally of registration stations across the state shows hunters taking 291,563 deer during the regular nine-day gun deer hunt that closed Sunday.
While that figure is about 33 percent lower than the preliminary call-tally of more than 437,000 from Wisconsin?s 2001 record season, it is only about 12 percent lower than the 10-year average of about 330,600. However, with the addition of the four-day October Zone T harvest, the total gun harvest for 2001 is 2 percent above the 10-year record.
Department of Natural Resources wildlife managers had expected a reduced harvest from 2000, when Wisconsin had a record deer herd estimated at 1.8 million animals, and hunters set an all-time national record harvest for all combined hunting seasons of more than 618,000 white-tailed deer.
The deer population was estimated at about 1.65 million going in to the 2001 hunting seasons, and wildlife managers had reduced the number of units designated as Zone T -- where the population is more than 20 percent over goal -- from 97 last year to 76 this year. Additionally, last year hunters received two free antlerless deer permits that could be used in any Zone T unit, while this year hunters received just one free antlerless tag for those units.
"The 2001 fall white-tailed deer population was 8 percent below last year, but by far the biggest factor in the drop in harvest had to be the weather," said DNR Deer Ecologist Bill Mytton. "Last year we had near perfect hunting conditions throughout the entire season. This year, although it was very mild, hunting conditions were really pretty poor."
The mild weather did allow hunters to remain in the field for longer periods of time, but it also meant they had to take any deer they shot into be processed right away, instead of being able to hang the deer and return to hunting, he said.
Also, because the weather was so mild, "deer were able to sit tight longer too. It wasn't as easy to get them to move, and if they did move, there was no snow statewide for hunters to track them," Mytton said.
"The double whammy on this year's nine-day hunt was that both weekends had extremely poor hunting weather," he said. "The importance of these weekends is that this is when most hunters are in the woods."
"Generally, opening weekend accounts for more than half the harvest, so when hunting conditions didn't improve through the week, it was apparent that the numbers would be down for the entire season this year," Mytton said.
This reduced harvest was most significant in the antlerless kill and that is why deer biologists from around the state continue to stress the importance of the Zone T early and late hunts to buffer weather situations like we saw this year.
Hunters shot about 44,450 deer during an early Zone T hunt that was held in October, compared to nearly 66,500 in 2000. A special hunt for people shoot muzzleloader rifles -- one-shot rifles for which the powder and shot is loaded through the end of the barrel -- runs through Sunday, Dec. 2, and then there will be a second antlerless-only hunt in the designated Zone T units from Dec. 6 through 9.