Hunters Register More Than 161,000 Deer Opening Weekend

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A preliminary tally of deer registration stations across the state showed that hunters registered 161,286 deer over the opening weekend of the Nov. 19-27 gun deer hunt, say state wildlife officials. This compares to 153,462 in 2004.

The Department of Natural Resources officials stress that this is a preliminary call-around tally that will change when all registration stubs are submitted by registration stations and entered into the department's new registration data base.

"Hunting conditions were good and Wisconsin hunters appeared to be out enjoying the season this weekend," said Keith Warnke, DNR big game biologist. "The opening weekend buck harvest was up over last year but the antlerless harvest was down, opening the possibility that the herd could grow in size if hunters don't concentrate on antlerless deer for the remainder of the season. I hope everyone and every deer camp, will take it as a personal challenge to harvest two antlerless deer for every buck they bring in. That's the kind of effort needed every year to get us to population goals."

Stressing that these are preliminary numbers Warnke emphasized that the final season tally is what drives recommendations for future season structures.

"I've been looking at newspaper clips from around the state this morning and seeing lots of bucks, lots of big bucks, and lots of smiling hunters. When you have a season structure that reduces harvest pressure on bucks, such as last year's Earn-a-Buck seasons in some deer management units, you get two benefits. You get populations moving toward goal and big bucks the following year in those units. Not only is EAB good, sound, deer population management, it results in larger bucks in subsequent years. The key is you have to maintain harvest pressure on antlerless deer or the population grows back again."

Reports collected from the field over the weekend indicated generally good to ideal hunting conditions. Several hunters described Saturday morning as a "good old-fashioned opener." The only consistent complaint heard was the "snow showers" some hunters endured in north central Wisconsin as snow slid off overhead tree branches. Several parties hunting where the heaviest snowfall had occurred said that they had to clear some fallen trees from woodland roads in order to get into their hunting areas.

Registration stations reported hunters bringing in many nice bucks, especially from the previous year's Earn-a-Buck (EAB) deer management units.

In EAB units hunters are first required to harvest an antlerless deer before they can shoot a buck. This hunting requirement is an effective herd population management tool as it puts hunting pressure on antlerless, or mainly female, deer. Taking harvest pressure off bucks results in more older, larger bucks the following season according to wildlife biologists.

There are no EAB units for the 2005 deer hunting season but the Natural Resources Board has indicated it will consider using EAB in future seasons if needed to manage over-goal whitetail populations.

A table of preliminary call in registrations by county (PDF, 39KB) is available with a comparison to 2004 in portable document format. More than 5,600 gun deer hunting license sold since season opener

A total of 637,387 gun deer hunting licenses had been sold through Nov. 21, including 5,648 licenses sold since the season opened. Last year, 10,268 licenses were issued after the season opener, bringing the 2004 total sales to 649,955.

Elk shot near Clam Lake

A 66-year-old Mayville man turned himself in to the Department of Natural Resources after he had mistakenly shot an elk for a deer outside of Clam Lake. The incident occurred Monday between 9 and 10 a.m. The 600-pound female elk was 13 years old and was one of the original animals introduced into the Clam Lake area in 1995.

According to statements made to Conservation Warden Sue Miller, the hunter reported he had not seen any deer opening weekend and on Monday morning quickly shot at what he thought was a deer. He made the mistake, she said, of not fully identifying his target before pulling the trigger.

Matt McKay, a Department of Natural Resources wildlife technician, said the animal had been in good health overall and had a radio tracking collar attached to its neck. He said that following a necropsy the elk was quartered and the meat given to a local food pantry.

The hunters was cited Monday for hunting elk without a valid carcass tag and was also charged with hunting over an illegal bait in excess of 2 gallons. If convicted the total forfeiture would be $1,646. The hunter was not criminally charged because he was given consideration for his cooperation in the investigation.

One hunter killed and five injured in shooting incidents

Five hunting incidents were reported over the opening weekend and one was reported on Monday, according to hunter education administrator, Tim Lawhern. Four of the opening weekend incidents were injury-only and one was fatal. Two were self inflicted, three occurred during deer drives when hunters were shooting at moving or running deer.

"Traditionally the opening weekend provides about half the total number of incidents for the season," said Lawhern. "Self inflicted injuries normally amount to between 30 and 50 percent of the total number of incidents. From these statistics we might expect a total of ten incidents for this season but that doesn't have to be the case if hunters practice the rules of firearm safety each and every time they go into the field."

The fatal incident occurred at about 2:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon in the town of Webb Lake in the Burnett County forest which is a public hunting area. Killed was Dale McDowell, 66, of Danbury. An investigation conducted by DNR conservation wardens with assistance from the Burnett County Sheriff’s Department, Wisconsin State Patrol and the Wisconsin Department of Justice determined the shot came from a member of the victim’s hunting party. The shooter and the victim’s family have been notified of the investigation’s results, said Chris Wunrow, safety specialist warden for the DNR’s Northern Region. Final investigation reports will be filed with the Burnett County district attorney, Wunrow added.

On Saturday, a juvenile female suffered a self-inflicted nonfatal gunshot wound to the leg when she fell while hunting with family members on private property in Harrison Township, Grant County. She was transported to a local hospital for treatment. Also on Saturday a male hunter sustained a nonfatal wound in Marathon County and a male hunting in Freedonia Township in Ozaukee County sustained a nonfatal foot wound about 4 p.m. These incidents remain under investigation. On Sunday, a 20-year old male suffered a self-inflicted wound to his hand in Waukesha County.

On Monday, Nov. 21, a man was stuck by a bullet while driving his car in rural northeastern Eau Claire County. The victim was an emergency medical technician who had equipment and a radio with him and was able to call in the incident and drive to a location where he was met by an airlift helicopter. In media interviews from the hospital the victim expressed frustration at missing the rest of deer season.

Conservation wardens and Eau Claire County sheriff’s deputies determined the shooter was part of deer drive. The shooter stated that he saw something gray run through the brush and heard what he thought was a deer breaking brush. He fired one shot at the "deer." He heard a vehicle skid and spin tires but when he got to the road the vehicle was gone. The slug entered the driver's side door just below the door handle and entered the victim's side just below the ribs.

In addition to the shooting incidents, conservation wardens reported that a 44-year-old Lake Tomahawk man died of head injuries when he fell Saturday from a tree stand on private land near Woodruff.