Hunters take slightly fewer deer during 9-day season
MADISON — Hunters killed slightly fewer deer during Wisconsin's nine-day gun season this year than last, according to Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources data released Tuesday.
The season began Nov. 18 and ran through Sunday. According to the DNR's preliminary totals, hunters killed 195,738 deer. That's less than the 197,262 killed last year and the 198,049 killed the year before, but more than the 192,111 killed in 2014.
Hunters killed 98,364 bucks, which was 0.4 percent fewer than in 2016. The buck kill was down in three of the DNR's four management zones. The northern forest was the only zone to see an increase in bucks killed. Hunters there killed 26,437 antlered deer, which was 12.7 percent more than in 2016 and a sign that the northern herd is growing again after a number of severe winters.
Hunters killed 97,374 antlerless deer statewide, which was down about 2 percent from last year.
Overall license sales dipped slightly this year. The agency sold 588,387 licenses authorizing hunting with a firearm during the nine-day season, down 1.7 percent from 2016.
Hundreds of young hunters purchased licenses after Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill Nov. 13 eliminating the 10-year-old minimum age to participate in a mentored hunt.
The agency sold 1,814 mentored hunt licenses to children nine years old or younger through Sunday. The vast majority — 1,011 licenses — went to nine-year olds. Fifty-two licenses went to children age 5 and under, including 10 licenses to children under a year old.
A four-year-old was the youngest licensee to register a kill. Five-year-olds registered seven deer. It's not certain that the children actually pulled the trigger, however. Harvest data doesn't show who actually pulled the trigger; an older hunter could have killed the deer and registered the animal under the child's license.
Opponents of eliminating the minimum hunting age warned putting guns in the hands of young children would put them and other hunters in danger, but it appears that wasn't an issue. No one was killed during the season, although seven hunters were wounded.
Five of them, all at least 24 years old, shot themselves. A 53-year-old hunter was shot during a drive in Ozaukee County but the age of the shooter was still unknown on Tuesday. Another hunter was shot in Waukesha County but both the hunter and the shooter's ages were unknown. The DNR was still investigating both incidents.