Hunters registered 90,286 deer through the first two days of the 2019 Wisconsin gun deer hunting season, a 27% decrease from last year, according to information released Tuesday by the state Department of Natural Resources.

Wildlife officials cited the later timing of the season, relative lack of snow and high amount of standing crops for this year's lower deer harvest.

The nine-day gun deer season opened Saturday and runs through Sunday. 

Continuing a trend of recent years, license sales appear to be down. The agency reported 555,227 gun deer licenses were sold as of midnight Sunday, a 1.4% year-over-year decrease.

The opening weekend kill included 46,866 bucks and 43,420 antlerless deer. 

Shawano County had the most deer registered (3,021), with Marathon (2,985) and Waupaca (2,939) rounding out the top three counties.

The lower deer kill was expected based on several factors, said Dan Adams, DNR assistant big game ecologist.

A primary consideration was the timing of the 2019 season, which started on the latest possible date and therefore featured less deer activity associated with the rut, or breeding period, which peaks in early November.

The 2018 hunt started on the earliest possible date.

The gun deer seasons in 2007 and 2008 and 2012 and 2013 featured the same "earliest to latest" calendar relationship.

Similar to this year, hunters killed fewer deer in the years with the later opening (25% fewer in 2008 and 20% fewer in 2013), Adams said.

in addition to little to no snow cover and standing crops in much of the state, wet conditions hindered hunters' access to some areas.

Adams said the DNR had received mixed reports from hunters, with some seeing lots of deer and others none, sometimes in the same locale.

However, the forecast calls for snow over the coming days and conditions could improve for the last portion of the season.

"We're hopeful hunters will get out there and take advantage of the opportunities that remain," Adams said.

The DNR reported four nonfatal hunting incidents over the opening weekend.

Preliminary data for the entire nine-day season is expected to be available early next week.

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