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Wisconsin hunters take 195,647 — 29 % fewer — deer this season

From the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

-- A survey of Wisconsin deer registration stations conducted by the state Department of Natural Resources has yielded a preliminary tally of 195,647 for the nine-day November gun deer hunt.

This includes a buck tally of 86,251 and an antlerless tally of 109,396; preliminary totals are roughly 29 percent lower than the 2008 preliminary harvest count in 2008 was 276,895.

A final report will be published in late winter. The current total does not include harvest information from the archery, October antlerless gun deer hunt, muzzleloader, December antlerless deer gun hunt or late archery seasons.

“Deer populations are variable throughout the state,” said Keith Warnke, DNR’s big game biologist, “and we believe people when they say they did not see deer in their hunting area. We have also received reports from successful camps. As always, local populations make all the difference.”

“Wildlife management and especially deer management is a process of continual adjustment,” Warnke explained. “In response to hunter input we adjusted seasons this year to reflect lower populations across the north and central forests and suspended EAB in many areas.”

DNR wildlife officials anticipated the total harvest would be down because of changes in season structure that significantly reduced the antlerless deer harvest, lower fawn production and tough weather conditions for deer and hunters alike.

In some northeastern units it was not possible to shoot an antlerless deer and in other northern region units the small supply of bonus antlerless deer tags did not meet demand. Careful adjustment of antlerless tag numbers is an important tool in managing deer numbers.

“There are still days to hunt in 2009 in herd control units where deer are above goal and in CWD units. The muzzleloader hunt is underway and the December antlerless hunt is around the corner.”

In February, DNR biologists will compare unit-level harvest numbers against overwinter population estimates and will adjust the recommended season structure for 2010 to address any significant trends.

“A pillar of Wisconsin deer management is the accurate harvest figures provided by hunters,” said DNR wildlife biologist Jeff Pritzl. “Periods of stable deer populations have always been relatively short-lived in Wisconsin. Mandatory deer registration allows us to respond quickly to changing population levels. We have annually adapted our harvest strategies, and will continue to do so in consideration of what the 2009 harvest tells us about the deer population.”

“This year, in response to hunter input, we moved 29 units from earn-a-buck to herd control status and 38 units from herd control to regular unit status. The total number of regular units grew from 21 in 2008 to 59 this year,” Warnke said. “The result was inevitably less antlerless opportunity and lower antlerless harvest numbers.”

A table of county by county ( harvest broken down by DNR region, with a comparison to the 2008 preliminary harvest is available on the DNR website.