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DNR: Snow on the ground should make for great hunting season

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A buck runs

A buck runs through a farm field along Burnell Drive in the town of Seymour this fall.

Fresh snowfall this week, combined with robust deer numbers in the region, should lead to a good deer hunting season across western Wisconsin, said Kris Johansen, Department of Natural Resources wildlife supervisor.

“We’re hoping hunters will be able to get out there and take advantage of the snow,” Johansen said Thursday. “Having that snow, for ‘sight-ability’ of deer, is a great thing.”

The Department of Natural Resources no longer releases total deer estimates across the state, but it is likely between 1.5 million and 2 million. Johansen said he doesn’t focus on the overall number for the state, instead focusing on what are regional estimates.

“Overall here in western Wisconsin, we have a robust deer population,” Johansen said. “Most of our counties in agriculture and forest mix area are trending upward.”

The nine-day gun season begins Saturday. Last year, hunters harvested 209,000 deer. A typical year is between 200,000 and 225,000 harvested, Johansen said.

About 90,000 deer have already been harvested in the archery season.

“It’s been a good fall,” Johansen said.

Johansen added that farmers should double-check the number of doe tags they can receive, as those are managed at the local level and can change from county to county.

While the snow is going to help in the ability to see and track deer, Johansen reminded people to take precautions.

“It is going to be chilly,” he said. “They need to be careful getting in and out of deer stands. It’s going to be cold and everyone needs to be cognizant of that.”

Johansen said hunters should make sure they use ropes to secure themselves into their tree stands.

The Department of Natural Resources is continuing its program of testing all submitted deer heads for chronic wasting disease. Johansen said there are testing sites across the region, and he encouraged hunters to visit the DNR website to find a nearby testing location.

“We certainly encourage it,” he said. “It’s free to the hunter; it’s part of their license.”

It is recommended that if a deer has CWD, it should not be consumed as food. Johansen said the DNR will alert someone if the deer they submitted tested positive.

The DNR also is asking hunters to donate their harvested deer so it can be given to area food pantries.

“It’s a fantastic program, especially if they don’t necessarily need more meat in their freezers,” Johansen said. “That protein, that venison, winds up going to different food shelves.”

As reported by, Wisconsin gun deer hunters harvested 14,979 fewer deer during this year's nine day gun deer season than last year. Gun deer hunters this year took 175,667 deer while hunters last year took 190,646 deer. During Tuesday's media briefing, the Department of Natural Resources State Deer Program Specialist Jeff Pritzl said it's too early to know for sure why the overall harvest is down and why certain management zones saw a significant harvest reduction. Pritzl added hunters shifting toward taking deer in earlier-starting seasons, such as archery and crossbow seasons, could be driving the drop in gun deer harvest numbers. Gun deer licenses this year were down to 564,440 from 569,203 last year. Non-resident issued licenses increased by 3,317 from last year, bringing the total to 55,647 this year. Archery and crossbow harvests have increased each year since 2018, but it's too early to tell if this season continues the trend because the 2021 season doesn't end until Jan. 9. The southern farmland management zone saw deer hunters take 17 percent fewer deer this year than last year, the biggest harvest drop across all management zones.

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This deer looks like he’s been training. Buzz60’s Tony Spitz has the details.


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