Deer hunters in Wisconsin harvested 17.6% fewer deer during the state's all-important firearms season, adding to a downward trend experienced by neighbors in Minnesota.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources announced the results Tuesday, saying the worst hunting was in the northern forest zone, especially in counties closer to Duluth than to Green Bay. Wisconsin DNR deer program specialist Jeff Pritzl said northwest Wisconsin is where the heaviest snow fell last winter, hurting the deer population.
During the Badger State's nine-day firearms season, which ended Sunday, hunters took 173,942 whitetails, the DNR said. The antlerless harvest was down 20% statewide while the buck harvest was down 14.7%, according to DNR numbers.
Year to date, including archery hunting that began two months ago, Wisconsin hunters have harvested 266,000 deer vs. 145,814 taken in Minnesota. In both states, the primary nine-day firearms season dominates the annual deer harvest. Both states allow additional opportunities through the end of December, but those impacts are marginal on overall results.
Statewide in Minnesota, the cumulative deer harvest this fall was down 7.45% from a year ago once the main firearms season ended Nov. 19. In northeastern Minnesota, where state wildlife officials say deer numbers are very low, the whitetail harvest this year plummeted 35% below the five-year mean.
Dan Storm, a Wisconsin DNR deer research scientist, said hunters across the state experienced largely comfortable conditions during the firearms hunt. Of course, that doesn't equate to weather that's necessarily good for deer movement during shooting hours, he said.
As in Minnesota, Wisconsin continues to lose hunters. But Storm said overall Wisconsin deer license sales in 2023 are down less than 1% from a year ago. As of Monday, Wisconsin DNR had sold 788,697 deer licenses. Nonresidents bought 51,000 of those licenses, with one-third of those tags bought by Minnesotans.
According to comparative data in Minnesota, overall deer license sales this fall have been running 3% lower than last year. As of Nov. 20, the Minnesota DNR had sold 405,454 deer licenses for the 2023 season. State wildlife officials say it's become common for participation in deer hunting to fall by a few percentage points each year.