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County opening weekend deer hunt up 8.24%

Favorable conditions benefited Taylor County hunters this year as they bagged 659 bucks and 628 antlerless deer during the opening weekend of the 9-day gun deer season.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resource (DNR) released its opening weekend deer harvest tally late Tuesday morning for the 9-day gun deer hunting season and the early numbers show an increase in harvest activity.

In total, 95,257 deer were harvested by gun and registered statewide during the opening weekend of the 2020 nine-day gun deer hunt, compared to 93,155 in 2019. A total of 49,025 bucks were registered on opening weekend, compared to 48,252 in 2019.

Leading up to the nine-day season, harvest numbers for the archery and crossbow seasons show hunters are choosing to get out during that season and harvest deer as buck harvest was up 17% and antlerless harvest is up 17.5% statewide.

While hunter reports of deer activity varied around the state, most regions experienced excellent hunting conditions with cool temperatures, high visibility and low wind. Many reports indicated that the two things that would have made the conditions better would have been a coating of snow as well as cooler conditions freezing some of the wetter locations which would have increased access.

In Taylor County, the conditions were favorable for hunters over the weekend with seasonal temperatures, little wind and only light precipitation on Sunday afternoon. Lack of snow cover did not help area hunters. The late start date to the season likely resulted in limited, if any rutting activity by bucks.

Preliminary registration figures in the northern and central forests showed a dip in harvest totals compared to the opening weekend in 2019 while the farmland zones saw an increase. Light snow is expected in much of Wisconsin mid-week, potentially improving conditions and opportunities for hunters to stay afield through the remaining season.

While the Taylor County opening weekend harvest was up nearly 100 animals from 1,189 registered deer a year ago, the totals are still far below 2018’s total of 1,793 deer taken in the opening weekend.

Licenses up

According to the DNR, preliminary figures indicate that the number of deer hunters in Wisconsin increased compared to the same period for both 2019 and 2018.

As of midnight Monday, Nov. 23, sales for gun, bow, crossbow, sports and patron licenses reached 810,233. Of that total, 559,591 were for gun privileges only, including gun, patron and sports licenses. The year-to-date sales for all deer licenses are up 3.2% from the same time last year.

Female hunters are the largest growing demographic in 2020, with the number of female hunters reaching nearly 90,000, up 9% from last year. The number of nonresident licenses decreased this year, likely due to COVID- 19.

Of the total licenses sold, 58% were sold online, and 42% were sold by DNR license agents, which includes private businesses across the state.

Locally, in Taylor County there were additional hunting opportunities with the county having 1,000 public-land authorizations and 8,350 private-land authorizations this year. This compares to 675 public-land authorizations and 5,600 private-land authorizations last year. Final license sales figures will be available in January.

The firearm seasons have only just begun. There continues to be hunting throughout the rest of the season that ends on Nov. 29. In addition, the muzzleloader season runs from Nov. 30 – Dec. 9, and a statewide antlerless- only season occurring from Dec. 10 – 13.