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Deer harvest up 15.8%

Harvest of whitetail deer during the state’s gun-deer season was up double digits over last year, according to the Wisconsin DNR. Statewide, the total gun-deer harvest of 188,712 deer was up 15.8 percent, nearly identical to the increases in both Clark and the Marathon counties.

Marathon County hunters harvested 2,948 antlered deer and 3,721 antlerless deer, an increase over 2019 — of 11.6 percent and 19.1 percent, respectively. The county’s total season kill of 6,669 deer was up 15.7 percent over last year.

In Clark County, hunters bagged 1,899 bucks (up 18.5 percent) and 2,778 anterless deer (up 14.2), for a total harvest of 4,677 (up 15.9 percent).

According to the DNR, this year’s deer harvest totals have surpassed the total deer harvested in 2019, but harvest trends lag behind 2018, which had the highest total deer harvest since 2013. While many southern farmland zone counties saw double-digit increases in the buck harvest, the harvest was not evenly distributed across the state.

A number of units in the northern forest zone, including Ashland, Florence, Forest, Iron, Lincoln, Marinette and Price counties, experienced another year of declining buck harvest during the nine-day gun deer season. However, total buck harvest in those counties appears to be similar compared to 2019 harvest for the same period.

While opening weekend saw mild temperatures throughout the state with some snow in the northwest, DNR staff across the state reported excellent hunting conditions and weather throughout the season except for a day or two of rain and wind midweek.

The department reported more hunters buying deer licenses this year compared to 2019. As of midnight, Sunday, Nov. 29, sales for gun, bow, crossbow, sports and patron licenses reached 820,299. Of that total, 569,203 were for gun privileges, including gun, patron and sports licenses. The year-to-date sales for all deer licenses are up 3.5 percent from the same time last year.

Of the licenses sold to date, 42% were sold in person through transactions at DNR license agents. The remaining 58% of licenses were purchased online.

Female hunters remain the largest growing demographic in 2020, with the number of female hunters reaching nearly 92,312, up 12 percent from last year. The number of non-resident licenses decreased this year, likely due to COVID-19.

Nine firearm-involved injuries and one fatality for the entire 2020 nine-day gun deer season.

The fatality occurred Nov. 22 at approximately 4:27 p.m. when a 65-year-old male victim was exiting his blind with his shotgun when he tripped and the firearm discharged into his chest. The victim was pronounced dead at the scene.