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Statewide gun deer registration numbers up 16 percent from last year

Wisconsin’s hunting legacy runs deep. As hunters put another gun deer season in the books, preliminary license sale, harvest registration and hunting incident numbers for the 169th nine-day gun season are now available.

Preliminary figures continue to indicate that the number of deer hunters in Wisconsin increased compared to the same period for both 2019 and 2018.

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.

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.

Of the licenses sold to date, 42 percent were sold in person through transactions at DNR license agents. The remaining 58 percent of licenses were purchased online. Deer hunting license and harvest authorization sales will continue throughout the remaining deer hunting seasons.

Final license sales figures will be available in January, at which time DNR staff will perform a thorough analysis and interpretation.

Preliminary figures show that hunters registered 188,712 deer during the nine-day gun deer hunt, including 85,340 antlered and 103,372 antlerless deer. Since archery season opened Sept. 12, hunters have registered 305,171 deer statewide, showing the growing impact of earlier seasons on cumulative harvest.

Deer harvest trends since the beginning of the archery season were above 2019 levels, and this trend continued through the gun deer season. Compared to 2019, the total nine-day gun deer harvest was up 15.8 percent statewide, with buck harvest up 12.2 percent and antlerless harvest up 19 percent. All management zones showed harvest increases from 2019.

Current 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.

Harvest numbers will climb as hunters enjoy additional hunting opportunities: -- Nov. 30-Dec. 9: Statewide muzzleloader hunt -- Dec. 10-13: Statewide four-day antlerless-only hunt; -- Dec. 24-Jan. 1, 2021: Nine-day antlerless-only holiday hunt in select Farmland Zone counties; -- Now until Jan. 3, 2021: Remaining archery and crossbow seasons; and -- Jan. 4-31, 2021: Extended archery and crossbow seasons in select Farmland Zone counties.