Archery, crossbow deer hunting seasons open Saturday
The first chance this year for Wisconsin’s hunters to pursue white-tailed deer begins Saturday morning with the opening of the annual archery and crossbow seasons statewide.
The two seasons run through Jan. 7, 2024 and go even longer –– through Jan. 31––in 31 counties that have extended seasons to help reduce local deer herds.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the early archery and crossbow seasons are a great opportunity for hunters to harvest antlerless deer before they change their patterns and experience additional hunting pressure during the gun deer season.
In Taylor County, where 8,520 antlerless permits were initially issued for private hunting lands, 5,125 of those permits still remained as of Wednesday afternoon. The 595 public land permits sold out quickly last month.
Permit availability was reduced slightly by the county’s Deer Advisory Council back in May in response to some high snow totals in the winter of 2022-23. Jeff Pritzl, the DNR’s Deer Program Specialist said Wednesday there is hope that where winter was the toughest the effects may not be as bad as initially feared.
“Kind of the far northwest counties like Iron, Ashland, Bayfield, Douglas and Sawyer are the main ones, and even portions of Vilas and Price counties had really heavy snow this past winter,” Pritzl said. “But fortunately through monitoring and checking out in the field in terms of winter mortality, that didn’t seem to be all that significant, which was a good thing. But what it also can influence is the fawn survival rates this spring. That we won’t have a good handle on until over the next couple of months as we monitor fawn-doe ratios. That still is a possibility that we might see some suppressed fawndoe ratios in that part of the state.”
Other than that, Pritzl said the DNR isn’t expecting any other factors to negatively impact the early part of Wisconsin’s archery season.
“Our overwinter population was estimated at 7% larger than it had been the previous year at that time,” he said. “So we’re experiencing some population growth, which has followed the trend we’ve seen over the last number of years.
The deer herd is going into this fall in as good of numbers as last year if not higher in most parts of the state.”
Before the height of the archery season and the deer mating season begins in mid- to late October, Pritzl said hunters likely will want to focus on food sources while strategizing their hunts.
“It’s going to be a little warmer and looks like damp opening weekend, which isn’t great, but it’s still opening weekend so people are going to be out there breaking in the season,” Pritzl said. “As far as I know across the state, we really don’t have much of a mosquito hatch going on. That can also put a damper on earlyseason activity so that’s good news. The acorn crop, as far as food sources for deer, it sounds like we have a really good acorn crop going in many parts of the state so that’s something hunters should take under consideration in terms of their strategy and where deer are going to be spending time. In the agricultural part of the state most of our crop production and progress is pretty much right on schedule, so no surprises there as to how that might influence deer behavior.”
Chronic wasting disease remains a major DNR focus this fall. DNR deer herd health specialist Erin Larson said four northwest Wisconsin counties will soon be added to the list of counties with baiting and feeding bans, while Burnett and Calumet counties are due to come off that list in the first week of October.
“That’s due to a CWD positive in a deer farm in southeast Washburn County and that facility is within 10 miles of three other counties so all four of those counties will have a new baiting and feeding ban this fall,” Larson said. “That’s Washburn, Barron, Sawyer and Rusk. The date of that is yet to be determined but will likely still be a few weeks out.”
Taylor County is under a ban for the third straight deer hunting season, but if no new detections pop up by next September that ban should be lifted just prior to the 2024 hunting season.
Larson said the DNR’s surveillance efforts for the disease will focus mainly on the southern and central parts of the state, but any harvested deer in the state can be tested for CWD. Hunters should routinely visit https://dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/WildlifeHabitat/registersample to find sites such as self-serve sampling kiosks or carcass disposal dumpsters to do their part in monitoring the disease and preventing its spread.
According to the site, self-sampling kiosks will be available at Medford’s DNR Ranger Station and the Pershing Wildlife Area to start the season.
“We will have at least one dumpster in every county available for hunter-harvested deer carcass waste,” Larson said. “A lot of those locations may not be on our map now. Check back frequently for updates. Some of these locations are not available until a little later in the season and they’re not put up on the map until they are open or, in the case of the dumpsters, out on the landscape and available to go to.”
For archery and crossbow hunters, Lt. Mike Weber, the DNR’s hunter education administrative warden, said treestand safety is the focus at this time of year.
“We always encourage hunters when they’re getting out there to inspect their stands, make sure they still function well and that the straps are good,” Weber said. “Then obviously any time a hunter is going up or down a tree or is sitting, make sure they wear that full-body safety harness. It’s definitely going to keep you safe out there when you’re going up and down a tree make sure you always use a safety line so you’re always connected to the tree and then always ensure you have three points of contact when going up and down.”
Successful hunters are reminded to register their deer electronically by 5 p.m. the day after the deer is recovered using GameReg online, by phone or at a participating registration station.