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Opening weekend buck harvest down 43.7% in county

660 bucks, 529 antlerless deer registered in county during opening weekend of gun deer season

Whether it was the late start date, surprising lack of snow cover considering the frigid start to the month, a simple lack of deer movement or excessive number of standing crops in some parts of the state, success was more difficult to find this opening weekend compared to last year for Wisconsin’s deer hunters.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources released its opening weekend deer harvest tally late Tuesday morning for the nine-day gun deer hunting season and the early numbers show a significant statewide decrease in the pace of registered deer over the first two days of last season.

Hunters in Taylor County registered 660 antlered bucks through Sunday, down 43.7% from the 1,173 registered on opening weekend a year ago. Even with more harvest authorizations made available, the antlerless kill was down through the weekend 14.7 percent with 529 deer registered as compared to 620 a year ago.

That adds up to a total of 1,189 registered deer, down 33.7% from last year’s opening-weekend count of 1,793.

There were 675 public-land antlerless authorizations available in Taylor County this year, up from 500 last fall, which was the first year the general public could obtain them for public land since 2013. There were 5,600 private-land authorizations sold, up from 5,000 in 2018.

On one hand, conditions were favorable for hunters as slightly above normal temperatures should have allowed hunters to stay in the field as long as they liked. On the other hand, the loss of the snow cover that was present earlier in the month may have made it tougher for hunters to track and see deer. The Nov. 23 start date is also the latest possible start date to the nine-day season. Last year’s opening date was the earliest one possible, Nov.17, and last year’s hunters may have been able to take better advantage of rutting bucks still trailing and searching for does.

The last time the starting dates went from earliest to latest was 2012 to 2013. Opening-weekend registrations in Taylor County that year dropped 20.6% with bucks and rose 2.6% for does for a total drop of 10.2%. The 2013 opening weekend also was brutally cold and started a record-breaking season of winter severity.

The figures released Tuesday show an across-theboard decline in all areas of Wisconsin. The total number of deer registered was 46,866 bucks (down 30.7%), 43,420 antlerless deer (down 21.7%) and 90,286 total deer (down 26.7%).

Taylor County is part of the DNR’s Northern Forest Region, which experienced a 36.9% decline in total number of registrations for opening weekend compared to last year.

The Southern Farmland Region was down 26.2% overall, the Central Farmland Region, which includes Clark, Marathon and Chippewa counties, was down 23% overall and the Central Forest Region was down 31.6% overall.

In the Northern Forest, Price County dropped 42.6% on bucks and 31.8% overall, Rusk County is down 36.2% on bucks and 32.1% overall and Lincoln County is down 47.7% on bucks and 48.1% overall.

The season runs through Sunday, Dec. 1 and will be followed by the 10-day muzzleloader season, which runs through Dec. 11. The archery and crossbow seasons also remain in effect.