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Deer totals down locally, statewide

Deer hunters in Marathon County harvested 26 percent fewer whitetails during this year’s gun-deer season compared to last year, and those in Clark County saw an 11 percent decrease in the annual deer harvest, according to preliminary statistics reported by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Marathon County hunters bagged 5,696 deer this year, split between 2,614 antlered deer and 3,082 antlerless deer. This compares with 7,698 shot last year, which included 3,653 antlered deer and 4,045 antlerless deer.

Clark County hunters registered 3,974 deer this year, down from 4,475 last year. That includes 2,390 anterless deer, down from 2,678 in 2018, and 1,584 bucks, down from 1,979 last year.

The two counties’ numbers tracked with statewide totals. Across Wisconsin, hunters took 160,796 deer, which is roughly 25 percent lower than the gun-deer kill in 2018. In that year, hunters harvested 213,972 deer.

The DNR reported fewer hunters buying 9-day gun deer licenses than last year, but not that much fewer. In 2018, 576,277 hunters purchased gun-deer licenses. That was two percent more than this year’s total, 566,664. Licenses for total deer licenses, including gun, archery and crossbow, were also down slightly. This year, the DNR sold 792,548 licenses compared with last year’s total, 803,772.

The DNR said opening weekend saw mild temperatures throughout the state with some snow in the north. Hunting conditions deteriorated throughout the remainder of the season as heavy wind, snow and rain moved through the state. The largest decrease in antlered harvest occurred in the northern forest zone, where blizzard-like conditions and signifi cant snow accumulation hindered hunter access.

Standing corn proved to be an additional factor that likely influenced success in the field. At the conclusion of the gun season, harvest was 66 percent complete, 22 days behind the 2018 harvest.

Wisconsin held the earliest possible deer season in 2018 followed this year by the latest possible season opener. When this occurred between the 2012-13 and 2007-09 seasons, there were similar declines in deer registration totals.

Deer hunters have additional opportunities: Dec. 2-11, muzzleloader; Dec. 1215, antlerless-only; Dec. 24 to Jan. 1, 2020, antlerless-only holiday hunt in select Farmland Zone counties; now through Jan. 5, 2020, continuation of the archery/ crossbow season; Jan. 5-31, 2020, extended archery/crossbow season in Farmland Zone counties.