Firearms deer license sales down in Zone 3

(Photo by Windigo Images)

Through the third weekend of the firearms deer season, sales of deer licenses in the state were down just more than 2 percent (from 457,400 in 2016 to 446,993 in 2017), according to data from the DNR.

Obviously, license-sales declines aren’t good, and it’s worth noting that this year’s sales are the lowest since 2002 (when the total was 437,188). At the same time, it is a one-year decline so it’s tough to read too much into it.

The same can be said for declines in license sales during both the A and B firearms seasons in the southeastern part of the state. According to DNR data, hunters bought 25,844 licenses for the 3A season, compared with 27,220 in 2016 (a decrease of about 5 percent). For the 3B season, which concluded Nov. 26, they bought 11,244 licenses, compared with 12,136 last year. That’s a decline of about 7.5 percent.

I can’t help but wonder if part of the reason for the decline in license sales in Zone 3 has to do with chronic wasting disease, which now has been confirmed in 16 wild deer in southeastern Permit Area 603 (11 in late 2016 and early this year, another five this fall). I have no way to prove there’s a correlation, but it’s interesting. Perhaps people are sufficiently concerned about the disease to avoid hunting in the area.

At the same time, Zone 3 is a big area and it’s hard for me to believe someone who normally hunts in the northern part of the zone would be spooked by a disease that for now is present only in a portion of the southern part of the zone. There was a lot of standing corn throughout the zone for the majority of the season, too. I don’t know that it would cause hunters to avoid it, but I suppose it’s possible that farmers and those who work on farms simply couldn’t hunt until the harvest was complete.

Again, it’s hard to draw conclusions based on just one year of data. But it’ll be interesting to see if this is the beginning of a trend.

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