Wednesday, February 8th, 2023
Wednesday, February 8th, 2023

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Weather plays role in early deer harvest

Editor

Madison Weather plays a big role in determining what happens
with the Wisconsin gun deer harvest, and state wildlife biologists
and hunters have their fingers crossed for excellent conditions
during the rifle and muzzleloader seasons.

The nine-day gun deer season opens Saturday, Nov. 22 and runs
through Sunday, Nov. 30. The blackpowder hunt follows right after,
running Dec. 1-10. The late Zone T season then runs Dec. 11-14.
With a fall estimate of at least 1.4 million whitetails, DNR
biologists are expecting bow, gun, and blackpowder hunters to
register at least 360,000 to 380,000 deer. With abundant antlerless
tags available, along with Zone T units and the CWD zones, the
final harvest could possibly reach 400,000, or just a shade
higher.

A lot of that will depend on the weather from now through the
middle of December, but the most critical factor is the weather on
opening weekend.

“For the gun deer season, there are a lot of positives,” said
Tom Bahti, of Green Bay, DNR Northeast Region wildlife biologist.
“License sales are up from last year, CWD is less of a concern, and
there are plenty of antlerless deer tags. But weather plays a key
factor. Opening-weekend weather will play a role in the harvest.
This year’s opening date of Nov. 22 is the second latest opener.
That always has a negative effect on buck kill.

“Plus, the long-range weather forecast shows rain for opening
weekend in the Northeast Region. Now, I don’t put a lot of stock in
a 10-day outlook, but it looks like there’s a chance for bad
weather. Opening weekend makes or breaks the harvest. That’s one of
the downfalls of a short gun season,” he said.

A spokesman for the National Weather Service in Green Bay took a
look at the extended forecast on Friday, Nov. 14.

“Things can certainly change between now and Saturday (Nov. 22),
but it looks like it will be very windy, with some precipitation.
It could be rain or snow, depending upon the area of the state,” he
said.

If there’s precipitation, it likely will come in the form of
rain in central and southern Wisconsin. The extended forecast calls
for temperatures in the mid to high 30s early in the day, with
things turning colder as the day goes on. It could be windy and
colder in the north, with possible flurries at daybreak.

Things could turn colder on Sunday, Nov. 23. Overnight lows on
Saturday could run in the upper 20s to the north and low 30s in the
south. There could be a few flurries in the north along the
Michigan border, but winds should diminish statewide.

“Based on the history of deer harvest in the nine-day gun
season, opening weekend is the most critical,” said Mike
Zeckmeister, of Antigo, DNR Northern Region wildlife biologist. “If
we have bad weather on the opener, it’s tough to make up ground.
What it boils down to is praying we have good weather on opening
weekend. It would be great to have snow statewide, but I don’t know
if we’ll get it. Snow makes a big difference in being able to see
deer.”

Bahti said that’s one advantage to hunting during the
muzzleloader season there usually is some snow. A liberal season
framework this year means there will be plenty of hunting
opportunities remaining when the muzzleloader season opens on Dec.
1.

“They guys in the north should take advantage of the
muzzleloader season because there is no December Zone T season this
year,” Bahti said. “It’s an extended hunting opportunity. They can
fill unused buck tags. There’s no one in the woods. There’s nothing
bad about it.”

As of Nov. 12, bow and gun deer license sales are up 12 percent
overall from the same time last year, but the numbers are down 22
percent from the same time in 2001.

By Nov. 13, 2001, the DNR sold 730,407 resident and nonresident
gun and bow deer tags. As of Nov. 12, there were 571,900 tags sold,
a 22-percent difference. The good news is that the 571,900 licenses
sold so far is up from the 510,772 sold by the same date in
2002.

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