By Tim Eisele Correspondent
Madison — Deer hunting is alive and well in Wisconsin, according
to Tom Hauge, DNR director of wildlife management.
“Deer season is a big deal in Wisconsin, and it is so much more
than the numbers,” Hauge said in summarizing the 2005 gun season,
the 155th season since deer seasons were closed in 1851.
Hauge gave his annual state-of-the-season report to the Natural
Resources Board (NRB) at its Dec. 7 meeting in Madison. All of the
harvest numbers he offered are preliminary, as final numbers won’t
be ready until February.
Wisconsin bowhunters had a record year in 2004, killing more
than 100,000 deer during the season. By the end of the early season
in 2004 they had registered 85,772 deer (27,383 bucks and 58,389
antlerless deer). So far this year during the early archery season
(from Sept. 17 to Nov. 17), archery hunters registered 69,800 deer
(31,400 bucks and 37,400 antlerless deer), which is closer to the
During the early firearms hunts in 2005 (Zone T, CWD, and youth
hunts), a total of about 41,000 deer were registered. This kill is
not as large as last year when 92 units were in Zone T, compared to
only 63 this year, and this year no units were in earn-a-buck
Hauge said the nine-day gun season showed a slight increase in
the buck harvest and a drop in antlerless deer taken. The
preliminary total for the 2005 season (Nov. 19-27) is 312,519 deer
(137,955 bucks and 174,564 antlerless deer). This is a 12-percent
increase in bucks from 2004 and a 3-percent decrease in antlerless
The harvest appears to be about average for the state. It’s not
as high as the almost 450,000 deer registered in 2000, but not as
low as the just over 200,000 registered in 1993.
“Of course, an average day of deer hunting is better than a day
at the office,” Hauge said. “It’s also interesting that compared to
last year, although 30,000 fewer deer have been registered, people
appear to be more happy.”
Hunting conditions were above average, with snow on the ground
to help make tracking and deer dragging easier.
The DNR contracted Data Shop, Inc., of Janesville, to collect
all deer stubs this year and create a database on the deer season.
If there are any EAB units in 2006, hunters who killed antlerless
deer this year will automatically be qualified to shoot a buck in
2006. The database also will allow the DNR to look at influences of
things like weather and the effect on harvest.
This was the sixth year of a deer donation program, and 58
counties and 131 processors participated. A total of 6,200 deer
were donated, which is down about 30 percent from 2004 when 9,600
deer were donated.
The 2005 season was the fourth season since the discovery of
chronic wasting disease, which Hauge said will be a long-term
management issue. The DNR began a second round of “out-state”
sampling, this year in the northeast corner of the state to
determine if CWD has cropped up elsewhere.
The pattern of positive deer is occurring in areas where they’ve
been found in the past, but state officials are finding a few
dispersed “positives.” The DNR found two in eastern Dane County and
one in southern Richland County in the same township where a
positive deer was found in 2002, but none were found in 2003 or
“One of the features of this disease is that it can be very
localized,” Hauge said. “We can do a lot of sampling in the area,
but if we don’t hit the right spot we could have been misled. Most
of the positives are right in the Disease Eradication Zone.”
Since 2002, a total of 494 CWD-positive deer have been found in
Wisconsin. More than 98 percent of the positives found in 2005 are
in the Disease Eradication Zone.
As of Nov. 7, the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory had
received 7,206 samples from the DEZ (of which 3,431 were analyzed
and 19 were positive); 8,423 samples from the Herd Reduction Zone
(with 3,655 analyzed and five positives), and 4,974 from the
remainder of the state, primarily the Northeast Region, none of
which had yet been tested.
Hauge expects to have most results by mid-January.
Kevin Huggins, of the DNR Bureau of Customer Service and
Licensing, said gun deer license sales were impressive.
“Sales during the last 10 days leading up to this year’s gun
deer season were remarkable,” Huggins said. “On Thursday and Friday
before opening day, the DNR exceeded the 2004 sales total each day
by 18 percent, and on Friday alone the DNR sold 11 percent of the
total gun deer licenses.”
A total of 641,789 gun deer licenses were sold this year, which
is within 1 percent of the total sold in 2004 (649,955). On the
Friday before the deer gun season, the Automated License Issuance
System (ALIS) was handling 174 transactions per minute by the early
This was the second year that the DNR allowed license sales
during the season, and the DNR sold 9,852 licenses during the
The DNR sold 172,313 antlerless deer (bonus) tags and 24,419
Zone T tags. An additional 2,939 antlerless tags were issued to
farmers who qualified for free permits.
Of those who bought gun deer licenses, 95 percent are state
residents, 7.6 percent are females, 30 percent are under 30 years
of age, 11.7 percent were under the age of 18, and 7.3 percent were
65 years or older.
Hunters from all 50 states bought licenses, including 15,569
from Minnesota, 9,076 from Illinois, and 1,121 from Michigan.
License sales were 93 percent from non-DNR locations with the
top stores being Mills Fleet Farm in Appleton (10,963).
Among Wisconsin counties, the highest numbers of gun deer
licenses were sold in Dane (29,597), Brown (28,498), and Waukesha
Archery license sales increased from 2004 with a total of
179,853 (compared to 177,159 in 2004), which does not include the
sale of conservation patron licenses.