By Tim Eisele Correspondent
Madison — Preliminary registration totals show Wisconsin hunters
registered 336,211 deer during the 2006 nine-day gun season, which
was the state’s 156th deer season (there was no open season on deer
prior to 1851).
Tom Hauge, DNR director of wildlife management, told the Natural
Resources Board at its Dec. 5 meeting that this compares to 312,431
deer for the same time period last year.
“We see a modest increase primarily on the antlerless side,
perhaps because of the earn-a-buck units, but we won’t know until
we can see the unit-specific trends,” Hauge said. The preliminary
harvest includes 206,562 antlerless deer (compared to 174,448 last
year) and 129,649 antlered deer (137,983 in 2005).
“I think there is a lot of interest in the upcoming December
antlerless deer hunt, which in the past was not offered north of
Hwy. 8, and we will be interested to see what the results are,” he
Totalling all the registrations for the early bow, early gun
(youth and disabled and CWD hunts) and the nine-day November hunt,
the preliminary deer registrations are 1.5 percent ahead of 2005
registrations for the same period.
Hunting conditions this year were favorable, although some
hunters would have preferred snow; others liked the warmer
This year’s season included 21 EAB units, 54 herd-control units,
no October hunt and no hunter’s choice, a two-day youth deer hunt,
free tags, and a statewide four-day December antlerless gun
The early archery season harvest was 6 percent above last
year’s, with a preliminary total of 73,369 deer registered. The
antlerless harvest was 49,214, compared to 37,400 at this time in
This was the fifth year of a youth deer hunt, but the first year
of a statewide hunt, and approximately 4,000 deer were shot Oct.
The harvest of buck fawns has always been of interest to
hunters, who are concerned the harvest of buck fawns is higher than
they’d like it to be, but in 2005, 18.2 percent of the antlerless
harvest was buck fawns. Historically, that number has been about 21
percent, so Hauge said he is not seeing anything that is out of the
ordinary, or of concern.
Using the automated license system, the DNR pre-qualified
hunters for the 2006 EAB units.
“For people who didn’t prequalify but shot an antlerless deer in
an EAB unit this year, they received a purple pre-qualification
sticker this year, and they have to remember that if they didn’t
use it they should not throw it away, as it will be valid next
year,” Hauge said.
This year’s registration stubs include information on whether
deer are shot on public or private land. The stubs from the early
archery harvest show that 18.8 percent of the kill was on public
land and 79 percent was on private land, which is in line with the
amount of public and private land available in the state.
“We can also look at deer harvest by date, and looking at the
date from early fall through the end of the season in 2005, the
firearms season stands out in effectiveness. It is really the gun
deer season that we rely on for deer herd control,” Hauge said.
The top deer registration stations in the state in 2006 were
Medford, Waupaca, Shiocton, and Neillsville.
Deer donations this year are a little over 8,000 deer, compared
to about 6,000 last year.
This year, CWD testing took place in the non-CWD areas in the
West-Central Region. So far, 7,000 deer have been sampled in that
region, but tests are being done in the CWD zones first, since that
is where CWD is most likely to be. Results should be known in
Gerry O’Brien, NRB chairman, inquired about the expenses for CWD
efforts, and Hauge said that over 50 percent of the total
expenditures for CWD since 2002 have been to generate test results
Funds are going toward testing, carcass disposal, and food
pantry programs, to benefit hunters.
Randy Stark, DNR chief conservation warden, said wardens noted
an increasing number of female hunters, but a reduction in Hmong
hunters this gun season. They also noted increased use of ATVs by
This year there were 10 total firearms-related incidents,
including one fatality (Clark County). Five of the accidents (50
percent) were self-inflicted, five occurred during deer
drives, five involved members of the same hunting party, and one
included a juvenile.
“In most every accident, we find that it was a result of
breaking one of the four basic rules of hunting safety,” Stark
said. “The season had 2.1 incidents per 100,000 hunters, which is
pretty safe. Take 100,000 people who get in their car every day and
more than that will be in accidents.”
Baiting and feeding were at the top of several lists. Hotline
calls involved dead deer, followed by baiting and feeding
complaints. And, the top violation this year, the same as last
year, was the illegal use of bait.
Other top 10 violations include transporting a loaded gun in a
vehicle, transporting an uncased gun in a vehicle, shooting within
50 feet of a road or across a roadway, failure to validate a deer
tag, hunting deer before or after hours, feeding wild animals,
hunting within 50 feet of a paved road center, hunting without a
license, and hunting without blaze orange.
Stark noted that wardens apprehended several felons who were
hunting with guns, and issued two citations to hunters who shot two
albino deer. There were 32 cases of hunting without a license,
which is up 39 percent from last year, and there were complaints of
people hunting with the aid of a helicopter and an ultra-light
This year there were nine wolves shot during the season, four of
which were collared. Three wolves were shot in Douglas County.
“We are also seeing an increasing frequency and intensity of
conflict in the field, brought about by the changing landscape,
ownership patterns, as large parcels are broken into smaller ones,
with more property lines,” Stark said. “We see smaller parcels and
everyone wants to throw bait out to keep deer on their
Large tracts of industrial forest land that were previously open
for hunting are now being closed and leased. Displaced hunters must
go to public land, and groups that had been there for a number of
years are now being crowded by other hunters.
Wardens say that as more houses are being built in rural areas,
and people who live in those houses don’t hunt, there are more
opportunities for conflict.
This year, wardens noted an increased number of shootings within
100 yards of residences and reckless use of firearms.
Leasing is becoming more common, and in some cases wardens say
that people of ordinary means are being priced out of hunting.
Who are the
Diane Brookbank, director of DNR’s Bureau of Customer Service
and Licensing, said that DNR license sales and revenues increased
this season, with the sale of 644,906 gun licenses, which is up
3,135 licenses over 2005. A total of 10,822 licenses were sold
during the season.
Archery license sales also are up 9 percent from last year, with
the sale of 196,726 archery licenses (not including Conservation
“Never in the history since we have been automated have we seen
the volume that we did this year just before the deer season,”
Brookbank said. “Forty-five percent of the licenses were issued
during the week before the gun season, with 12.5 percent purchased
on Friday, the day before the season.”
License agents handled a tremendous volume, and by 5 p.m. on
Friday the system was peaking at 192 transactions per minute, she
This year the DNR developed new tags, which was the result of a
special committee that made recommendations to simplify the tagging
The new tags were specific to weapon, gender of deer, and
location of use, and although there were some questions, it
appeared to be an improvement and will be continued.
New $2 antlerless tags were available in unlimited
“Overall, our customer contacts were down, and that was probably
due to simplification of tags,” she said. “But, what we heard the
most was that hunters didn’t understand the difference between
herd-control units and herd-reduction units, and we have to work on
that more next year. There also were questions on earn-a-buck
So far DNR has sold 201,869 antlerless deer tags, with 125,118
for herd-control and EAB units. A total of 5,859 CWD permits were
issued, with 2,741 DEZ landowner permits and 3,118 DEZ hunter
Who are the deer hunters? Well, 94 percent (609,256) are
residents, 7.8 percent are female, 11.7 percent are youth (under
the age of 18), and 7.6 percent are senior citizens (65 or
Other states of residence for gun hunters included Minnesota
(16,349); Illinois (9,062); Michigan (1,150); Florida (1,039); and
Iowa (805). Some of the 84 foreign countries where hunters came
from included Venezuela, Spain, Poland, Portugal, Guam, and
More than 90 percent of all sales are from license agents, with
6.7 percent at DNR offices and 3 percent by internet.
The highest number of licenses are sold over the internet
(18,825), but the most over-the-counter licenses are sold at Mills
Fleet Farm stores – with 14 of the top 17 sales locations –
followed by Gander Mountain.
Brookbank said that some of the bureau’s new initiatives include
bi-lingual customer service representatives, including Hmong and
soon Spanish-speaking employees. Through a new (800) number people
can call (800) 282-0367 and push No. 2 and be routed to a
The Automated License Issuance System is being renewed and it
will include new touch screen technology, will eliminate the need
to download software for updates at license agents, will include
recreational vehicle registrations and safety education courses,
and will save the DNR $200,000 per year.
“It will even allow kids to enroll in safety classes online,”