Despite hearing from the DNR that excitement ran high throughout the state over the 2014 gun deer season opener, the state’s buck kill dropped yet again when preliminary “call-in” numbers put the 2014 opening weekend buck kill at 48,926 antlered critters.
That number is down 9 percent from the 2013 opening weekend buck kill of 53,865 animals. And that 2013 buck kill was down from 2012.
The total deer kill from opening weekend came in at 90,281 deer. That number includes the 41,355 antlerless deer from around the state, including antlerless deer from the buck-only units of northern Wisconsin where teens are allowed to shoot does and fawns.
The 2014 preliminary harvest of 90,281 is down 18.5 percent from the 2013 total opening weekend kill of 110,797 deer.
The 2014 antlerless kill of 41,355 is down 27 percent from the 2013 antlerless kill of 56,932.
This year, the DNR’s post-opener official comments included acknowledgement of a subject that northern Wisconsin deer hunters have been telling the agency for several years – predators are playing a role in low deer numbers up north.
“As we communicated throughout the past year, many factors influence deer numbers in the north that include severe winters, comparatively more large predators than in years past, land ownership patterns, and habitat issues to name a few,” said DNR big game ecologist Kevin Wallenfang. “We are attempting to increase deer numbers in the north, so many counties have a buck-only season framework this year which is intended to allow herd growth.”
Wallenfang acknowledged that northern Wisconsin deer numbers were dropping even before the herd was hit with the two past severe winters.
The DNR sold 589,830 gun deer licenses sold by midnight, Nov. 21, prior to the start of the season Saturday, Nov. 22. That’s a 4.2 percent (down by 26,042 licenses) drop from last year.
Approximately 22,000 new hunters bought deer licenses tfor the first time, or for the first time in 10 years. Female hunters continue to increase in number, and accounted for 35 percent of resident first time gun deer licenses and 36 percent of resident first time junior gun deer licenses.