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Northern Wisconsin buck harvest up

Statewide, Wisconsin 9-day deer gun season harvest down 8% from 2020.

wisconsin deer harvest 2021
A lucky hunter drags a buck near Brule, Wis. Statewide, the Wisconsin firearms season deer harvest was down this year, but, in northern counties, hunters shot more bucks than in 2020. Steve Kuchera / 2019 file / Duluth News Tribune

Deer hunters across Wisconsin shot fewer deer during the nine-day firearms hunting season in 2021, but those in Northwestern Wisconsin tallied a few more than last year.

That was the report from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources on Tuesday after the firearms deer hunting season ended Sunday.

Statewide, hunters registered 175,667 deer, down nearly 8% from 190,646 in 2020 and down nearly 9% from the five-year average from 2016-2020. The biggest decline was in the number of antlerless deer shot in farmland areas, DNR officials said.

Across the northern forested counties, hunters registered 32,197 deer, up 9.3% from 2020 but still down 8% form the five-year average. That includes an 11.4% increase this season in the buck harvest in the north, from 17,065 to 19,602.

In Douglas County, hunters registered 2,069 deer this season, on par with 2,078 last year. But hunters in Douglas County shot a few more bucks this year, 1,514 compared to 1,501 last year.

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In Bayfield County the harvest hit 2,641, up from 2,335 in 2021. In Sawyer County the total firearms harvest hit 1,790, up from 1,724 in 2021. In Washburn County the harvest hit 2,569 this year, up from 2,540 in 2020.

DNR officials said the weather across much of the state was nearly perfect on opening day, with fairly mild temperatures with low winds, but then turned very windy and cold on the first Sunday of the season, greatly reducing the harvest.

Wisconsin DNR officials said overall deer license sales of all types — archery, crossbow, firearms, youth — were down 1.5% this year from 2021. This year the state sold 564,440 firearms hunting licenses, down 1 % from 569,203 in 2020.

DNR officials said they have seen a trend of more hunters participating in the archery season, especially crossbows, and choosing not to hunt during the firearms season — likely a major reason hunter participation and harvest during the firearms season has been generally declining in recent years.

“We’re seeing a shift in hunter effort and harvest (with more now) coming outside of the 9-day gun season,” said Jeff Pritzl, Wisconsin DNR deer program director.

Pritzl said hunting conditions were generally favorable statewide for most of the season, with relatively mild weather, except for a windstorm on the first Sunday of the season.

DNR officials said there have been additional positive CWD results from hunter-harvested deer this season but so far none of the positives have been in new areas where CWD hadn't already been found in wild deer.

There was only one firearm-related fatality across the state this year when a 65-year-old Minnesota man was shot in the chest and died Nov. 23 in Iron County when a friend accidentally knocked over a rifle that then discharged, striking the victim.

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As the News Tribune reported last week, Minnesota firearms deer hunters registered 130,820 deer statewide, down 8% from 2020 and off 10% from the five-year average.

According to data from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, final registrations for the 100 series management units, which includes all of Northeastern Minnesota, were down 6% from 2020 and down a whopping 35% from the five-year average, likely because far fewer doe permits were issued after a string of tough, deep-snow winters held deer populations down, especially north of Duluth. The buck harvest in the 100 series was actually up 4.3% this year at 24,090, compared to 23,083 in 2020.

Deer harvest was down 8% this year in the 200-series units from 2020 and down 15% in the 300-series units.

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