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Northern Wisconsin deer harvest down, statewide up

Registrations over opening weekend were down 16.2% in Douglas County compared to 2019.

A hunter drags a 2018 opening-day buck out of the woods in Douglas County. Wisconsin's opening-weekend deer registrations were up statewide but down considerably in northern counties compared to 2019. (File / News Tribune)

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources reported Tuesday that 95,257 deer were harvested by gun and registered statewide during the opening weekend of the 2020 nine-day firearms deer hunt, up 2.2% compared to 93,155 in 2019.

A total of 49,025 bucks were registered on opening weekend, up 1.6% compared to 48,252 in 2019.

Leading up to the nine-day firearms season, harvest numbers for the archery and crossbow seasons are up 17% for bucks from 2019 and 17.5% for antlerless deer.

Preliminary registration figures in the northern and central forests showed a drop in harvest totals compared to the opening weekend in 2019, while the farmland zones saw an increase.

In Douglas County, 861 deer were registered over the weekend, down 16.2% from 965 deer last year. The buck harvest was down 12.2%.


In Bayfield County, hunters registered 996 deer over the weekend, down 10.8% from last year. The buck harvest was down 9.7%.

In Ashland County, hunters registered 289 deer, down 8.8% from 317 in 2019. The buck harvest was down 15.8%.

In Sawyer County, the overall weekend harvest was 743 deer, up 6.6% from 697 deer in 2019 thanks to a 35.3% increase in antlerless deer harvested. The buck harvest was down 8.3%.

While hunter reports of deer activity varied around the state, most regions experienced excellent hunting conditions with cool temperatures, high visibility and low wind. Many reports indicated that a coating of snow as well as cooler conditions freezing some of the wetter locations would have made the conditions better and increased access. Light snow is expected in much of Wisconsin mid-week, potentially improving conditions and opportunities for hunters to stay afield through the remaining season.

Hunters are required to register their deer by 5 p.m. the day after harvest through GameReg, the game registration system. All deer harvests must be reported at gowild.wi.gov/wildlife/harvest or by phone at 844-426-3734.

There were four gunshot injuries suffered by hunters over the weekend, including a fatal accident in Door County where a 65-year-old male victim/shooter was exiting his blind with his shotgun when he tripped and the firearm discharged into his chest. The man was pronounced dead at the scene.

On Nov. 21, a 62-year-old man hunting in Washburn County was struck in the upper arm and face by a rifle round. The 19-year-old shooter and the victim were participating in a deer drive together. The victim was taken by helicopter for medical treatment. His condition was not available.

Meanwhile preliminary figures indicate that the number of deer hunters in Wisconsin increased compared to the same period for both 2019 and 2018. As of Nov. 23, sales for gun, bow, crossbow, sports and patron licenses reached 810,233, up 3.2% from last year. Of that total, 559,591 were for firearms licenses.

John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at jmyers@duluthnews.com.
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