Hunters kill 106,000 deer in Wisconsin
By: By Todd Richmond, Associated Press, Superior Telegram
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Hunters killed slightly more deer during the first two days of Wisconsin's November gun season, an encouraging sign for hunters still upset with last year's weak harvest.
Hunters killed 106,404 deer on Saturday and Sunday, according to a preliminary Department of Natural Resources survey of registration stations. That's up about 6.3 percent from the 100,330 deer hunters killed over opening weekend last year and more than a third of the total number of deer hunters killed over the entire nine-day season in 2009.
The DNR went into the 2010 hunt under intense pressure from hunters and state lawmakers to deliver a better hunt than last year. Hunters in 2009 killed only 241,862 deer, down about 30 percent from the year before and down 54 percent from 2000.
Hunters complained loudly last winter that the DNR has grossly overestimated the size of the herd for years. The agency has imposed such harsh herd reduction strategies — including multiple seasons and requirements for hunters to kill antlerless deer before taking a buck — they've devastated the population.
Republican lawmakers who seized control of state government in this month's elections have said another weak harvest could mean drastic changes in the state's deer hunt structure. GOP Gov.-elect Scott Walker has called for ending multiple hunts and offering only the traditional nine-day November firearm season.
Tom Hauge, director of the DNR wildlife management program, said in a statement that Saturday offered very good hunting conditions, including snow in northwestern Wisconsin that improved tracking and visibility.
"The hunters I talked to opening day were upbeat with most saying they were seeing deer," Hauge said.
Ed Harvey, president of the Conservation Congress, a group of sportsmen who advise the DNR on policy, wasn't impressed with the opening weekend tally.
Statewide numbers mean nothing because hunting conditions and local herd density varies so widely, he said. He saw only a doe and two fawns over two days of hunting in Sheboygan County, he said.
"We've got to manage the herd by unit, not in statewide way," he said.
State Rep. Scott Gunderson, R-Waterford the likely next chairman of the Assembly Natural Resources Committee, didn't immediately return messages after hours on Monday. Neal Kedzie, the next likely chairman of the Senate natural resources committee, also didn't immediately return messages.
DNR officials said the agency sold 607,926 gun deer licenses by dawn on Saturday, down 3 percent from the same time in 2009. License sales to 10- and 11-year-old hunters under the DNR's mentored hunter program climbed 15 percent from last year, however.
Other data the DNR released Monday included:
— About 565,000 hunters were state residents. About 32,000 were nonresidents.
— More than 86,000 hunters were younger than 18.
— Nearly 9 percent of hunters were females. About 20 percent of 10- and 11-year-old hunters were girls.
— Four hunters were shot on Saturday and a fifth was shot on Sunday near Superior, but all survived.