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Wisconsin hunters took 7 percent fewer deer than last year

During the just-finished gun deer season, Wisconsin deer hunters shot 7 percent fewer deer than last year. A tough year for deer and a frigid opening weekend are being blamed for the drop.

Preliminary numbers show hunters shot about 227,000 deer during this year's nine-day hunt. Last year hunters bagged about 244,000. Kevin Wallenfang, a big game ecologist for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, says they didn't expect the numbers to be down this much, but there are many factors playing into the end result. "Last year we had the earliest opener possible, this year we had the latest opener possible, as it falls on the calendar."

For most of the state, this year's mating season or "rut" was already over, which meant deer moved around less. Wallenfang says a long winter also took a toll on the size of the herd. "This year we are following a very tough winter," he said. "We know that we lost some deer and we also know that we had a below-average fawn production in the spring. Last year was just the opposite."

Also, Wallenfang says, this year's weather kept many hunters indoors, especially on opening weekend. Just because hunters may not have gotten a deer this year, however, doesn't mean deer aren't out there. "In much of the state -- and this is going to be hard for people to swallow when they hear it -- in much of the state we do have extremely high deer numbers still."

Hunters in western Wisconsin took the most deer, claiming nearly 37 percent of the total kill. Northern Wisconsin had the fewest deer registered.