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Six hunting incidents, including the death of an 11-year-old, mar the 9-day gun deer season opening weekend

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Wisconsin saw a relatively high number of hunting incidents during the opening weekend of the 9-day gun deer season.

Six people were shot, including one that resulted in the death of an 11-year-old boy.

For perspective, last year there were six shooting incidents during the entire 9-day gun deer season and no deaths.

This year, all the incidents have either been someone accidentally shooting another person in their hunting party or themselves.

  • Sauk County, Woodland Township: On Nov. 19, 2022, at approximately 11:10 a.m., a 22-year-old male was the victim of a gunshot wound to the thigh. During a deer drive, a 20-year-old male shooter, who was a driver in the hunting party, shot at a running deer, striking the victim, who was a stander in the hunting party. The victim was transported to the hospital and treated.  
  • Marquette County, Mecan Township: On Nov. 19, 2022, at approximately noon, while in a ground blind in a field, a 69-year-old female was the victim of a gunshot wound to the thigh. A 16-year-old male shooter was hunting from his ground blind in an open field, separated by a pond from the victim, when he shot at a deer, striking the victim. The victim was transported to a nearby hospital and treated. The shooter and victim were members of same hunting party.  
  • Oneida County, Little Rice Township: On Nov. 19, 2022, at approximately 1:30 p.m., a 24-year-old male suffered a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the foot. The victim was repairing his rifle sling when his hand froze to the firearm. As he pulled his hand off the firearm, he hit the trigger, causing an unwanted discharge. The victim received medical treatment for injury.
  • Iowa County, Mifflin Township: On Nov. 19, 2022, at the close of hunting hours, a 15-year-old male suffered a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the foot. The victim was unloading his firearm while sitting in the passenger seat of a truck when the firearm discharged. The victim was transported to a local hospital and treated.
  • Green Lake County, Seneca Township: On Nov. 20, 2022, shortly after 9 a.m., an 11-year-old male was the victim of a gunshot wound to the chest. A 41-year-old male shooter attempted to unload his firearm while the firearm was placed in the backseat of a vehicle. The firearm discharged, striking the victim. The victim was flown via Med Flight to a hospital where he died. The shooter and victim were members of same hunting party.
  • Forest County, Town of Hiles: On Nov. 20, 2022, in the afternoon hours, a 33-year-old male suffered a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his little finger. The victim was manipulating his handgun when it discharged. The victim was treated for the injury. 

DNR Major April Dombrowski says despite these incidents, Wisconsin hunting seasons are much safer than they used to be.
“Hunting continues to be safe in Wisconsin. If we look back, in 1966 we had a total of 264 hunting incidents,” said Dombrowski.

Wisconsin's 10-year average is approximately six hunting incidents for the gun deer hunt.

In the last five years, there’s been at most 22 hunting incidents throughout the entire year for all of the state’s hunting seasons.

Most years have either zero or one related shooting death.

Dombrowski attributes the safer hunting seasons to increased hunter education programs first introduced in 1967.

Harvest Totals

The Wisconsin DNR is calling the 9-day gun deer season a “return to normal” in terms of harvest totals.

More than 102,000 deer were registered statewide over the weekend.

It’s a 15% increase over last year, but on par with the average opening weekend harvest.

A total of 55,503 bucks were registered on opening weekend, compared to 47,529 in 2021. This is a 14% increase over 2021 and is 2% above the 5-year average.

Hunters in the central forest zone saw some of the greatest success compared to last year, with harvest numbers up 37%.

DNR Deer Program Manager Jeff Pritzl says, as usual, weather was likely a factor.

“It’s likely that the forested zones, both central and northern forests, had a little bit of a buffer from that wind effect on opening day simply because you’re back in the forest more. It was really the agricultural country that was exposed to those whipping winds,” said Pritzl.

Overall, license sales are down. The year-to-date sales for all deer licenses are down 2% from the same time last year.

“This is a trend that we’ve seen going on for the last 20 years. It’s not unique to Wisconsin,” said Pritzl. “It’s national. Actually, in other states, their trend downward in license sales has been steeper than Wisconsin’s. So in one sense we’re fortunate from that standpoint.”

Pritzl says CWD sampling sites are also seeing fewer drop offs.

He encourages hunters to drop off samples for testing.