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Despite lower license sales, Wisconsin hunters killed 14 percent more deer this gun deer season

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Hunters killed about 14 percent more deer during the 2022 gun-deer season compared to last year, according to data released Tuesday by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

The harvest was high despite the fact that deer license sales were 1.6 percent lower.

Hunters registered more than 203,000 deer over the nine-day gun-deer season. Of those, about 98,000 were bucks – a number 15 percent higher than last year’s harvest.

Overall, the deer harvest was up just 8 percent over the five-year average.

Eric Lobner, director of the DNR Wildlife Management Bureau, says a number of factors could account for the high harvest, but good weather likely made the biggest difference.

“Likely that was driven by the great conditions that we had, although cold,” he said. “The snow really helps visibility, and in certain places there probably are more deer out there available for harvest.”

Wisconsin’s forest zones saw the biggest increases in the number of deer killed.

The Central Forest Zone, which spans parts of Clark, Wood and Marquette counties, saw the biggest increase, with harvest totals up more than 30 percent compared to last year.

The deer harvest from the Northern Forest Zone, which covers most of the Northwoods, increased about 20 percent.

Seven people were injured during the 9-day hunt and one 11-year-old died. Nearly all those incidents occurred during opening weekend. Of the incidents, four were self-inflicted and three occurred between members of the same hunting party.

“Hunting continues to be safe in Wisconsin,” said Major April Dombrowski, the DNR’s recreational safety section chief. “When you look at the past 10 nine-day gun-deer seasons, the incident trend reflects 6.4 hunting incidents per year. We are working with these single digit incidents which we continue to try to learn from and address.”

The DNR is currently checking deer samples for chronic wasting disease.So far, nearly 500 samples have tested positive out of about 7,500 deer.

Just before the hunt, a deer at a facility in Lincoln County tested positive for CWD. A wild deer from Kenosha County also tested positive for the disease. It’s the first time CWD has been detected there since 2003.

Erin Gottsacker worked at WXPR as a Morning Edition host and reporter from December 2020 to January 2023. During her time at the station, Erin reported on the issues that matter most in the Northwoods.
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