Surprising turnout, initial harvest low
Danielle Moe |staff writer
SHELL LAKE- "They actually kind of surprised me, the number of people that were out and hunted given the conditions, it was quite brutal opening weekend weather for sitting out to get deer," said Nancy Christel DNR wildlife biologist. Christel spent the weekend at registration stations in Spooner, Shell Lake, and Barronett taking lymph node samples of deer from hunters. Even with the predicted cold temperatures the DNR reported about 615,000 people bought deer licenses.
Of them 27,000 were first time hunter licenses sold with 33 percent were females. Keith Warnke, DNR hunting and shooting sports coordinator, said that the number of female hunters aged 10 to 30 increased by 10 percent this year. Despite the increase of women hunters overall preliminary counts indicate registration was down in all regions of the state with harvest numbers down about 18 percent compared to last year. For Washburn County total harvest numbers suffered a 10 percent decrease. 55 more antlerless deer were harvested than bucks, and the number of bucks harvested fell 18 percent compared to 2012.
Both Burnett and Polk Counties experienced drops in their total harvest numbers at 24 percent and 17 percent respectively. In Polk County this year's Buck harvest was significantly lower with 410 less bucks harvested than antlerless deer. “These preliminary numbers are just a small part of the events of opening weekend that we all look forward to," pointed out Tom Hauge director of the DNR wildlife management program.
The DNR cites the harsh weather temperatures as a large influencer in this year's opener harvest rates. In addition to bitter cold the DNR expects reduced antlerless harvest numbers. Kevin Wallenfang, DNR big game ecologist, said in a news release on Monday that the number of antlerless permit tags are at their lowest levels in the northern region since the 1990s. According to the DNR the reduced permit levels are a reflection of low deer numbers in some areas due in part to this year's harsh spring. Christel explained that antlerless tag numbers were down in all units except 15, but didn't know the exact number. "We did see the ages in deer where you would typically see more antler growth, and seems as though they put more of that energy into their body than into antlers," stated Christel.
A total of six hunting incidents were reported through opening weekend this year. Four were self-inflicted and two were multi-party incidents. They occurred in Grant, Oconto, Kewaunee, Green Lake, Monroe, Sheboygan counties and are all still under investigation. Last year the incident rate for the 2012 deer gun season was 1.12 per 100,000 hunters.
"Registration stations as always did a fantastic job, they were out there during this cold, crummy weather happy and cheerful taking care of the hunters, I would say a big thank you to all of them," said Christel.