Hunters register 14% more deer in gun season

Deer hunters gather after a successful outing Nov. 20 near Baraboo.
Deer hunters gather after a successful outing Nov. 20 near Baraboo.

Hunters registered 203,295 white-tailed deer during the 2022 Wisconsin nine-day gun deer season, an increase of 14% from the previous year and 8% above the five-year average, according to a preliminary report issued Tuesday by the state Department of Natural Resources.

The 2022 kill included 98,397 bucks (up 15% from 2021) and 104,898 antlerless deer (up 14%).

All four deer management regions showed higher deer registrations, with the highest year-over-year increase in the central forest (up 31%), followed by the northern forest (19%), central farmland (14%) and southern farmland (10%).

The gun deer season ran Nov. 19-27.

"In general everything was pointing in the right direction for hunters (this year)," said Jeff Pritzl, DNR deer program specialist.

Conditions in Wisconsin pointed to a favorable 2022 deer hunt

Pritzl cited snow cover that persisted across most of the state, an earlier opener to the season, good progress on corn harvest statewide and a mild winter in 2021-22 as contributing factors to the higher deer kill.

Snow makes it easier for hunters to spot and track deer, while the earlier opener (the season starts on the Saturday prior to Thanksgiving, meaning it can begin as early as Nov. 18 or as late as Nov. 25) typically means more rut-associated deer activity. The peak of the rut, or deer mating season, occurs in early November in Wisconsin.

The statewide corn harvest was close to average, Pritzl said, providing deer with fewer standing corn fields to hide in and the mild winter helped bolster deer survival in northern counties.

The state's robust deer population was underscored by all counties this year issuing antlerless deer permits.

Tracking the 2022 deer hunt numbers in Wisconsin by county

The top five counties for deer kill were Marathon with 7,356, Shawano (6,185), Waupaca (5,849), Clark (5,715) and Vernon (5,583).

Brian Weigel, left and his son Sawyer Weigel, both of Sauk City, drag a 10-point buck shot by Sawyer during a Nov. 19 hunt on the Leopold-Pines Conservation Area near Baraboo.
Brian Weigel, left and his son Sawyer Weigel, both of Sauk City, drag a 10-point buck shot by Sawyer during a Nov. 19 hunt on the Leopold-Pines Conservation Area near Baraboo.

The highest deer kill per square mile occurred in the central farmland zone of Adams County, where about 12 deer were registered per square mile. In the other regions, Vernon County led the southern farmland zone with about 7 deer registered per square mile, while Eau Claire County in the central forest zone had 4.8 and Taylor County in the northern forest had 4, according to the DNR.

Hunters from all 50 states once again purchased licenses to hunt deer in Wisconsin, said Eric Lobner, DNR wildlife director. In addition, hunters from 21 foreign countries were represented on the license rolls, including from nations as far away as New Zealand and South Africa.

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But continuing a long-term trend, the number of gun deer licenses dipped in 2022.

The DNR reported 436,423 gun deer hunting licenses sold this year, down from 445,803 in 2021. When grouped with sports and patron licenses (which also include gun deer hunting privileges), the drop was to 554,898 this year from 564,440 in 2021.

Lobner said some deer hunters continue to "age out" of hunting.

An adult female white-tailed deer taken during a hunt at the Leopold-Pines Conservation Area near Baraboo lays in a woodlot near a hunter's gear on Nov. 19, opening day of the 2022 Wisconsin gun deer hunting season.
An adult female white-tailed deer taken during a hunt at the Leopold-Pines Conservation Area near Baraboo lays in a woodlot near a hunter's gear on Nov. 19, opening day of the 2022 Wisconsin gun deer hunting season.

Wisconsin had eight firearm-involved injuries, with one fatality, in the 2022 deer hunting season

The season included eight firearm-involved injuries, including one fatality, for the 2022 gun deer season.

The fatality occurred about 9 a.m. Nov. 20 in Seneca Township in Green Lake County when a 41-year-old man attempted to unload his firearm in the backseat of a vehicle. The firearm discharged, striking an 11-year-old boy in the chest. The victim was flown via Med Flight to a hospital where he died. The shooter and victim were members of same hunting party.

Among the eight incidents, four were self-inflicted, three involved the victim and shooter in the same hunting party and one was of people from separate hunting parties, said Capt. April Dombrowski, DNR warden and section chief of recreational safety. The incidents remain under investigation.

The average hunting incidents per season from 2013-22 is 6.4, according to the DNR.

The statewide muzzleloader deer hunting season is in progress and ends Dec. 7.

Additional gun deer hunting seasons are the Dec. 8-11 antlerless hunt and Dec. 24-Jan. 1 antlerless holiday hunt in select farmland zone counties. Extended archery and crossbow seasons are also open through Jan. 31 in many counties.

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Hunters register 14% more deer in 2022 Wisconsin gun deer season