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home : outdoors : outdoors February 5, 2016

11/29/2013 12:27:00 PM
Deer season through the years
Craig Turk trail-cam photograph
Craig Turk trail-cam photograph

Wisconsin has a tradition of regulated gun deer hunting stretching all the way back to 1851. There have been many changes over the years.

Here are some of the facts:

1851: The first closed season for deer ran Feb. 1-June 30. Native Americans were permitted to hunt anytime.

1887: Two game wardens were appointed by the governor at a monthly salary of $50; night hunting was prohibited statewide.

1888: Game laws were published in pamphlet form.

1895: Sheboygan becomes the first county closed to deer hunting; deer cannot be transported unless accompanied by the hunter.

1897: The first bag limit was enacted: Two per season. A resident license costs $1, a nonresident license costs $30. Estimated license sales total 12,000.

1905: Salt licks are prohibited.

1909: The season was 20 days long, with a limit of one deer.

1910: Deer populations drop to record low numbers due to unregulated hunting and market shooting.

1914: Twenty-four hunters are killed, 26 injured. License sales are at 155,000.

1915: First buck-only season.

1917:Shining deer becomes illegal while in possession of a firearm. Deer tags (paper) are required for the first time. They cost 10 cents.

1920: The first use of metal deer tags. They cost 10 cents.

1921: Wardens are instructed that “all deer found in possession ... with horns less than three inches in length, is a fawn and should be confiscated.”

1924: The estimated kill is 7,000.

1925: Legislature passes a law closing deer season in alternate years.

1928: Deer hunters are required to wear an official conservation button while hunting. The estimated kill is 17,000 with 69,049 deer tags sold.

1930: The estimated kill is 23,000 with 70,284 deer tags sold.

1932: The deer tag price is raised to $1; estimated kill is 36,009 with 70,245 deer tags sold.

1933: No open season. The Conservation Congress, an advisory group representing public opinion registered at annual county hearings, begins to assist the Conservation Commission in establishing a deer management policy.

1934: The first bow deer season is held. The estimated gun kill is 21,251 with 83,939 deer tags sold.

1937: The shortest deer season on record – three days.

1938: The use of .22 rifles and .410 shotguns is prohibited.

1939: Licensed children between ages 12 and 16 must be accompanied by parent or guardian. Buckshot prohibited.

1941: Timber wolves were nearing extinction. The estimated gun kill is 40,403 with 124,305 deer tags sold.

1942: Back tags are required.

1943: The first doe and fawn season in 24 years was held.

1945: Wearing red clothing is required while hunting deer.

1950: The first ‘any deer’ season since 1919. The estimated gun kill is 167,911 with 312,570 deer tags sold.

1951: A deer hunting license and tag costs $2.50; orange clothing now included under the red clothing law. Wisconsin leads the nation in whitetail deer kill for the third consecutive year.

1953: First season gun deer hunters are required to register deer at a checking station.

1954: Portions of Walworth and Waukesha Counties and all of Jefferson County open to deer hunting for the first time since 1906.

1957: The party permit is authorized.

1958: Longest deer season since 1916 – 16 days. Rock County open for the first time since 1906.

1959: The first statewide deer registration by unit.

1960 – Hunters are not permitted to buy a license after opening day of gun season. Green and Racine Counties open for the first time since 1906; all counties were open, except Milwaukee.

1961: A resident big game license increased from $4 to $5. The first use of SAK – sex-age-kill – population-reconstruction technique for estimating deer numbers is seen. Hunters are required to transport deer openly while driving to a registration station.

1962: The deer population tops 400,000. Deer management unit specific population goals were established.

1963: It was the first year of quota party permits in eight management units. The assassination of President Kennedy lessens hunting pressure.

1967: The Hunter Safety Education Program begins.

1973: No deer season fatalities.

1978: A record registered gun kill is set – 150,845 with 644,594 licenses sold.

1980: Blaze orange clothing is required. The first season of Hunter’s Choice permits.

1981: A record registered deer kill of 166,673 is seen.

1982: Another record registered gun kill of 182,715 is recorded, with 637,320 licenses sold; three deer season fatalities.

1983: Harvest continues to rise with another record registered gun kill of 197,600 with 649,972 licenses sold.

1984: There was a big jump in registered kill, the fourth record harvest in a row – 255,726. Group hunting legalized.

1985: A fifth consecutive record kill of 274,302. Deer season was extended in 21 management units.

1987: The first year of bonus antlerless permits. There were seven fatalities and 46 injuries.

1988: Handguns permitted statewide.

1989: A record registered gun harvest of 310,192 is seen.

1990: Deer license sales peak at 699,275. Another record gun kill, 350,040, including 209,005 antlerless deer, is recorded. The season was extended for seven days in 67 management units.

1991: The first year of separate, seven-day muzzleloader season. Also a  third consecutive year of record gun harvest – 352,330.

1992: After three record-breaking harvests, rhe gun harvest drops to 288,820, which was still the fourth highest on record. 

1993: The pre-hunt herd population at was at 1 million with many units below prescribed goals. Thirty-four units, mainly in the north, are designated as buck-only units.

1994: The gun harvest went back up, by more than 90,000, to 307,629.

1995: For the first time hunters could use their bonus or Hunter’s Choice permits in either the gun, bow or muzzleloader seasons. The gun harvest totaled 398,002, a new state record.

1996: The first October gun deer hunt since 1897 took place. “Earn-a-Buck” rules, requiring hunters to harvest a doe before taking a buck, were established in 19 deer management units in agricultural range. The four-day, antlerless-only season in October was held in all 19 of these DMUs.

1997: The state had its safest gun season to date with one fatality and 10 injuries.

1999: Another record gun harvest of 402,204 deer is set.

2000: The gun harvest jumps by more than 125,000 deer to an all-time record of 528,494. With 694,712 licensed gun hunters, the success rate is 76 percent. By comparison, in the 43 years from 1966 to 2009, the average success rate for gun hunters is 37 percent.

2001: Routine testing by DNR, weeks after the close of hunting, reveals that three deer harvested in the Town of Vermont in Dane County had chronic wasting disease.

2002: The DNR and hunters begin looking for answers after CWD is found for the first time in wild deer east of the Mississippi River.

2003: Gun deer license sales went up 14 percent over 2002, climbing to 644,818. Earn-a-buck rules in effect and no bag limit in the CWD management zone in southwest Wisconsin; 115 wild deer test positive for CWD.

2004: Hunters set a new record with venison donations by giving 10,938 deer yielding nearly 500,000 pounds of venison for food pantries.

2006: Demographics show a gradually declining number of hunters nationwide due to a variety of changing social conditions. The NRB approved a special, two-day youth hunt in early October. 

2009: The “Mentored Hunting Program” is introduced, allowing any licensed hunter aged 18 or older to take any new hunter age 10 or older on a hunt.

2010: Hunters are allowed to divide a deer into up to five parts (four quarters plus the head attached to the spinal column and rib cage) to facilitate removal from the field.

2011: Archery season was extended through the gun deer season. CWD was detected in a doe harvested outside of Shell Lake in Washburn County, prompting sampling and public outreach. The state hired an independent deer trustee to review Wisconsin deer management.

2012: For the first time since 1995, there are no October herd-control gun hunts anywhere in the state. Anyone may hunt with a crossbow during any gun deer season.

Note: This list was compiled from information provided by the Wisconsin DNR.

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