Though conditions were comfortable as hunters took to the Wisconsin woods the opening weekend of the statewide gun deer hunt, they weren’t ideal for hunting.
Northwoods hunters were finding some deer anyway, and the state, overall, was reporting that license sales are up from a year ago.
Opening day, 120 bucks and 33 antlerless deer were registered by gun hunters at the DNR Service Center in Rhinelander. An additional 37 bucks and 22 antlerless deer were registered by 11 a.m. Sunday, the second day of the nine-day hunt.
Two antlerless bow kills had also been registered over the weekend.
DNR wildlife biologist Jeremy Holtz was at the Rhinelander Service Center to age deer brought in by hunters on opening weekend. He said buck registration was at a pretty good pace.
“The antlerless will be less because we had a lot less tags. But we’re on pace, probably, to have more bucks shot this year than we did last year.”
Holtz noted that the warm weather can also be a factor. Worried about meat spoiling, hunters may register earlier than they would otherwise.
“A few people are worried about leaving their deer hang. They’re worried it’s too warm. So I thought we’d see a bunch of people come in before the Packers game … it’s been steady this morning [Nov. 18], but definitely Saturday’s our biggest day,” he said.
The opener saw temperatures well into the 40s, and temps were topping the 50 degree mark across most of the Northwoods Sunday. Holtz said hunters had been commenting on the unseasonably warm weather.
“Hunters are saying that there’s really nice weather for sitting. Of course, they’d like to have some snow, too, so they can see tracks and deer movement … tracking was tough. And people are really getting sweated up dragging. We had a few come in that were ornery because they had a long drag,” he said.
“People really sit nowadays. They don’t do a lot of stalking or driving, so they like comfortable sitting weather. The female hunters – we’ve had a good number of female hunters come in – and they’ve really enjoyed the weather they all said they’ve really liked the hunting conditions.”
Holtz noted that the nice weather had one positive impact for him personally.
“I had my eight-year-old out yesterday and he made it three hours. You know, when there’s snow on the ground, there’s no way he could ever have been able to stand it. It’s got its pro and cons, but overall hunters have been really positive attitude, they’ve been satisfied with what they’re seeing … they’re having good shooting, good observations.”
The bucks coming in were largely in good physical condition. Holtz noted that the size of the antlers when considering the body size of some of the bucks was good, and that they were seeing some older bucks.
“One observation I’ll make is that we’ve had good antler development. So, we’ve had some nice eights – lot of nice eights, and the other thing we’ve had is higher survival. We’ve had a number of bucks that were three, four, five years old, and in some other years it’s very uncommon to see a buck over two. We’ve had good survival – mild winter, early spring, really good conditions.”
Hunters were coming through the registration at a steady pace late Sunday morning.
Scott Bradley was hunting deer management unit 37 in Oneida County just west of State Highway 47 in a stand overlooking a marsh when he took a six-pointer Sunday morning.
“I saw a doe [Saturday] and a doe [Sunday] and then this buck comes out about 8:30 today,” he said.
Andy Congdon was registering a tall spike buck. He was hunting FCL land in Oneida County when he shot the buck at about 7:30 a.m. Sunday.
“This is actually the first deer I saw,” he said. “The only other thing we saw was on the drive out when we saw a four-pointer jump across the road.”
The DNR reported license sales of 614,435 through opening day, which is an increase over last year when 603,913 gun deer licenses were sold. The numbers include 568,831 resident licenses and 32,554 nonresident. License sales grew for each group compared to last year.
Craig Turk may be reached at email@example.com.