Fewer deer harvested this gun deer season, says Wisconsin DNR

8405224 - white-tailed deer

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- The 168th gun deer season in Wisconsin wrapped up Sunday, and the final numbers on this year's nine-day hunt show just how hard it was on local hunters.

Across the state of Wisconsin, hunters harvested more than 160,000 deer during the nine-day gun season.

But that marks a 25 percent decrease from the number of deer harvested last year.

It's a time-honored tradition in Wisconsin.

The Saturday before Thanksgiving, the nine-day gun deer season begins.

"I was out opening weekend, it was pretty slow. I think I only saw one deer all weekend long," said Derk Hauser of Chippewa Falls.

Hauser has been hunting since he was a child.

He was out opening weekend, as well as the day before Thanksgiving.

"I would say that particularly because of the big storms that we had, I just feel like the deer, where I hunted at least, were off. I didn't see them moving as much as we normally do," said Hauser.

This year the season proved to be tough for him, and other hunters, with the number of deer harvested down 25 percent statewide.

"Our archery season going into the hunt, we were actually tracking ahead of last year as far as the buck harvest. So once all the seasons are done in January we'll look at all the numbers," said Wisconsin DNR District Wildlife Supervisor Kris Johansen.

In what is known as the Central Farmland Zone, which ranges across western Wisconsin, the number of deer harvested was down 20 percent.

Johansen says some of the factors were starting the season at the latest possible time, the snowstorms that hit the state, and corn harvest not being complete.

"We're in a huge state here with a wide range of variability, so local conditions can impact it. Deer behavior, the weather, there's just a lot of different factors that play into it," explained Johansen.

Between 2014 and 2018, the number of deer harvested in Wisconsin during the gun season increased each year.

But for hunters like Hauser, it's not about how many bucks you bag rather how many memories you make.

"A big part of it is being with friends and family that you know maybe you don't get to see a whole lot anymore. It's nice to be able to go to the hunting cabin and spend a lot of time with them. Kind of makes up for when the deer aren't moving or we're not seeing them as much as we'd like to," said Hauser.

There were more than 560,000 gun deer licences sold in Wisconsin, only a two percent drop from 2018.

DNR officials say they will wait until the rest of the deer hunting season wraps up in January before setting the season quota and structure for 2020.