MADISON – Nearly ideal hunting conditions across the state contributed to an active opening morning of the 2010 Wisconsin nine-day regular gun deer season, according to anecdotal reports from registration stations across the state.
Good weather, with no rain and cool, but not cold temperatures, along with corn mostly harvested, leaves off the trees and even a few areas with tracking snow, all contributed to good hunting conditions.
Wildlife managers and conservation wardens reported hearing fewer shots but more single shots rather than repeated shots, indicating that visual conditions were excellent and many hunters were probably taking a deer with a single shot. This contrasts with the 2009 season, when dense fog covered much of the state opening morning, and there was still a lot of corn left in fields to be harvest.
A small amount of snow still covered the ground in far northwestern and north central Wisconsin, which further improved hunting and tracking conditions in that area.
There were many reports of young hunters participating in the mentored hunting program. Dave Matheys, Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist at Viroqua, was working a registration station in Gays Mills and reported on one young 10-year-old hunter who was being mentored by his mother. The young hunter had a doe run out in front of him and had a clear shot at 10 yards and dropped the doe. Then just seconds later, a buck came out in pursuit of the doe. With one deer on the ground, they let the buck take off.
“His mother said the young hunter was ‘just shaking like a leaf” after the episode,” Matheys said. The mother, father and son were headed back out to the woods to see if they could now fill a buck tag.
There were numerous reports across the state of bucks still pursuing does, indicating the rut, or white-tailed deer mating season, was also still in progress. Many of the bucks being registered had swollen necks, another indication that the rut was still taking place.
With fewer antlerless permits available in about half of the state, and no antlerless permits available at all in areas of northeastern Wisconsin, many registration stations were reporting many bucks being brought in.
Michelle Carlisle DNR wildlife biologist at Balsam Lake just east of the Minnesota/Wisconsin line near St. Croix where there was still cover of 2 to 4 inches of crust snow left over from last week’s storm, said traffic has been steady all morning at the registration station. One truck came in with eight deer and another with six!
“One young man brought in a gorgeous buck and I asked him if this was his first one,” Carlisle said. “He said, ‘no,’ this was his third deer in as many years and the other two were equally nice.
State conservation wardens were investigating four non-fatal shooting incidents by mid-afternoon on Saturday. Two incidents involved deer drives, one in Marathon County and one in Door County. The Door County victim was shot through the thigh. A shooting incident in Wood County reportedly involved a hunter not knowing what was behind his target, one of the cardinal rules of hunting. While one in Marquette County, described as a graze, involved well spaced hunters – 400 yards apart.
Regional DNR Reports
DNR Northern Region
Burnett County - Duke Welter of Eau Claire, a member of the Natural Resources Board, was hunting in this morning when he shot an 8-point buck. Then came the work, which warmed him up nicely. “It was a long drag,” he said. “It was a real nice hunt. I heard a lot of shooting early. We have 4 inches of snow on the ground and I think people can see the deer really well. It’s a beautiful day in the woods.”
Florence County - Jeremy Holtz, the wildlife biologist stationed in Florence, reported from the registration station at the Wild Rivers Interpretive Center. Hunting conditions were tolerable with temperatures about 20, no snow accumulating on the ground but a few flakes were flying overnight. Between 11 a.m. and about 1 p.m. the station had registered 30 deer. Hunters reported that antler development seems a bit better this year. Holtz had seen some six-pointers, some eight-pointers and even a few 10-pointers, “Which is unusual up here,” he said. “We don’t normally see 10-pointers. “The hunters we are seeing coming in this early in the day told us they pretty much shot the first buck they saw. We haven’t seen young hunters coming in just yet, but a few adult hunters reported that they were registering their first bucks. The hunters seemed relaxed, more polite and satisfied compared to how they had been feeling the last few years. They realize that we are trying to rebuild the herd and they seem satisfied with the conditions this year.” One group of hunters reported seeing a few wolves.
Iron County - Bruce Bacon, wildlife biologist reporting from Hurley said hunters are finding ideal conditions and are staying in the woods. “I heard more shooting this year than last. The bucks are definitely still in the rut up here with swollen necks, even the young forked bucks,” Bacon said. Registrations had been pretty slow at the Hurley station by mid afternoon because so many hunters were still in the woods enjoying a fine day.
Sawyer County - Ken Jonas, the area wildlife supervisor at Hayward, said the hunting conditions were excellent with at least 3 inches of snow everywhere in the area and crusty cover that made it easy to hear deer coming. It was still pretty cold right around freezing by mid-afternoon. “People are staying out and it is a great time to be in the woods. Given the cooler temperatures the hunters don’t feel any pressure to get in and quickly register their deer, so they can spend more time outdoors,” Jonas said. Earlier this week people scouting had reported seeing bear tracks, but not today.
St. Croix County - Michelle Carlisle DNR wildlife biologist at Balsam Lake just east of the Minnesota/Wisconsin line near St. Croix said it’s cool but people are upbeat. The weather conditions are cold, about14 with a stiff wind that gets you when sitting in your stand. There is still cover of 2-4 inches of crust snow left over from last week’s storm. Traffic has been steady all morning at the registration station. One truck came in with eight deer and another with six! “One young man brought in a gorgeous buck and I asked him if this was his first one. He said, no, this was his third deer in as many years and the other two were equally nice. Some people are seeing more deer, some fewer, but they seem pretty happy to be outside with good hunting conditions.”
Washburn County- Mike Zeckmeister, the regional wildlife manager from Spooner reported from the registration station at the Spooner Holiday Gas Station at the south end of town. Hunting conditions in area are excellent with two to four inches of crunchy snow cover from Duluth south to Turtle Lake. “The snow is crusty as it got cold last night and it is crunchy so hunters can hear the deer coming,” Zeckmeister said. “Of course, with 100 percent snow cover, they can see them quite well too. This morning from my tree stand near the Washburn-Burnett County line southwest of Spooner I heard 210 shots in one hour.” The day started about 12 degrees, so it was a bit chilly, but if you have a few hand warmers and dress appropriately it is just fine, Zeckmeister said/ By 2 p.m. he had already aged about 100 deer almost evenly split between bucks and does, which is about normal. You might expect to see more antlerless deer coming in from this herd control area, but that hadn’t been the case thus far. Some nice bucks were being registered. One hunter said he was especially grateful for the opportunity since last year he was serving in Iraq during the deer season. Another gentleman who is 75-and-a-half years old just registered a two-and-a-half year old buck, so he was quite pleased. Another gentleman came in with his granddaughter who had taken a nice buck fawn, and she was quite happy too. “The afternoon is warming up slightly, but with a few hand warmers, we’re still getting our work done,” Zeckmeister said.
DNR Northeastern Region
Door County - James Harbaugh, DNR wildlife technician working registration in Sturgeon Bay, reports a remarkable number of deer coming into his station from Potawatomi State Park. Deer hunting was only recently authorized in the park in efforts to trim down a herd that had grown too large and was having significant impact on forest growth and was spilling over onto the Cherryland Airport raising safety concerns. Harbaugh said he had one Honda CRV pull in stuffed with five deer. Another vehicle arrived with seven and many were showing up with four to five. It was a mix of antlered and antlerless. Hunters in general appeared to be having a good time including an 84-year-old hunter who bagged a 12-pointer, the “largest deer of his life” he said. Another 58-year–old male hunter bagged his first deer ever.
Manitowoc County - Jeff Pritzl DNR Northeast Region wildlife supervisor working registrations in Manitowoc reported comfortable conditions with a light but steady breeze at the opening of shooting hours. Pritzl said that if the breeze were to lighten a bit conditions would be about perfect. By early afternoon he’d registered a number of nice bucks with a fairly high number of 3.5-year-olds that looked healthy and robust. The first deer he saw today was taken close to home. As he was leaving his house to head for his registration station the neighbor woman was in the yard and signaled him to come over. She had woken early, looked out the window to see two deer behind her house. She went back to the bedroom, woke her husband and told him get his pants on and grab his gun. He apparently followed orders and bagged a nice deer. Some out of state hunters will leave Wisconsin with a good impression of hunting here added Pritzl. A truck pulled up with four Coast Guardsmen and three deer. They were stationed at the Two Rivers Coast Guard base and were from Texas, Nevada and Massachusetts and had the three deer before 8a.m.
Marinette County - John Huff, DNR wildlife biologist working registrations in Crivitz reported temperatures in the 20s, no snow and a light breeze at opening. He was registering deer mostly from DMUs 49B and 51A which are regular and herd control respectively. He was aging a fair number of 1.5 and 2.5 year olds which Huff noted is “a pretty normal age distribution” for the November hunt. Hunters he’d talked to said they were seeing deer. In the morning he registered an antlerless deer each for a brother and sister, both hunting as first-time hunter’s education graduates. They’d shot the deer within minutes of each other. The boy shot first and then while they were admiring his deer, a second appeared and the girl shot hers. Huff says they were both pretty excited and were heading back out to look for bucks.
Oconto County - Opening day was a crisp and cold one in northeast Wisconsin with starting temperatures in the low 20s, sky slightly overcast with high clouds, and very little wind. Pickup trucks were pulling into the registration station in Oconto Falls almost as soon as the season opened said dnr wildlife manager James Robaidek. By 10:30 deer were being registered one after another as the trucks pulled in. Most of the deer being registered at that time were bucks with an occasional large doe. One of those bucks claimed most of the hunters attention. It was a 12-pointer shot by Mary Zuehlke from Lomira. It was very special to her and to her hunting party since it was Mary’s first deer and also her first hunt. One dad and his son came in to register dad’s deer. The young “mentored hunter” and his dad planned to return to the woods again in the afternoon in hopes of the boy bagging one of his own. Two hunters said they weren’t seeing deer like they used to, but they’d both gotten theirs and were registering them
Outagamie County – DNR wildlife biologist Dick Nikolai in Shiocton has been aging deer for many years and was hunched over the bed of a trailer answering and demonstrating how deer were aged. When he’d completed his demonstration, he asked the hunter to tell him how old another deer was…and the hunter and his son agreed on an age and Nikolai told them they were right. One cold and tired hunter registering in Shiocton was cold and tired. He saw five deer in an hour, and shot one in a swamp. He dragged the deer out of the swamp and claims to have pulled that deer through water that was 4 feet deep. He was heading home to rest and said he hoped his wife didn’t have chores for him when he got home. Nikolai said bucks and does were running about 50-50. By noon he had registered 70 deer, plus given two interviews. One to Green Bay’s Channel 26 and the other to the Appleton Post-Crescent. One hunter said that he’d seen “plenty” of deer and had to restrain himself.
Shawano County - DNR wildlife manager Bryan Woodbury worked the Shawano registration station. Woodbury said before noon he had registered 32 deer and that 23 of them were bucks. He said that the deer coming in were all good size and looked healthy and well fed. One hunter had gotten his deer and when asked about what he saw in the woods reported that two does followed his buck and that after his shot he saw lots of deer running on the same trail below his tree stand.
DNR Southeast Region
Fond du Lac County - Dale Katsma, DNR area wildlife supervisor, was at the Dins registration station in Dundee, in the middle of the Kettle Moraine Northern Unit. "Boy, it's busy," he said at 1:15 p.m. "They keep piling in. It's clear and cold here and a good day for hunting. We've registered about 62 deer already. The vast majority of them are bucks. It's a regular unit here, in the middle of the Kettle Moraine Northern Unit. Forty-two of them were bucks and 20 were does and fawns. There were quite a few older bucks. A few nice ones came in. We saw a couple of young people, mentored hunters, with their first deer. We were here last year too and it seems like it's busier this year. But there have been a lot more bucks. We won't know till the end of the day. We're a regular unit this year and we were last year too. We're seeing a trend that we've been seeing in recent years. More older bucks, not as many yearlings, but 2.5, 3.5 year olds, one 4.5 year-old bucks. It says we're not harvesting deer at as high a rate as we did years ago. I think the opportunities are out there for hunters. It varies around the state. Last year, northeastern Wisconsin numbers were down. Other parts the numbers are pretty good. We did a car count and the hunter numbers are down by 20-25 percent in terms of vehicles.”
Walworth County - Staff was busy tagging deer and sampling for CWD at Bob Black Meat Processing: Delavan shortly before noon. Approximately 20 deer had been registered. Thirteen-year-old Zakary Hudson shot a yearling in the Northern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest near Lagrange. “It’s the first one I hit. But not the first one I’ve ever shot at.” Christine Siewert has travelled to Wisconsin from Lebanon, Pennsylvania for the past five years. She “missed a nice 8-eight-pointer.” But was happy she was able to bag a doe.
Waukesha County - Tim Lizotte, area wildlife supervisor in southeastern Wisconsin, broke away from taking CWD samples to report that the registration station was not overrun at the time, but as for the day, "It's going awesome. We have been steady and we're seeing happy hunters. We haven't had any grumpy people yet. They report seeing lots of deer and everyone is saying the hunting conditions are good. And the Badgers are winning (against Michigan's football team.) So right now, everything is going in the favorable directions. We haven't really had anything out of the ordinary or anything like that. We had one trophy buck, several nice bucks, definitely more does…the standard mix. We had one 6 to 8 year old does, definitely on the older side. We're in Earn A Buck so there is more incentive here for harvesting does. The deer have been looking really good. Very healthy, lots of fat. At least in this part of the state, the hunting conditions probably couldn’t have been better, unless there was some snow on the ground. Not excessively windy. Cold but not terribly cold, and really good visibility. It was a really nice morning." Marcus Smith, DNR Southeast Region public affairs manager reported sunshine and temperature in the 30s were conditions facing hunters in the Southeast Region on opening day. When he arrived at the Mukwonago Village Mini-Mart at 11 a.m., eight does and four bucks had been registered. The first deer came in shortly after 6 a.m. The majority of hunters were not happy with the results. “They only deer they saw were the ones they shot,” according to a Mini-Mart employee.
DNR South Central Region
Dane, Sauk, Richland, Grant and Iowa counties - Regional DNR public affairs manager Greg Matthews was collecting lymph nodes and heads from registration stations and transporting them to Black Earth where they will be prepared for CWD testing. He notes that the weather was sunny, with only a few hazy clouds in the sky and temperatures in the mid-30s. Great weather to be out in wood and field. He reports that a huge buck, weighing 210 pounds, was registered at Plain. Hunters were staying afield, despite the Badger game, to take advantage of the great weather.
Dodge County - Chris Cole, wildlife technician working at the Holiday Food and Sport in Waupun, reported registering a little more than 100 deer by 2:30 p.m. with the count tipped slightly in favor of bucks over antlerless deer. He felt that deer were coming in a little quicker than last year and was expecting the usual rush as hunting hours closed down. Hunters were reporting good conditions and were seeing deer with some saying there was still some rutting activity going on with bucks following does.
Jefferson County - Eric Lobner, South Central Region wildlife supervisor, who was aging deer at River’s Edge Farm Market in Jefferson, Jefferson County, said he was seeing a mixture of deer ages among early registrations, including a 3-year-old 11-point buck and some older does, 4- and 5-years old. “They all are good size and have a lot of fat – good antler development with long tines…buck necks are swollen, so they are still in the rut. And that’s what hunters are saying they are seeing. They’re are using scents and it’s helping them their success.” Lobner drove through nearly Jefferson Wildlife Area before setting up his station, and said he counted 26 vehicles. The weather was good, and hunters were out. People he had talked to seemed happy, “But then everyone is happy at a registration station. One guy brought in four deer – two were going to a food pantry.”
Richland County – Tom Hauge, director of DNR wildlife management reported clear visibility greeted deer hunters this morning near Ithaca, a welcome change from 2009 when fog obscured vision until late morning. Cool temps and brisk wind from the east made everyone feel like the extra clothing was worth it. Steady shooting in the area seemed to indicate the 2010 season was off to a good start. Young Eddie Schott (Prairie du Sac) was hunting with father Tim as a mentored hunter. Eddie had taken an antlerless deer in the early antlerless season so he already had the first-deer experience; now he wanted to find a buck. He didn't have to wait long. About 7:15 a.m. they saw a doe burst from the opposite hillside and beginning crossing the field near their blind. Right on her heels was nice nine-point buck and he was totally focused on the doe. Father Tim managed to get the buck to stop on his third try and Eddie was ready go and true on his aim. Tim could not have been prouder. Eddie's first buck is now also the camp's biggest deer so far and a strong contender for the opening weekend big buck contest.
DNR West Central Region
Adams County - Jon Robaidek, wildlife biologist out of Adams, said deer had been constantly rolling in since about 10:30 in the morning. “It’s been a even mix of antlered and antlerless deer,” Robaidek said. “In terms of what a lot of hunters are saying, they are not hearing a lot of shots, but they are hearing more single shots and not hearing a lot of repeated shots, so they think hunters are getting their deer on the first shot.” Robaidek said it seemed like hunting pressure was down just a little in the area, but that the public hunting ground he had gone by earlier in the day was full. Robaidek had hunted in an open grassland area before going to work registering deer, and said he was able to observe a mentored hunting situation. “A father and his son were sitting together for about an hour, and the youth was just looking through the gun, and the father was pointing out things and explaining what they were seeing. After about an hour the young hunter got cold, and the father took him back to the car and then and went out to do his own hunting. It was really good to see the hunt is working out as it was intended.” Robaidek said some hunters were seeing some deer that were still in rut, with bucks pursuing does, but others said they felt the rut was over. Deer management units in the Adams area had been in herd control for the past couple of years, and this year it was a regular unit. He noted that most hunters were aware of the changes and were properly using tags.
Buffalo County - DNR wildlife technician Gary Wolf, registering deer at Mondovi, said he had seen about 20 impressive bucks by the end of the lunch hour. “They are larger than average this year, I would say. I think the hunters are pretty content. They are seeing deer and hunting in nice weather.”
Buffalo County - Kris Johansen, wildlife biologist in Alma reported activity at his registration station was steady. The area is know for big bucks and Johansen said that was all they were seeing in early registrations. “We’re seeing some really exceptional antler growth even on 2-and-a-half and 3-and-a-half year olds.” Hunting pressure was about average, and Johansen was expecting to see a lot of nice bucks come in later in the day. Hunting conditions were good, if not a bit too good. “It’s not quite cool enough to get people out of their stands and moving around. The only thing that would have made it really better is if there was snow on the ground.” Johansen said the hunters he was talking to were all in good spirits, “but of course they would be, because they were all bringing in bucks.”
Chippewa County - Rayne Sonnentag of Cadott was hunting with her husband and his brother. She admitted to being really cold. “I had seven hand warmers in my pockets,” she said.
They must have helped because she harvested two deer, a large buck and a doe. Her brother-in-law added a doe to the harvest. “They were very helpful,” she said of the men. “They got the deer in the truck. They (men) do come in handy.”
Crawford County - Dave Matheys, DNR wildlife biologist from Viroqua who was working a registration station in Gays Mills reported there was a marked contrast between this year as far as the attitude of the hunters. “The weather is darn near perfect,” Matheys said. “No fog, thank goodness. Cool, crisp and sunny – a beautiful late fall day.” Matheys said hunters were also happy because they were seeing deer. “They weren’t seen hordes of deer but they were seeing deer, unlike last year when many hunters said they weren’t seeing deer.” Hunters were also reporting they were not seeing as many hunters in the field. At the registration station, which is in a herd control area, they were seeing a lot of bucks being brought in, including some very nice 2.5 years olds but also one four year old 10 to 11 pointer. A young 10-year-old mentored hunter came in with his mother who was the mentor. He had shot a doe at about 10 yards and his mother said her son was already “shaking like a leaf,” when a few seconds later a buck came along that had been following the doe, clearly still in rut. It also came within 10 yards, but with one deer down, they let the buck run off. “The young man was so nice that he contributed the head for CWD testing,” Matheys said. He and his parents were going to head back out to hunt in search of the buck.
Dunn County - Temperatures were hovering in the low 20s this morning in west central Wisconsin. The air was clear and dry. For hunters sheltered from the wind, it was perfect. Others felt the sting. “I was getting cold until I started seeing deer and then I forgot all about it,” reported Russ Trout of New Richmond, who was hunting south of Mondovi. Trout registered a magnificent 13-point buck.
Trempealeau County - In Osseo, Sid Peterson was registering the biggest buck of his hunting career, a large-bodied deer with a massive, thickly beamed, eight-point rack. He was watching three does and knew a buck was behind them by the way they kept looking behind them. “He actually came in after the does. I grunted and he came right in and made a b-line for me.” “He was pumped full of corn when we opened him up,” said Peterson’s hunting partner, Patrick Rungstad, who harvested a doe.
Sourcel: Wisconsin DNR