Hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites and visiting non-residents eagerly await the arrival of the 2012 9-day gun deer season, which kicks off Nov. 17.
Approximately 10 percent of Wisconsin residents will take to the field for the annual hunt, and thousands more will participate by providing food, hotels, and other services that make deer hunting such an important part of the Wisconsin culture and economy.
Kevin Wallenfang, big game ecologist for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, says the 2012 gun season is one that he hopes will be exciting and satisfying for all involved. “It’s a tradition that many hunters and businesses look forward to all year long. It will also have more of a traditional feel to it this year due to the elimination of most early season gun hunts.”
Wallenfang says that getting back to a more normal season framework seems to have many people very enthusiastic this year. “Add to that the fact that deer populations across the north have increased in many units thanks to a very mild winter and reduced antlerless permits, and hunters could be in for a very satisfying year,” Wallenfang says. He adds, however, that some northern units are still below goal, so hunters should not expect to see a lot of deer in some areas.
Deer populations throughout most of the farmland region of the state are strong, says Wallenfang, especially on private lands. Still, despite comparatively high deer numbers, farmland units can be difficult to hunt, especially for those spending their season on public lands where hunting pressure is often much higher than surrounding private properties. The good news is that Wisconsin has more than 1 million acres of private lands open for public hunting, including Voluntary Public Access program and Managed Forest Law program lands.
Even with increasing deer populations in many units, hunter success during the gun season can vary based on a wide range of factors. Hunter effort, weather events, rut activity, hunting pressure, and stand site locations in addition to deer numbers can all play influential roles in whether or not individual hunters see and harvest deer.
For more information on deer in different areas of the state, see the 2012 Wisconsin Fall Hunting Forecast [PDF].
“Deer are not distributed evenly across the landscape and their movements vary greatly from one day to the next,” says Wallenfang. “Some hunters simply have access to better hunting and more deer.”
Another step hunters can take to increase their opportunities and enjoy their season is to take advantage of more days in the field. “There has been an increasing trend of hunters spending fewer days in the woods than in years past, often hunting just the opening weekend,” Wallenfang says. “Although deer sightings can be fewer after opening weekend, there are still deer to be hunted and the later part of the season can be more relaxing than the high pressure of opening weekend.”
Hopefully we’ll have some comfortable hunting conditions that will allow people to stay in the woods and enjoy the hunt longer,” Wallenfang says. “Best of luck for a very safe and enjoyable hunt.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Kevin Wallenfang, DNR Big Game Ecologist, 608-261-7589