Nine day gun deer harvest totals down over 17 percent

MADISON, Wis. – The 2023 gun deer hunt in Wisconsin kicked off the holiday season with plenty of opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors, put delicious, wild-harvested protein on the table and make memories with family and friends. Preliminary license sales, harvest registration and hunting incident numbers are now available.

Preliminary License Sales Data

As of 11:59 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 26, sales for gun, bow, crossbow, sports and conservation patron licenses reached 788,697. Of that total, 434,817 were for gun privileges only. Year-to-date sales for all deer licenses are down 0.8% compared to last year.

This year, hunters from all 50 states and 27 countries purchased a Wisconsin hunting license.

Of the licenses sold to date, 66% were purchased online. The remaining 34% were sold in person through transactions at DNR license sale locations. Deer hunting license and harvest authorization sales will continue through the remaining deer hunting seasons.

Preliminary Harvest Totals

Preliminary figures show hunters registered 173,942 deer during the 2023 gun deer season, including 85,390 antlered and 88,552 antlerless deer. Compared to 2022, the total firearm deer harvest was down 17.6% statewide, with the antlered harvest down 14.7% and the antlerless harvest down 20.3%.

Since the opening of the bow and crossbow seasons, hunters have registered 266,132 statewide so far this year.

Adams County in the Central Farmland Zone led the state with 9.7 deer registered per square mile. Adams County also led the Central Forest Zone with 3.5 deer per square mile. Vernon County led the Southern Farmland Zone with 6.7 deer registered per square mile. Taylor County registered the most deer per square mile, 2.7, in the Northern Forest Zone.

For the 2023 gun deer season, the regional harvest breakdown by deer management zone as compared to the 5-year average was as follows:

Preliminary 2023 Gun Deer Season Harvest Totals
Deer Management Zone2023 Gun Deer Harvested5 Year Average Comparison
Northern Forest Zone Antlered: 17,715 -14.7%
 Antlerless: 10,305 -27.2%
Central Forest Zone Antlered: 3,587 -3.6%
 Antlerless: 2,703 -2.1%
Central Farmland Zone Antlered: 44,587 -5.2%
 Antlerless: 53,696 -14.7%
Southern Farmland Zone Antlered: 19,501 -0.9%
 Antlerless: 21,848 -11.1%
Total Preliminary Harvest Registrations Antlered: 85,390 -6.4%
 Antlerless: 88,552 -15.2%
 Total: 173,942 -11.1%

The DNR’s Wisconsin Deer Harvest Summary webpage has more information regarding preliminary harvest registration totals, including county-level numbers.

The regular gun deer season ran from Nov. 18 through Nov. 26 and is followed by the statewide muzzleloader season (Nov. 27-Dec. 6), the statewide antlerless-only four-day hunt (Dec. 7-Dec. 10) and the antlerless-only holiday hunt in select farmland zone counties (Dec. 24-Jan. 1, 2024).

First Harvest Certificates Available

Hunters of all ages who harvested their first deer are encouraged to highlight this significant occasion with a first harvest certificate.

2023 Gun Deer Season Hunting Incidents

At the publication time of this news release, the DNR reports three firearm-involved hunting incidents during the 2023 gun deer season.

  • Forest County, Argonne Township: On Nov. 18, 2023, in the morning hours, a 53-year-old male suffered a self-inflicted gunshot to the foot. The victim was walking to his tree stand on public property and adjusted his rifle sling when he accidentally pulled the trigger. The victim was transported to the hospital for non-life-threatening injuries.
  • Adams County, Big Flatts Township: On Nov. 19, 2023, in the morning hours, a 62-year-old male shot once at a dog, which he believed was an antlerless deer, on private property. A 47-year-old female victim was walking that dog and was shot in her thigh. The victim was taken to the hospital via MedFlight for her injuries.
  • Taylor County, Rib Lake Township: On Nov. 24, 2023, near midday, a 30-year-old male was the victim of a gunshot to his upper thigh. During the end of a deer drive, a 35-year-old male shooter shot at a deer, striking the victim. The victim received medical treatment at a hospital.

Comparatively, during the 2022 gun deer season, the DNR reported eight firearm-involved hunting incidents. Of those incidents, four were self-inflicted gunshots.

The average hunting incidents per year for the last 10 gun deer seasons (2014-2023) is 5.9. In addition, there were no fatalities in 6 of those 10 years.

With various hunting seasons continuing through December, the DNR reminds hunters to always follow and practice the four primary rules of firearm safety, otherwise known as TAB-K:

  • T – Treat every firearm as if it is loaded.
  • A – Always point the muzzle in a safe direction.
  • B – Be certain of your target, what’s before it and what’s beyond it.
  • K – Keep your finger outside your trigger guard until you are safe to shoot.

More tips for safe hunting in Wisconsin are available on the DNR website.

DNR VIOLATION HOTLINE:Anyone with information regarding natural resource violations may confidentially report by calling or texting: 1-800-TIP-WDNR or 1-800-847-9367. The hotline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Trained staff relay the information to conservation wardens. File a report online.

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