Sauk County’s deer harvest soared during the first weekend of gun season, rebounding from a quiet 2017 opening weekend.
Hunters registered 3,183 deer Saturday and Sunday in the county, a 33 percent increase over the previous opening weekend. Statewide, nearly 119,000 deer were registered, a nearly 13 percent increase from last year.
Snow cover, tolerable temperatures and considerable deer movement made for ideal hunting conditions, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources wildlife management supervisor Bret Owsley said. “Quite frankly, I’ve never seen better conditions,” he said.
An early Thanksgiving set opening weekend during the rut, when amorous bucks traverse the woods in search of does. Movement aids hunters, as does snow that improves visibility and tracking ability.
“There’s plenty of deer running around and lots of happy hunters,” Owsley said.
Among them was Hudson Greenwood, who bagged a 10-pointer east of Sauk County Highway W in Baraboo. Scott Zick reported spotting three does and three bucks near Denzer. He landed an eight-pointer on opening morning.
“Late rut along with snow this season really helped,” Zick said. “I heard constant shooting from 6:30 to 7.”
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Local hunters claimed 1,698 antlered and 1,485 antlerless deer, both increases of about 33 percent from opening weekend 2017.
Hunters are required to register their deer by 5 p.m. the day after harvest. The DNR offers online registration.
“The registration process is critical to the management of Wisconsin’s deer herd, so hunters who forgot to register their deer are encouraged to complete this process, even if they do so beyond the 5 p.m. deadline,” said Kevin Wallenfang, DNR big-game ecologist. “Knowing life is busy, the best practice is to register your harvest immediately so you don’t forget — some hunters are completing the registration while still in the field, which works great.”
The nine-day gun season concludes Sunday. Deer hunters can continue their searches for game during upcoming muzzleloader, antlerless and bow seasons.
Owsley said relatively mild temperatures forecast for the end of this week bode well for the end of gun season. “People can sit all day if they want,” he said. “We should be in for a good deer season.”
Statewide, more than 545,000 hunters bought licenses for Wisconsin’s 167th gun deer season, continuing a downward trend. Final numbers won’t be available until January.
“There are good examples of programs and campaigns that are successful at recruiting and retaining hunters, but it will take time to build them to scale,” said Keith Warnke, a regional coordinator for the DNR.