DNR Suspects Lower Deer Harvest A Result Of Successful 2022 Hunt

Early data shows hunters registered 173,942 deer during the 2023 gun deer season. This includes 85,390 antlered and 88,552 antlerless deer.

Compared to 2022, the total firearm deer harvest was down 17.6 percent statewide. The antlered harvest down 14.7 percent and the antlerless harvest down 20.3 percent. However, Deer Program Specialist Jeff Pritzl says 2022 and 2023 are not an “apples to apples” comparison.

“This year is more of an equalizer,” he says, noting that 2022’s gun deer hunt harvest numbers were a double-digit increase from the year before.

“We had a really healthy antlerless harvest in 2020, followed by a pretty significant drop in ’21, and then last year we had a real nice rebound, and then this year a drop again,” he says. “Not real sure what’s causing that, but one possibility might just be that there’s a freezer inventory effect.”

Pritzl explains that hunters that did shoot antlerless deer last year may have carryover this year in the freezer. Therefore, they aren’t as driven to bag a doe.

He says the benchmark for the 9-day gun deer hunt alone is about 200,000 deer harvested. Since the opening of the deer seasons with the bow and crossbow season, hunters have registered 266,132 deer this year. The DNR will take a closer look at deer populations at the end of all the seasons, Pritzl says.

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:

Early License Sales Data

As of 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 percent compared to last year.

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

Deer hunting license and harvest authorization sales will continue through the remaining deer hunting seasons.