Opening Weekend Harvest – ‘Back To Normal’

Conditions for the opening weekend of the 2022 gun deer hunt included some snow cover but were cold with high winds, particularly on Saturday, which suppressed some hunter activity. Conditions improved slightly on Sunday, but wind chill was still a factor in some parts of the state.

Despite the challenging weather conditions, hunters saw good deer movement overall, with some evidence of bucks still showing breeding behavior. In total, 103,623 deer were registered statewide during the opening weekend of the 2022 gun deer hunt, compared to the 85,860 registered for the same period in 2021. This is a 15 percent increase over 2021 and is on par with the average opening weekend harvest.

A total of 56,638 bucks were registered on opening weekend, compared to 47,529 in 2021. This is a 14 percent increase over 2021 and is 2 percent above the 5-year average.

Regionally, the Central Forest zone saw the greatest increase at 37 percent above last year and 15 percent over the 5-year average, according to DNR Deer Program Specialist Jeff Pritzl. He says this had to do with the forest being a buffer from Saturday’s winds, compared to open agricultural country.

Pritzl says weather conditions on the opening weekend impact overall harvest numbers, but not as much as they used to as more hunters are taking advantage of the bow season prior to the gun deer hunt. He notes the firearm deer harvest outside of the nine-day season accounts for about two-thirds of the deer harvested. Archery takes one-third.

Throughout the state, warming temperatures during the week will likely lead to a loss of the snow cover in parts of the state. Where it doesn’t melt completely, it will result in crunchy conditions from daytime melting and refreezing at night. Beyond the potential for rain on Thanksgiving Day, conditions should be great for hunting during the remainder of the gun deer season.

Preliminary figures show the number of deer hunters in Wisconsin decreased compared to 2021. As of midnight Sunday, Nov. 20, sales for gun, bow, crossbow, sports and patron licenses reached 779,123. Of that total, 421,474 were for gun privileges only. The year-to-date sales for all deer licenses are down 2 percent from the same time last year, which follows a 20-year trend, according Pritzl.

The regular gun deer season continues through Nov. 27, followed by the statewide muzzleloader season (Nov. 28 – Dec. 7), the statewide antlerless-only four-day season (Dec. 8-11) and antlerless holiday hunts in select farmland zone counties later in December. 

Hunters are required to register their deer by 5 p.m. the day after recovery through GameReg, the game registration system. Harvested deer may be registered in one of three ways:

  • Online: gamereg.wi.gov (fastest and easiest method)
  • Phone: 1-844-426-3734
    • When prompted, use your phone keypad to spell the first three letters of the county. For example, a registrant in Adams County would spell A-D-A by pressing “232.”
  • In-Person: Find a station that offers a phone or computer for registration through the online hunting resources stations portal.