Wisconsin's opening weekend took a big harvest, but the numbers continue to drop.
The state's Department of Natural Resources reported last week that Wisconsin's opening weekend of deer season saw a harvest of 90,281 deer. Although that seems like an astronomical number for just one weekend, the number has dropped significantly from last year's opening harvest of 110,797.
So what makes the 20,000 deer difference?
Not as Many Hunters
It's hard to pinpoint the exact reason for the drop in deer, but one of the main factors is there are not as many hunters. Year after year, the number of licensed hunters drops across the U.S. and Wisconsin is no exception. For the 2014 season, there were 710,680 licences sold, over 21,000 licenses less than for the 2013 season, which had 731,725 hunters in the woods.
Deer Management Unit Modification
This year, the Wisconsin DNR has made some changes in their deer management by redefining and reorganizing the hunting units in the state. Although this cannot explain such a huge difference in harvest year to year, it does have some influence since not all hunters may have been aware of the changes that occurred.
Public vs. Private Permits
This year, the DNR made significant changes to its antlerless deer permits. Previous to 2014, doe permits were released by specific units and it did not matter where hunting occurred as long as it was in the specified unit. In an attempt to protect the over-hunted public lands, the DNR made changes to the permits to encourage hunting on private land.
Chronic Wasting Disease
Wisconsin is not alone in the CWD epidemic that has impacted the deer population throughout the country. With 18 Wisconsin counties known to be impacted, it can have a toll on the hunters as well as the harvest. Some densely populated areas where the disease is known to be may be avoided by some hunters, and therefore produce lower overall harvest numbers. Wisconsin is attempting to get the epidemic under control through monitoring, issuing extra tags for these specific areas, and educating the public.