Deer harvest numbers from opening weekend down

Hunter numbers on par with previous years

MADISON — More than half a million hunters purchased licenses to enjoy opening weekend of Wisconsin’s 168th gun deer season.

As of midnight Nov. 24, preliminary figures indicate that the number of deer hunters in Wisconsin is near par with last year.

Sales for gun, bow, crossbow, sports and patron licenses reached 782,815 as of midnight Sunday. Of that total, 555,227 were for gun privileges only. This number includes gun, patron and sports licenses.

Of the total licenses sold, 46.7% were sold online, and 53.3% were sold by DNR license agents, which includes private business across the state. Final license sales figures will be available in January, at which time DNR staff will perform a thorough analysis and interpretation.

“The DNR’s Recruitment, Retention and Reactivation program continues to grow, bringing in new hunters and inspiring experienced hunters to stay in the game,” said Keith Warnke, DNR Recruitment, Retention and Reactivation coordinator. “With the full support of our partners, DNR will be able to maintain our hunting and angling tradition.”

In total, 90,286 deer were harvested by gun and registered statewide during the opening weekend of the gun deer hunt in 2019, compared to 123,090 in 2018. A total of 46,866 bucks were registered on opening weekend, compared to 67,636 in 2018.

Hunter reports of deer activity varied around the state and within regions. Some reported excellent deer activity while others reported very little, including in areas where deer abundance is known to be high. Reports of rutting activity were far less common compared to last year, which was expected with the latest possible gun season opening date.

“In 2018, we held the earliest possible deer season followed by the latest possible season in 2019. This occurred between the 2012-13 and 2007-08 seasons as well, and we saw similar declines in opening weekend registration totals,” said DNR big game ecologist Kevin Wallenfang.

A more detailed summary of preliminary registration totals can be found online at

As a reminder from the Wisconsin DNR, hunters are required to register their deer by 5 p.m. the day after recovery.