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Sunday, Nov. 23, 2008

Opening Day - Wisconsin Deer Hunt

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Here's a great first day report of gun season:

Deer Hunt 2008: Opening day notes from the field

Just before dawn Saturday, 631,223 hunters hit the woods with a license intent on bagging a deer as Wisconsin's annual nine-day gun deer hunt opened.

Department of Natural Resources Secretary Matt Frank was out in south central Wisconsin visiting deer hunters and DNR staff at registration stations on opening morning of Wisconsin's annual nine-day gun deer season.

"I loved hearing hunters' stories. The stations I visited were constantly busy -- even at mid-morning. And everyone I talked to said they were going back out to continue hunting," Frank said.

"What was really gratifying was seeing our next generation of hunters taking their place. I especially enjoyed the chance to visit with the youngsters who brought in their first bucks at Sauk Prairie and Barneveld. Congratulations to all hunters for keeping our heritage strong. I wish them all success and an enjoyable and safe hunting experience in our great outdoors," Frank said.

While weather was somewhat mild in southern Wisconsin, bitter temperatures greeted hunters in the state's northern third.

At Hurley, in Iron County, "opening morning was tough to be a hunter," reported DNR wildlife biologist Bruce Bacon. "It was 8 below zero so hunter activity was minimal."

Bacon said things turned round by midday when "it was nice and sunny, in the low 20s, with 6 to 10 inches of snow on the ground. Everything was good. It's probably a 9 out of 10 opener… very huntable."

Ken Jonas, DNR wildlife biologist at Hayward, reported an out-of-state hunter got a two-fer.

"One person who came out from Pennsylvania shot two deer with one shot, a buck and a doe. They were just lined up perfectly. He wasn't thinking of doing it, he shot and they both went down."

Steve Klock, DNR wildlife technician registering deer in Dundee reported two of the biggest deer were brought in by two 13-year-old hunters. One shot a 10-point and one 13-point buck.

"Those were some happy boys and their dads were beaming too," Klock said.

The number of resident hunters was up 1,633 from last year, and nonresident visitors are down by just 162.

The custom of buying a license en route to deer camp seemed alive and well. More than 45 percent of all hunters purchased a license in the eight days preceding the opener. A total of 12 percent purchased theirs on Friday night.

Of the hunters hitting the woods Saturday, 595,926 (94 percent) were residents and 35,297 were nonresidents.

DNR wildlife management director Tom Hauge called in from his ridge-top stand near Ithaca.

"There are dry leaves so you can certainly hear the crunch as deer walk," he said.

He had not gotten a deer, but the rest of his nine-person hunting party was doing better, including nephew Kent Genter of Stoughton who took a 10-point buck.

"I hear from the rest of the gang it has a nice 18-inch inside spread," Hauge said.

Hauge said the power of Wisconsin's $1 billion deer hunting industry was evident in Richland Center where he was staying. He said Peaches, a local restaurant, was packed with hunters for Friday fish fry, and the Starlight Motel, where he was staying, was full of hunters. He said it emptied before dawn as hunters headed to their stands.

When 203,571 bow deer license sales are added to deer gun totals, deer hunting participation was at 835,000, a slight increase over 2007. And additional licenses will likely be sold this week and during late bow, muzzle loader, December and "holiday" hunts that are still to come.

* Hunters throughout the U.S. and several foreign countries purchased a Wisconsin gun deer license. The highest number of nonresident hunters came from Minnesota (16,631), Illinois (8,910), Michigan (1,102), and Florida (985), each having increased in participation over last year.

* Youth hunters (ages 12 to 17) represented 11 percent of the total number of deer hunters, and 8.1 percent of the total hunters were female.

* The greatest number of deer licenses were sold in Dane County (28,318), with Brown, Washington, Marathon and Waukesha counties following.

* More than 53,000 hunters are age 65 or older while 23 percent of the total are between the ages of 12 and 25. The ages most represented were 47 and 48. More than 132,000 antlerless deer tags have been sold this year.

* The DNR's call center, open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily at 1-888-WDNR INFo (1-888-936-7463), apparently received a call from a female hunter early Saturday morning asking in a nervous, quiet whisper.

"I have an albino deer in my sights right now, is it legal for me to shoot it?" (The answer? Only in the Chronic Wasting Disease Zone, otherwise it is illegal to shoot an albino deer).

Last week, the call center received 1,200 to 1,400 calls per day, peaking at more than 2,000 on Friday.

* Hunters wishing to report a violation can call 24 hours a day and seven days a week at 1(800)TIP-WDNR (800-847-9367) or cell #367.

Reports from the field came in from throughout the DNR's South Central Region:

Columbia County

Portage -- DNR wildlife technician Chris Seuser said about 30 deer had been registered by 1:40 p.m. "We registered one for a 13-year-old who shot his first buck: a six-pointer that he will have mounted," Seuser said.

Lodi -- Tim Sellers estimates he had registered 15 to 20 deer by mid-afternoon at the Lodi Sausage Company and Meat Market. "(It's) the normal pace here; mainly does from hunters trying to earn their buck tag. It's been a good start and hunters seem comfortable with the weather."

Dane County

Waunakee -- Fred Loy said they had registered 14 deer by 3:30 p.m. at the Village Market, up a bit from past years at that time. He said the count was even between bucks and does.

"Hunters sure liked the chilly weather compared to warmer starts in the early season and a few said that they had seen some darn nice bucks, but could not take a shot at them until they had taken and registered a doe," he said.

Black Earth -- Registrations at the DNR station near Norslein's Wood Works were pretty steady, perhaps a bit ahead of last year's pace with a few 10-pointers brought in.

Some University of Wisconsin students were working the station earlier in the day collecting deer tick samples for a study.

Dodge County

Watertown -- Brian Walsh at Detjen's Country Cutting said the station had registered a couple dozen deer by early afternoon, about normal for a cool year. He said most of the hunters were staying out on the woods.

"The conditions are nice. They are in a good mood. Those who get a doe like the chance to get a second permit and the first-time hunters who got their deer are grinning from ear to ear," Walsh said.

Lomira -- At the Lomira Shell Station, workers had registered 29 deer by mid-afternoon, which was about the norm. Felicia Mondragon reported that one party of five came in, registered their five deer, had extra permits and went out again only to come back a few hours later with two more deer.

Grant County

Cuba City -- About a dozen deer had been registered by 3 p.m. at Weber's Processing. Rich Udelhofen said the most recent was a 10-pointer that dressed out at about 175 to 180 pounds, "a real solid deer probably about 3 1/2 to four years old."

Green County

New Glarus -- Dennis Hoesly of Hoesly Meats said the business had registered about 40 deer by 3 p.m., "but that's not very telling because it's so cold out there that people aren't bringing in their deer yet. We usually see a pretty good rush between 4:30 and 7 p.m.

"Otherwise they may skin them, hang the deer a bit over night and register them tomorrow. If you are going to hang a deer overnight, keep it in a garage or protected, unheated area to keep it clean and keep it from freezing.

"It's not like recent years where it was so wet and warm that the deer needed to get in here pretty quickly to preserve quality. We've seen about six really nice bucks including a 12-pointer with a drop tine and one really big eight-pointer with two spit drop tines.

"That particular deer was just a monster, a good 180 pounds or so dressed out. The guy who got that one is a Minnesotan who has been coming to this area to hunt with a friend for 34 years. This is the first really big one he has gotten, though he usually does pretty well. He said the deer was hanging out in the swamp with a doe and he shot it with a rifle, though the deer was close enough that he could have taken it with a bow and arrow.

"Hunters had also donated quite a few deer to the food pantry program, which is nice in these times."

Iowa County

Avoca -- Darssan Singh at the Avoca Easy Stop said the crew had registered about 52 deer by 3 p.m., down just a little from last year at this time. He saw one 14-point buck, but admitted he was busy and didn't hear the story of that hunt. Hunters reported that deer movements were spotty: some had seen very few deer and others reported deer were "all over the hillsides."

Barneveld -- The station registered about 150 deer between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. Many hunters brought in does to get their Earn-A-Buck tags, but also a fair number of 2- to 3-year-old bucks in the 6- to 8-point range were registered.

Hunters have been generous about donating deer to food pantries as well with 15 deer already donated at this station by early afternoon. A 13-year-old who shot his first buck saved the antlers, then donated the animal for the food pantries, DNR official Greg Matthews said.

Jefferson County

Jefferson -- Lucy Mowery said workers had registered 35 to 40 deer at the River's Edge Farm Market by 3:30 p.m., about the same as in past years.

"And, just as in past years, I expect all (expletive) will break loose here in a little while and the next few days will be wild with all the registrations," she said.

Lafayette County

New Diggings -- At Anton's General Store, Robert Anton said registrations were running about normal and 19 deer had come in by 3:45 p.m.

South Wayne -- Denny Malott at Holverson's Meat Processing had registered only 25 deer by mid-afternoon.

"We've usually registered about 100 by now in past years, Malott said, "but there is a lot of standing corn down here this year and there seems to be more land in the area that just isn't open to hunting as it used to be. Hunters say they just are not seeing as many deer with so much land is closed to hunting.

"We saw one deer that was quite unusual. Its antlers were still all in velvet," Malott said. Two first-time hunters also registered deer -- a 16-year-old who registered a doe and a buck, and a 15-year-old who registered his first deer. They were both pretty happy, but quiet."

Richland County

Boaz -- More than 40 deer were registered at the Boaz Country Store. Hunters reported the weather was cool, but nice without a lot of wind, which was great for hunting. "We expect registrations will pick up a little later in the afternoon," Dominic Buening said.

Rock County

Beloit -- Rocky Coleman at Jans K Market said workers had registered 37 deer, mainly does for hunters who wanted to earn a buck tag. He said a woman who had not taken a deer since the late 1970s registered a nice doe, and "she was pretty happy. She said it had been a long, long time."

Evansville -- At the Evansville Gas & Go, Ben Tomlin reported hunters brought in 51 deer by 4 p.m.

"They're starting to come in quick now. I just registered five from one group. A bunch of first-time hunters got their deer, and of course, they were very happy," Tomlin said.

Sauk County

Sauk City -- Larry Wipperfurth at the Ace Hardware reported "it was a perfect day for hunting. The deer started moving later in the morning and a lot of guys were shooting does to earn their buck tags.

"We saw a lot of nice 2- to 3-year-old 10-pointers and it was really nice to have first-time hunters -- a couple of girls and two young guys -- bring in their first deer. A lot of families are out there together, which is great."

Sources:  State of Wisconsin DNR, and the Wisconsin State Journal