DNR releases numbers from the 2023 gun deer opener

DNR believes hunter safety courses are helping to keep hunting safer
Published: Nov. 21, 2023 at 12:44 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 21, 2023 at 9:30 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WSAW) - The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has released the preliminary deer harvest and license sale totals for the opening weekend of the 2023 gun deer season.

Preliminary License Sales Data

Preliminary figures show the number of deer hunters in Wisconsin slightly decreased compared to 2022.

As of midnight Sunday, Nov. 19, sales for gun, bow, crossbow, sports and conservation patron licenses reached 774,369. Of that total, 421,525 were for gun privileges only. The year-to-date sales for all deer licenses are down 0.61% from the same time last year.

The number of conservation patron licenses sold to date in 2023 is 1.5% higher than conservation patron licenses sold in 2022.

Of the total licenses sold, 65% were sold online, and 35% were sold in-person by DNR license agents and DNR service centers, which includes private businesses across the state.

Final license sales figures will be available in January.

Preliminary Registration Totals And Future Outlook

In total, hunters registered 92,050 deer statewide during the opening weekend of the 2023 gun deer hunt, compared to 103,623 registered for the same period in 2022. This is a 16% decrease from 2022 and 10% below the 5-year average. A majority of the decrease was due to a decline in antlerless deer harvest, but that usually picks up over the second half of the season.

A total of 51,870 bucks were registered on opening weekend, compared to 56,638 in 2022. This is a 13% decrease over 2022.

Conditions for opening weekend this year were mostly clear and dry. Mornings were cold, crisp and quiet. Temperatures increased quickly each day, which seemed to suppress both hunter and deer movement somewhat in the afternoons.

Reports of breeding behavior were still coming from across the state, they were not as common as some may have hoped, given the early start to the season on the calendar. The comfortable conditions led to many hunters spending an enjoyable weekend in nature soaking in the sights, sounds and fresh air.

A forecasted drop in temperature and lack of precipitation during the second half of the gun season should mean good conditions for those who try to make the most out of the full nine days.

Opening Weekend Hunting Incidents

As of Tuesday morning, the DNR reports two firearm-involved hunting incidents during the opening weekend of the 2023 gun deer season, Nov. 18-19.

  • Forest County, Argonne Township: On Nov. 18, 2023, in the morning hours, a 53-year-old man suffered a self-inflicted gunshot to the foot. The man was walking to his tree stand on public property and adjusted his rifle sling when he accidentally pulled the trigger. The victim was transported to the hospital for non-life-threatening injuries.
  • Adams County, Big Flatts Township: On Nov. 19, 2023, in the morning hours, a 62-year-old man shot once at a dog, which he believed was an antlerless deer on private property. A 47-year-old woman who was walking that dog was shot in her abdomen. She was transported via Med Flight for her injuries.

“The person was a disabled hunter. Obviously in Wisconsin, we have many opportunities for a disabled hunter, which allows them to hunt from a vehicle,” said Michael Weber, Wisconsin DNR Conservation Warden.

Comparatively, during the opening weekend of the 2022 gun deer season, the DNR reported six firearm-involved hunting incidents. Of those incidents, three were self-inflicted gunshots.

Conservation wardens remind all hunters to always follow and practice the four main rules of firearm safety, otherwise known as the TAB-K formula:

T - Treat every firearm as if it is loaded.

A - Always point the muzzle in a safe direction.

B - Be certain of your target, what’s before it and what’s beyond it.

K - Keep your finger outside your trigger guard until you are safe to shoot.

“Always watching muzzle control. Controlling it, pointing it in a safe direction, as well as being sure to absolutely identify your target. And then be sure about what’s in front of that target, and what’s beyond that target,” said Weber.

Following the TAB-K formula is the best way for hunters to do their part in preventing hunting incidents from occurring. This year, the DNR stresses the importance of always pointing your muzzle in a safe direction in addition to being certain of your target, what’s before it and what’s beyond it.

Learn more about safe hunting in Wisconsin on the DNR’s Hunting Safety webpage.

DNR VIOLATION HOTLINE: Anyone with information regarding natural resource violations may confidentially report by calling or texting: 1-800-TIP-WDNR or 1-800-847-9367. The hotline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Trained staff relay the information to conservation wardens. File a report online.