DNR issues final 2012 deer season report
Wisconsin continues to be a world deer hunting destination, with over 633,000 hunters from every state in the country and several foreign countries having purchased licenses to participate in the traditions of the state’s 161st nine-day gun deer season this year. The traditions of the nine-day hunt include camaraderie, deer camp stories, a commitment to safety and respect for fellow hunters and the state’s natural resources. Continuing and sharing these traditions is what keeps the state’s hunting heritage strong, and is a goal of the department.
This year the department saw the traditions being passed along to nearly 29,000 new hunters who bought First Time and Returning Hunter licenses for the nine-day. New female hunters represented 33 percent of this total, and another 33 percent of first time buyers were youth, ages 17 and under. Additionally, 80 First Time Buyer licenses were sold to hunters 80 and older, illustrating how deep Wisconsin’s hunting heritage runs. Anecdotal feedback from registration station opening weekend indicated that many of the first time hunters had success this year, with a number harvesting or being mentored by hunters who harvested bucks.
Buck harvest did rise this year, amongst all hunters. The preliminary nine-day tally showed hunters harvested 114,822 bucks, for a 12 percent increase over 2011. In total, over 243,000 deer were registered, according to preliminary tallies, a 7.7 percent increase over 2011. Hunters had a higher rate of success than last year and in some areas hunters saw more deer than in previous years. However there are areas in the state where deer observations were low. This feedback, along with final harvest numbers, are important as we continue to work with hunters to best manage deer populations in the state. Final harvest tallies will likely rise when all tags are officially counted.
Whether hunters harvested a deer or not, many enjoyed sharing their tales, celebrating others’ successful hunts, and connecting with the landscape once again. This year, DNR provided many communication forums for sharing these tales, experiences and knowledge. Deer season communications focused heavily on personalizing the DNR and connecting with hunters – our partners in conservation. It also focused on connecting a broader network of hunters and deer season enthusiasts with one another. Through the coordinated use of multiple social media tools, the sharing of knowledge and deer tales increased exponentially, growing from an exchange between hunting groups to an exchange between thousands.
One of the most important messages continuously shared with department’s large network of hunters is the need to hunt safely. Seven shooting related incidents were reported in 2012, below the 10-year average. One incident was fatal. DNR sends sincere condolences to the family and friends of the fatally injured hunter.
Wisconsin continues its commitment to hunter safety. More than 25,000 students complete the hunter’s safety program every year, thanks to the work of more than 3,800 volunteer hunter education instructors, a safety conscious hunting community and DNR staff dedicated to continually enhancing hunter safety. The state marked it one-millionth graduate in 2012. Before the hunter education course started, hunter fatalities during the season commonly ran into the double digits.
Finally, DNR connected with thousands of hunters during the season through the use of the Customer Service Call Center. The call center broke a record the Friday before opening day with 4, 235 contacts from the public. This illustrates our increased customer service and ability to process questions immediately.
This year Wisconsin had more than 600,000 people connecting with the land between Nov. 17 and Nov. 25, renewing their commitment to sustaining our natural resources for generations to come. We also had a higher rate of hunter success this year, when talking about how many deer were registered. However “success” of the hunt needs to take into account many pieces, including the value of time spent with friends and family having fun and sharing traditions of the season. I am particularly excited by the numbers of new hunters, especially the number of women, experiencing the nine-day deer hunt for the first time. Engaging a new generation of hunters through stories, mentoring and getting them in the field is what keeps our hunting heritage strong. Of course no hunt is 100 percent successful unless all hunters return home unharmed. But Wisconsin remains committed to hunter safety. Statistically, overall hunter safety continues to increase and will remain a priority for all hunting seasons. The DNR thanks hunters and their families for their involvement, for their respect of each other and the resource, and for continuing to be our partners in conservation.