The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) today announced the preliminary deer harvest and license sale totals for the opening weekend of the 2023 gun deer season.
Preliminary License Sales Data
Preliminary figures indicate 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, at which time DNR staff will perform a thorough analysis and interpretation.
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, however 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 that try to make the most out of the full nine days.
Registration Of Deer Required With GameReg
All harvested deer must be registered electronically by 5 p.m. the day after the deer is recovered. GameReg is simple, fast and convenient for hunters. The system will prompt hunters to answer a series of questions. The unique harvest authorization number associated with each permit is required.
Hunters have three options to register their deer:
Online at gamereg.wi.gov (the fastest and easiest option)
By phone at 1-844-426-3734
Electronically at a participating in-person registration station
Proper registration provides accurate harvest data for DNR wildlife managers and County Deer Advisory Councils for the management of deer in Wisconsin.
Opening Weekend Hunting Incidents
At the publication time of this news release, 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 male suffered a self-inflicted gunshot to the foot. The victim 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 threating injuries.
Adams County, Big Flatts Township: On Nov. 19, 2023, in the morning hours, a 62-year-old male shot once at a dog, which he believed was an antlerless deer on private property. The 47-year-old female victim who was walking that dog was shot in her abdomen. The victim was transported via Med Flight for her injuries.
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.
Following the TAB-K formula is the best way for hunters to 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.