The DNR is looking for a strong finish to the deer hunt to match the promising numbers that were reported over the opening weekend.
All day Saturday, hunters pulled up to the registration center in Barneveld to check in their prize does and bucks. Don Bates with the Wisconsin DNR said the count has been up for that station and everywhere across the state.
"Overall this season, the kill has been up," Bates said. "We're up about 20 percent around this area, and I believe statewide it's similar."
Just in the opening weekend before Thanksgiving, hunters registered 134,772 deer with the DNR. According to DNR statistics, 1,120 deer were shot and killed in Dane County. Another 2,128 deer were harvested in Iowa County. More detailed county-by-county numbers can be found here.
Bates said those numbers are usually a good indicator for how the entire nine-day hunt will go.
"We have seen an inflated opening weekend kill, or it may be legitimate. It may carry through the season," Bates said.
Bates said the big numbers show that herds are growing and that more people are ready to hunt this season.
"It's also an indication of weather conditions," Bates added. "The nicer the weather, the more hunters go out, and if there are more hunters out there, they have more opportunity."
It would seem to follow that killing off deer would decrease the numbers of them out on the roads. However, Jeff Hepp at Ball Body Shop in Middleton has a number of drivers coming in with deer-related damage this time of year.
"We've seen at least 30, and we're continuing to see an uptick of business right now because the deer are really running around right now," Hepp said.
Hepp said the hunt is at least partially to blame for more collisions. He said the animals are pushed out of the woods and are therefore more likely to take to the streets, adding that the increased holiday traffic during the hunt doesn’t help.
Hepp’s best advice for drivers is to resist the urge to swerve.
"Just hit the brakes," Hepp explained, "because we see a lot of cars that have more damage from trying to miss the deer than they do from actually hitting the deer."
Hepp said damage from deer versus vehicle accidents doesn’t typically total the car unless the car is traveling at highway speed. Thankfully, Hepp hasn’t heard of any injuries from deer crashes this year, and he said that the $2,000 to $6,000 in damage done in this kind of collision is usually covered by basic auto insurance policies.
The final count for this season’s deer registration will be released early in the coming week. The hunt ends Sunday, Nov. 25.