New tallies from the state Department of Natural Resources show hunters took about 7,500 fewer deer on opening day of Wisconsin's nine-day gun deer season than they did last year.
Preliminary figures show hunters killed 68,756 deer on Saturday. That's down 7,467 deer from the 76,223 deer they killed on opening day last year.
The harvest in northern Wisconsin, where the herd is recovering from harsh winters, was up from last year. Hunters in that region killed 12,330 deer on Saturday compared with 10,071 last year.
About 17,000 fewer hunters had purchased gun licenses by opening day than by opening day last year. According to the agency's count, 533,502 hunters had purchased licenses as of 4 p.m. Friday compared with 550,756 hunters by the same time last year.
DNR area wildlife supervisor Andy Paulios said the low numbers can likely be attributed to windy conditions on Saturday, the opening day of the hunt.
"A lot of hunters struggle with the wind," Paulios said. "It's harder to deer hunt in heavy winds. The deer don't move as much. I think some hunters chose maybe to not even head out Saturday morning because it was pretty windy Saturday morning."
Jerry Stoddard, owner of Stoddard's Meat Market and Catering, which processes deer, said business has been slightly slower than usual.
"Traffic so far overall has been a little bit down," Stoddard said. "Our Saturday was pretty good, but our Sunday was probably down about 8 or 10 percent."
Paulios said officials are optimistic that numbers will pick up as the nine-day hunt continues with better hunting weather expected.
"Looks like decent warm temperatures, but not too warm to cause folks concern about the meat, so I expect people to really get out and enjoy the hunt," Paulios said.
Stoddard said he shares that optimism.
"Typically if we start out with a slower opening weekend, then the second weekend after Thanksgiving picks up dramatically," Stoddard said. "As long as the weather stays cold and we don't get the high winds, I think we'll have a real good second weekend of the hunt."