On this weekend after Thanksgiving, Melissa Rolstad had more to be thankful for than turkey leftovers.
Every year, she and her dad, Brad, go hunting together. Melissa scored a buck and didn’t have to freeze to do it.
“Nobody wants to sit out in the cold for four hours in like two-degree temperatures,” Rolstad said.
Rolstad said that’s what it was like last weekend for the deer hunt season opener. She said she only lasted three hours in the tree stand, not able to bear any more of the wind and cold temperatures.
“This year, the opening weekend was a heck of a lot colder than any years that I've experienced,” Rolstad said.
The Rolstad’s came to Wilderness Fish and Game in Sauk City to get Melissa’s deer tagged. Chuck Pohlman works the registration desk at the store and has heard plenty from hunters about the opening weekend.
“They couldn't stay in the woods long enough to do what they've got to do, you know. I mean, a lot of people were only out there a couple of hours. Some people made it through the day,” Pohlman said. “But they really struggled. It was a tough weekend for hunters.”
Department of Natural Resources (DNR) warden Jake Donar said there were fewer hunters out across the region for the first weekend of the season, but things seemed to pick up as the week went on and the weather improved.
In addition, Donar said the weather could have kept the animals away.
“When it's cold out and windy and stuff, it not only gets the hunters out of the woods earlier, but it also keeps the deer hanging tight,” Donar said.
“That definitely impacted the numbers a little bit for the harvest over the opening weekend,” Donar added.
Despite the cold, Wilderness Fish and Game registered 305 deer in the opening weekend. That’s more than half of their entire count of about 550 deer.
The Rolstad’s will grin and bear the cold to keep their family tradition going.
“Honestly, I think it's always worth it because if you get a deer, it's the memories that really count,” Rolstad said.
Preliminary deer totals for the state will be released by the DNR Tuesday.