Opening weekend of 2022 gun deer hunt marks return to normal

MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin hunters killed nearly 20,000 more deer during this year’s opening weekend of the gun deer season compared to last year, despite fewer hunters venturing out into the outdoors overall.

In total, hunters registered 102,347 deer statewide during the opening weekend of the 2022 gun deer hunt, compared to 85,860 during the same period in 2021. While that number marks a 15% increase over last year’s total, officials with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources said this year’s harvest is on par with the state’s average.

“This isn’t so much a big jump from last year as it is a return to more of a normal that we see over a five-year average,” DNR Deer Program Specialist Jeff Pritzl said. “But, bottom line, that was good to see that those registration numbers returned to normal over the weekend.”

Of the more than 100,000 deer harvested over the weekend, 55,503 of them were bucks, which was a 14% increase over 2021 and 2% higher than the 5-year average.

As of midnight Sunday, hunters had bought nearly 780,000 hunting licenses, 421,474 of which were exclusively for gun hunting. That’s down roughly 2% compared to last year.

While statewide figures were down, some zones saw significant increases in hunter turnout; Wisconsin’s Central Forest zone was up 37% from last year and up 16% over the five-year average. Pritzl said those numbers were likely due to high winds around the state, especially on Saturday.

“You probably saw a little bit of higher success in the forested zones because more of the hunters were maybe able to position themselves in a way the wind wasn’t so bad,” he added.

With the exception of a possibility for rain on Thanksgiving Day, DNR officials said they expect great hunting conditions for the remainder of the season, especially as temperatures warm throughout the week.

Wisconsin’s regular gun deer season runs through Nov. 27 and will be followed by the statewide muzzleloader season, which runs Nov. 28 through Dec. 7. The statewide antlerless-only four-day season runs Dec. 8-11.