Things to know for Wisconsin’s 2023 Gun Deer Hunt
GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Wisconsin’s nine-day gun-deer hunt starts this Saturday, Nov. 18. It’s a tradition unlike any other.
More than half a million hunters will take to the woods and fields of Wisconsin, thinning the deer population, putting food on tables, and contributing $2 billion to the economies of communities across the state.
Here are more things to know about the season.
Warmer temperatures mean conditions for catching that trophy buck could be more challenging than last year, when snow on the ground increased a deer’s visibility.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is tempering expectations for 2023 after a very successful hunt in 2022.
“Last year, we had exceptionally good conditions, and so we probably won’t see that this year,” DNR deer program specialist Jeff Pritzl said Thursday. “In the absence of snow this year, I wouldn’t be surprised if our harvest numbers come in a little bit behind last year.”
If it’s an indication, Michigan’s gun deer season started Tuesday, and the Michigan DNR said the opening-day harvest in the Upper Peninsula was down from last year. It said the warmer-than-normal weather was probably a factor.
The Wisconsin DNR says in 2022 gun hunters registered 203,295 deer over 9 days. The central forest saw the most improvement last season, followed by the central farmland zone, which includes much of Northeast Wisconsin. The southern two-thirds of the state has had a slowly growing deer population for decades.
The DNR guide to deer hunting includes regulations; resources including a field dressing pocket guide, Wild Wisconsin, and CWD testing; and a map of 6 million acres of public land available to hunters.
The hunting season will get off to a seasonable start with daytime temperatures in the mid to upper 40s this weekend, following unseasonably warm weather earlier this week. Breezes and sometimes a brisk wind will add to the hunters’ challenges to remain unnoticed. The forecast looks dry through the weekend.
The National Weather Service currently shows no snow cover in northern Wisconsin.
Download the WBAY First Alert Weather app to your iPhone or Android phone. It will forecast the weather and provide radar specific to your location.
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HEALTH AND SAFETY
The DNR recorded 1 gun-related death and 8 gun-related injuries during the last gun deer season. A boy died after a gun went off while a man in his hunting party was unloading it in the backseat of a vehicle. Four of the people who were injured were shot by their own gun.
The state averages more than 6 incidents during gun deer season. according to the DNR. Six of the past 11 gun deer seasons had no fatalities.
Health officials say the most common injuries for hunters are heart attacks, followed by broken bones and back injuries related to falls from tree stands.
Dr. Kyle McCarty, emergency medicine specialist for HSHS hospitals in Wisconsin, says hunters should not go into the woods unprepared.
“Cell phones and hunting partners can serve as a lifeline when health-related injuries occur in the heart of the woods,” Dr. McCarty said. “Whether a hunter accidentally cuts themselves, experiences chest pains or happens to twist their ankle – being able to ask for help is critical. The seriousness of these injuries can only get worse when a hunter finds themself unable to get help because they ventured out alone or didn’t bring along a cell phone.”
DNR recreation warden Marcus Medina further advises, “If you don’t have cell coverage then maybe you want to get some GPS services that can reach out absent of cellular communication, or have your hunt plan where if you’re not back by a certain date someone’s going to start coming and looking for you.”
Doctors and wildlife experts recommend the following:
- Always wear fall-restraint harnesses while in trees
- Maintain 3-points of contact with trees at all times while climbing
- If using an ATV or UTV, wear a helmet and use the seat belt
- Bring a first-aid kit along on hunts
- Carry a cell phone; bring a portable power bank to keep it charged
- Take intermittent breaks while hiking, dragging, and processing deer to decrease the risks of a heart attack
- Pack dry clothes and rain gear and wear layers to help prevent the risk of experiencing hypothermia
- Maintain proper ventilation when using propane heat inside cabins and enclosed deer stands to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning
Carbon monoxide safety
Wisconsin Public Service encourages hunters to check the heating systems in their cabins before the hunt. Carbon monoxide is an invisible, odorless gas that is caused by improper burning or venting of fuel, according to WPS.
- Check heating vents, flues and chimneys to make sure they are clear; remove any debris or animal nests from them
- Inspect fuel-burning appliances
- Never use a portable generator or charcoal grill indoors
- Install a carbon monoxide detector or check existing detectors to make sure they’re working (batteries should be replaced every 6 months, and CO alarms should be replaced every 5 years)
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning
- Sudden, flu-like illness
- Dizziness, headaches or sleepiness
- Cherry-red lips and an unusually pale complexion
- Nausea or vomiting
- Fluttering heartbeat
- Loss of consciousness
If you suspect someone is succumbing to carbon monoxide poisoning, move them into fresh air as quickly as possible and call 911. Get everyone else out of the structure. Open any windows.
- 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 in front of it, and what’s beyond it
- K – Keep your finger outside your trigger guard until you are safe to shoot
Tree Stand Safety
- Always wear a safety harness when you hunt from any elevated stand, no matter what type of stand it is.
- Always unload your firearm before attaching it to your haul line. Your haul line is used to raise and lower your firearm or other gear.
- Always maintain three points of contact while climbing in and out of the tree stand: two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand at all times.
- Use a lifeline so you’re connected and safe at all times – while climbing, while sitting and while climbing down.
- Check for worn or torn straps holding the stand to the tree.
- Take your time getting in and out of the stand. Think about each move you are making and be deliberate with your actions.
CHRONIC WASTING DISEASE
Hunters are encouraged to prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease by placing carcasses in disposal sites. CWD is a fatal disease of the nervous system of deer, moose, elk, and reindeer.
CLICK HERE for a map of landfills, dumpsters, and transfer station facilities for deer carcass waste.
Hunters can sample their deer for CWD testing. CLICK HERE to learn more about sampling.
The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection encourages hunters to prevent the spread of forest pests and diseases by not moving firewood.
DATCP recommends using state-certified firewood with labels and certification numbers. These are found at gas stations, grocery stores, and state parks.
DNR DEER DONATION PROGRAM
The DNR says hunters can donate deer to the program to help stock food pantries. The DNR works with meat processors to distribute the venison. Hunters have donated 98,000 deer -- over 3.9 million pounds of venison! -- since the program started in 2000.
CLICK HERE to learn how to donate and to find a participating processor.
REPORT HUNTING VIOLATIONS
If you notice a violation, you can report it to the DNR by calling or texting 1-800-847-9367. The hotline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
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