2017 Deer Harvest Shows Shifting Trend

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Final registration numbers show Wisconsin hunters harvested 320,039 deer in 2017, a one-percent increase from a year ago.

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"Deer harvest in Wisconsin has been uncharacteristically consistent the last four years, it hasn't changed much in terms of both the antlerless and the buck harvest," says DNR Regional Wildlife Biologist Jeff Pritzl.

How hunters bagged their deer though, continues to change.

According to DNR harvest statistics, the percentage of deer being taken by archers and crossbow hunters is steadily climbing.

When it comes to deer hunting success in Wisconsin, the days of gun season domination are over.

"And we've seen that really over the last decade of so, and these other opportunities, other seasons, other weapon types have just kind of made up the difference, so cumulatively everything is very consistent, it's been that way for about a decade in terms of uses, but just how and when they're choosing to participate is what's changed over time," says Pritzl.

In 2000, 16-percent of all deer harvested were taken by bow hunters.

By 2010, that number climbed to 32-percent.

Last year, with crossbows now in the mix since 2014, non-gun hunters harvested 40-percent of deer statewide.

"We've seen the shift towards more deer being harvested before the gun season starts, but that trend started way before crossbows and it's really, it's continued on a pretty even trajectory ever since then," says Pritzl.

From an ecological stand point, Pritzl says it makes no difference how a deer is harvested, as long as hunters are doing their part to control the deer population.

"The management perspective, we are challenged in quite a few counties in Northeast Wisconsin to get an adequate deer harvest, so anything that helps keep people in the woods and participating is a good thing," says Pritzl.

For the first time in 2017, the crossbow deer harvest surpassed the archery harvest, and not everyone is happy about it.

During April's spring fish and game hearings, an advisory question will ask hunters if they support adjusting the length of the crossbow season to better reflect harvest rates similar to the gun and archery season.