The question on the street, in bars and eateries, ice fishing shanties and farm stores is how many deer were registered?
After that, particularly after a downer opening weekend, next question is why the drop? Some of that will be made up when the final numbers are posted. Maybe it has already been made up during the archery/crossbow season.
One might wonder, at least in southern Wisconsin, whether the five-year study in Southwest Wisconsin on deer, CWD and predators has any data that might reveal some patterns. With the remaining collared deer, researchers would know where they congregated, the habitat, if their home ranges became smaller and movement was negligible all of a sudden.
Hunters with trail cameras still in the woods can look at the cards to see if deer activity slowed shortly before and during the opening weekend. A few have already said, “Yes.”
Were hunters passing up deer on opening weekend for whatever reason? Were deer taken and not yet registered? Oops, that would be illegal. Hunters have only two days to register after the deer is taken into possession.
There are still a half dozen factors which might have been contributing to the opening weekend showing total registrations down 14 percent statewide, and much more in some southern counties.
For example, Buffalo County was down 28.7 percent, Jackson County the same, but La Crosse County down only 7.7 percent.
Bayfield County, in the far north, was up 14.5 percent, Columbia County down 24.1 percent and Crawford County down 18.8 percent, while Green County was down 31.6 percent. Iowa County missed the mark at 35.1 percent.
The Southern Farmland was down 24.1 percent.
Look for new preliminary numbers this week, and then the muzzleloader, antlerless, and Holiday hunts will chip in, along with the last of the archery/crossbow. Then we can talk.
Doug Martin, at Martin’s in Monroe, said the talk was mixed from some hunters seeing lots of deer and others almost nothing. Sometimes those talking were next to one another.
“Closer to villages, reports came in of deer mixing with domestic animals and being on the roads, too,” Martin said.
Doug Williams had some interesting stories from hunters, beginning with the hunter who came in to purchase “hair-seeking bullets.” He told Williams the deer he shot at didn’t react and kept going.
Williams sent him back with instructions to go to the same place and walk up and down the trail 100 yards in both directions.
“He reported back to me saying he found a buck and a doe he had shot earlier and didn’t need new ammunition,” Williams said. “I didn’t have any ammunition anyway, and there wasn’t anything wrong with what he had.”
A nine-year-old boy brought his four-point buck in, beaming ear-to-ear, but the dad was a bit squirmy because the boy was looking for a local taxidermist.
“We sat in the box and waited and waited and finally the deer came past,” the youngster said.
Young hunters have interesting names for parts of the hunt - box for blind, blanket for hide, and sticks for antlers.
“Business has been great. Most hunters are smiling. If they aren’t, they need to get out and get some fresh air. it’s a wonderful thing as a mood-changer,” Williams said. “I still shake a bit when I see a deer. When I stop, that it’s time to quit hunting.”
Wayne Smith, in Lafayette County, said experience helps and beginning with hunting on windy days, using the wind in your favor and not walking into the sun.
“My problem now still is slowing down enough and looking for the white of their ears, a leg or antler twitch and horizontal lines of their backs,” he said.
John Borzick, at Tall Tails in Boscobel, said wind was a problem, but there were lots of hunters moving deer Saturday and then things started to slow down.
“There were some great deer taken, some in the 200-inch class (non-typical),” he said. “Hunters with cameras still out know if there is or isn’t deer activity during the nighttime.”
There are still several remaining seasons, some continuing into January. Remember, when a gun deer season is open, blaze orange rules apply to all hunters except waterfowlers.
Elsewhere, bird feeding activity has picked up.
Turkey hunting is ongoing in Zones 1 through 5. Authorizations are still available.
A chef in Mazomanie insists many turkey hunters throw half their bird away, but every part is great if prepared correctly. He takes advantage of those hunters, feeling honored to take the portion many toss.
Christmas card making is still waiting for snow, but even those dustings can work in close-up situations or shooting so the ground doesn’t show. Or avoid the ground and shoot the sky.
Begin gearing up for ice fishing and be warned that there are supply shortages here, too.
Pheasant releasing on public lands started up again and some will continue on 25 properties though a special holiday release prior to Christmas.