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GUN DEER SEASON

Fewer deer bagged in opening weekend of hunting in Wisconsin, but locals still have deer to show off

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Locals show off their hunting prizes from hunting's opening weekend in Wisconsin. Clockwise from top middle: Jameson O'Donoghue, a Wind Lake native who now lives in Watertown, shows off his opening day prize, which he shot in Crawford County; Jared Nemath poses with a deer he shot in Black River Falls, the first deer he has bagged in the past six years, said his girlfriend, Mallory Burlingame of Racine; Zach Morton of Caledonia shared a photo with the caption "Marked safe from Covid over here;" Brian Kaprelian poses with his first eight-pointer.

Wisconsin deer hunters bagged fewer deer on the opening weekend of the gun season than they did a year ago, wildlife officials said Tuesday.

The state Department of Natural Resources said hunters shot more than 85,800 deer, about 14,000 fewer than the traditional opener last year. That’s a decrease of 14% overall. Hunters shot 7% fewer bucks than a year ago.

The number of deer shot in the northern woods was up by 9%. Those gains were offset by lower numbers in other zones, particularly the southern farmland area, where registrations were down 24%.

The same occurred in our neighbor to the west: Minnesota firearms deer hunters shot fewer deer again this year — registering 130,820 deer statewide, down 8% from 2020 and off 10% from the five-year average. According to data from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, final registrations for the 100 series management units, which includes all of Northeastern Minnesota, were down 6% from 2020 and down a whopping 35% from the five-year average, likely because far fewer doe permits were issued after a string of tough, deep-snow winters held deer populations down, especially north of Duluth.

More hunters are opting for archery, crossbow and earlier seasons, according to Jeff Pritzl, DNR deer program specialist. Overall hunters have registered more than 179,000 deer so far this year.

“We have seen more of a shift to earlier opportunities,” Pritzl said. “More people had already put a deer in the freezer.”

Pritzl said relatively cool, dry weather should make for favorable conditions for the remainder of the 9-day season, which ends Sunday.

“The season is still young,” he said Tuesday. “Opportunities continue to abound.”

Elk illegally killed

Authorities say a bull elk was illegally shot and killed on the opening day of the Wisconsin gun deer hunting season.

The state Department of Natural Resources said the shooting happened in Columbia County about 7 a.m. Saturday, which was 30 minutes after the official start of deer hunting. The elk was seized as evidence.

DNR officials said they have a suspect. The department has not said if that person is from Wisconsin.

Wisconsin has a limited elk hunt in the northern elk range, but elk are protected in the rest of the state, including Columbia County.

It’s the fourth straight year in which at least one elk has been illegally killed by a gun deer hunter. On one occasion, in 2019, a 41-year-old Mukwonago woman killed two bulls within minutes of each other on private property in Rusk County on the third day of the gun deer season.

65-year-old killed while hunting

Authorities say a Minnesota man was shot and killed in an apparent hunting accident in northwestern Wisconsin.

The Iron County Sheriff’s Office says dispatchers received a call just before 5 p.m. Tuesday in the town of Saxon. The caller reported an accidental discharge of a firearm, which left one man with serious injuries.

When responders arrived on the scene, they tried to revive the 65-year-old man but were unsuccessful. The victim was pronounced dead at the scene, KBJR-TV reported.

Saxon is about 95 miles east of Duluth, Minnesota.

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