This morning, Wisconsin’s winter firearm deer hunting season opened, and surprisingly, DNR reported that fewer orange-clad sportsmen and women headed out to their stands than is typical for the state. Right now, the state is seeing snow showers and 20-degree weather, though the wind chill makes it feel like single digits. While Wisconsin natives are no strangers to tough winters, an extra chilly and snowy opening day may keep deer hunters cuddled up under the blankets rather than shivering in the woods.
For dedicated deer hunters, the opening weekend began like every year, and they hurried to local gear shops to stock up on essential cold-weather accessories. Among them was Joey Marshall, who headed to the Fleet Farm in DeForest Friday night for some last-minute shopping.
“(I’) getting my hand warmers, and I broke this last year so I’m picking up a new one,” said Marshall, gesturing to an orange ski mask, per Channel 3000. “It has been about, gosh, six years or seven years since we’ve had snow on opening day.”
DNR’s Bret Owsley agreed, “It’s going to be one of the colder opening days that I can remember here in the last, you know, last 10 years or so.”
But with the snow also comes one very important advantage for Wisconsin deer hunters.
“If you shoot one then you’re going to have a blood track and you can see that easier,” Marshall added.
How Wisconsin Natives Are Fighting the Cold for Deer Hunting Opening Weekend
Previously, Wisconsin saw a spike in deer hunting during the pandemic, but since then, the number of registered hunters has been steadily dropping. He reported that, as of 4 p.m. Friday, license sales were down two percent from this time in 2021.
“I think a lot of that was I need to get outside, get outdoors, provide a healthy source of food,” Owsley said.
Owsley, himself, will be taking his young daughter out to the stands this weekend. He’ll be responsible for keeping both himself and his nine-year-old hunter warm with plenty of layers and snacks. According to the wildlife specialist, though, the majority of Wisconsin’s deer hunting population tends to be much older.
“A lot of our hunters, the hunting demographics are older. And so, you know, as they start to fall out of being interested in hunting, how do we replace those individuals that are kind of done with their hunting career? How do we replace them with younger individuals through our Learn to Hunt program?” he said.
Instilling the joys of the lifestyle in younger generations, like his daughter, is crucial in continuing the state’s conservation effort and respect for wildlife. Without hunters in stands, DNR can’t gather nearly as much information about the condition of deer populations throughout the state.
“We do that to help reduce deer densities or in times increase deer densities depending on the amount of permits that are given out,” Owsley said. “But really, to help improve the quality of the deer herd, make them healthier, get an idea of where disease prevalence is, and also, by removing deer from the landscape, it also helps with habitat quality.”