Wisconsin kicks off 170th gun deer season

NOW: Wisconsin kicks off 170th gun deer season

JACKSON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- A Wisconsin tradition has returned for year 170 with the start of the nine-day gun deer hunting season taking place on Saturday, Nov. 20.

The 9-day harvest serves as a way for the DNR to help manage the state's white-tailed deer population, something that Deer Program Specialist Jeff Pritzl says is booming in the southern part of the state.

"There are certain parts of the state, predominantly in the southern the farmland portions of the state, there are concerns of the deer density being too high, as opposed to too low," Pritzl explained. "In the northern forest, it's kind of flipped."

The pandemic has led to a lot more hunters putting on their blaze oranges and heading into the woods, with an estimated 570,000 expected to participate over the course of the nine-day gun season. It's a number DNR officials hope will continue to grow.

"There's hundreds of thousands of people going through life in Wisconsin and not having these experiences. To me, it's something sad and I wish people had that exposure, and make that part of their lifestyle and their quality of life," Pritzl said. "To that degree, the pandemic exposed a few more people to that."

While registration numbers are a bit lower than they were in 2020, Pritzl says the rate of hunters signing up for licenses continues to surpass the numbers shown prior to the pandemic.

Regarding the coronavirus, scientists have found that the virus can be transmitted easily between white-tailed deer, but health officials say that it is unlikely the deer will pass it to humans. Still, Pritzl says the DNR will be looking into the matter closely in the future.

"The Wisconsin DNR will be cooperating with federal agencies to do some sampling," Pritzl explained. "It's too short of a turnaround for us to get involved with this gun deer season, but we're going to have plenty of opportunities later this winter and going forward, and we will be looking to get a picture at how that's playing out in Wisconsin."

In terms of what will be deemed a successful harvest, Pritzl says that depends on who you ask.

"What is successful as a deer hunt is changing and what's changing about it is the diversity of what people are looking to get out of it," Pritzl said. "Everything from the pursuit of a really large buck that they may be able to mount and put on the wall, to the pursuit of food for the family, which is a growing interest; and just the pursuit of peace and solitude and a connection with nature."

The nine-day gun deer season runs through November 28.

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