Gun and crossbow users see buck kill increase

Madison — Now that Wisconsin’s 2016 deer harvest numbers have settled into place once and for all, it’s clear that crossbow users notched a 16 percent increase in buck kill from 2015, while gun deer hunters showed an overall 4.5 percent increase in the statewide buck kill from 2015.

The nine-day gun deer season ended with a total kill of 202,102 animals. That number includes 98,513 bucks and 103,556 does, along with a handful of deer registered with sex unknown.

In 2015, the total kill came in at 205,125 animals, including 94,268 bucks, 110,855 does, and a few unknowns.

Those numbers do not include the youth season, muzzleloader season or tribal harvest.

On the archery/crossbow side, the total kill came in at 87,728 animals, up just a hair from the 87,098 deer registered in 2015.

In 2016, archers registered 48,107 deer, of which 28,141 were bucks, and 19,966 were does.

Crossbow users registered 39,621 deer – 23,533 bucks and 16,088 does.

When the state first started talking about expanding the use of crossbows during the archery season, opponents argued that a slowly growing number of crossbow users would eventually increase the buck kill to a point that might offend gun hunters. Archers feared gun hunters  would argue that opportunity was being taken away from them by what was supposed to be a primitive season that was initially approved because of an expected low rate of success.

While crossbow hunters have yet to raise the ceiling on the archery season’s overall kill, the 2016 crossbow buck kill is up 16.2 percent from 2015. At the same time, archers using traditional bows or compound bows saw their buck kill drop about the same amount from 2015 to 2016.

Archers registered 28,141 bucks in 2016, but that’s down from the 31,229 bucks they shot in 2015 – a difference of roughly 3,000 deer.

Crossbow hunters registered 20,594 bucks in 2015, about 3,000 fewer than the 23,533 they tallied in 2016.

It may be too early to say whether those numbers represent a trend, but critics of expanded crossbow use will be tracking those changes.

On a side note, archers shot fewer antlerless deer in 2016 – 19,966 to 21,775 in 2015. Crossbow users shot more antlerless deer – 16,088 in 2016 compared to 13,500 in 2015.

Gun season

As noted above, the 2016 nine-day gun deer season notched a 4.5 percent increase in the statewide buck kill from 2015, but much of that was carried by what settled in as a 28.2 percent increase in buck kill in the Northern Forest Region. Preliminary deer kill tallies had that increase closer to 30 percent.

In total, the Northern Forest Region accounted for 32,987 deer in 2016 – 23,524 bucks and 9,463 antlerless deer. Those numbers were 18,352 and 7,904, respectively, in 2015, for a total kill of 26,256.

The Central Farmland Region also saw a tiny increase in buck kill – from 49,050 in 2015 to 49,166 this past season. That difference of 116 animals gave the region a full .2 percent buck kill increase. However, the region’s total kill was down thanks to a drop in the antlerless deer kill. The 2016 total of 114,344 deer included 65,178 does and fawns. The 2015 total of 120,420  included 71,370 antlerless deer.

The Central Forest Region saw a small drop in both segments of the harvest. The 2016 total kill of 8,205 deer included 5,096 bucks and 3,109 antlerless deer. That’s down from the 2015 kill of 8,440 (5,252 bucks and 3,188 antlerless deer).

The Southern Farmland Region also took a small hit. The 2016 total kill was 46,528, compared to 49,983 in 2015. The 2016 harvest tallied 20,727 bucks (21,614 in 2015) and 25,801 antlerless deer (28,369 in 2015).

Muzzleloader season

The buck kill from the 2016 muzzleloader season came in 23.7 percent higher than 2015. Hunters registered a total of 6,400 deer during the 10-day blackpowder hunt, up from 5,478 deer in 2015.

Of that 6,400, 2,670 were bucks (2,158 in 2105) and 3,730 were antlerless deer (3,320 in 2015).

A breakdown of all 2016 deer kill numbers by county, region, and season are now available on the DNR website, but they will also be made available to hunters through the County Deer Advisory Council meetings that will be coming up in March and April. Those meetings will be offered in each of the state’s 72 counties.

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