Cold hits opening weekend of gun-deer season

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Deer harvest numbers drop 24 percent in county

Gerrard Diaz Sports editor

Times Herald Photo by Gerrard Diaz

J.J. Slewinski, of Shawano, poses with the buck he shot opening day just outside of Hintz in Oconto County. The cold weather and winds were tough on hunters as the 2013 gun-deer season began Saturday.

Hunters were greeted with bitter cold and high winds Saturday for opening day of Wisconsin’s gun-deer season.

J.J. Slewinski, of Shawano, braved the weather near Hintz in Oconto County and got his buck Saturday morning.

“If you were out in a field, it was pretty cold,” Slewinski said. “If you were in the woods, it was OK.”

The cold weather may have had the deer hunkered down, lowering the number of deer taken opening weekend. More than 110,000 deer were killed opening weekend, down nearly 18 percent from a year ago.

Oconto County’s numbers were worse. There were 2,397 deer —1,460 bucks and 937 does — taken in the county, down from 3,158 a year ago — off 24 percent, the highest dropoff along with Sheboygan County in the state.

John Huff, DNR area wildlife supervisor, spent his morning aging and registering deer at Qualheim’s Hardware Store in Shawano.

“I hear it’s a lot colder than it has been,” Huff said. “The wind is pretty raw. Some folks are saying there’s not a lot of movement, but other guys are saying that this morning they saw quite a few deer moving around.”

Huff said there was a dusting of snow in parts of northeast Wisconsin, and that may have helped some hunters.

“The guys that are coming in here are pretty happy because they’ve killed something,” Huff said. “Seems like they’re seeing a few deer, and they’re bringing in some pretty nice ones.”

He reported that by noon Saturday the station had registered 33 deer — 22 bucks and 11 does, compared to 27 registered by noon last year and 24 in 2011.

With Wisconsin considering a move to call-in registration for deer, as it does now with turkey hunts, the future of registration stations like the one at Qualheim’s is up in the air.

Huff said if the registration stations are eliminated, the DNR will need to find a new way to get the data he collected Saturday.

“One of the big things that we’re going to have to work out is how to get this good of a sample,” Huff said. “This contact with hunters and getting an age sample and getting a check on deer has always been a really important part of the process. We’re going to have to find a way to do that.”

It appeared to be a relatively safe opening weekend. There were no reports of injuries in Oconto County.

According to The Associated Press, one hunter in Mukwonago shot himself in the hand loading a pistol on Saturday, and a Sheboygan County hunter was shot Sunday. Jay Leggett, 50, a comic actor in Los Angeles and a native of Tomahawk, died after hunting near Tomahawk on Saturday.