The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Tuesday announced the preliminary deer harvest for the opening weekend of the state’s 170th gun deer season, with the buck harvest up 11.7% in this three-county region.

The regular gun deer season continues through Nov. 28, followed by the statewide muzzleloader season (Nov. 29-Dec. 8), the statewide antlerless-only four-day season (Dec. 9-12) and antlerless holiday hunts in 36 counties. 

In three counties here, the buck harvest was up 4.1% in Vilas County, 11.6% in Oneida County and 21.8% in Forest County.

Vilas County hunters registered 406 bucks during the opening weekend compared to 390 in 2020. Oneida County hunters harvested 549 bucks this opener compared to 492 last year. Forest County hunters registered 374 opening weekend this year and 307 last year.

In the 18-county Northern Forest, the buck kill increased 12.9% from 9,393 last year to 10,605 this year.

The antlerless harvest also was announced by the DNR. In Vilas County, hunters registered 166 antlerless deer this year compared to 66 last year on opening weekend. The Oneida County antlerless harvest dropped from 285 in 2020 to 249 this year. The Forest County antlerless harvest increased from 28 last year to 60 this year. 


Statewide numbers

In total, 85,860 deer were harvested by gun and registered statewide during the opening weekend of the 2021 nine-day gun deer hunt, compared to the 99,832 registered for the same period in 2020. A total of 47,529 bucks were registered on opening weekend, compared to 51,241 in 2020.

A detailed summary of preliminary registration totals is available at

While hunter reports of deer activity varied around the state, most regions — including the North Woods — experienced excellent hunting weather conditions with cool temperatures and low wind on opening day. Visibility was lower due to a lack of snow cover.

By late Sunday morning, wind speeds increased, and the North Woods saw an accumulation of sleet and snow. Hunting effort likely decreased on Sunday as a result. However, light snow cover in the north could make for excellent hunting conditions going into the rest of the nine-day season.

As a reminder, hunters are required to register their deer by 5 p.m. the day after harvest through GameReg, the game registration system. All deer harvests must be reported online (fastest and easiest method) or by phone at 1-(844) 426-3734.


License sales

Preliminary figures indicate that the number of deer hunters in Wisconsin decreased compared to 2020.

As of midnight Sunday, Nov. 21, sales for gun, bow, crossbow, sports and patron licenses reached 795,039. Of that total, 551,809 were for gun privileges only, including gun, patron and sports licenses. The year-to-date sales for all deer licenses are down 1.5% from the same time last year.

The number of non-resident licenses increased this year.

Of the total licenses sold, 60% were sold online, and 40% were sold by DNR license agents, which includes private businesses across the state.

Final license sales figures will be available in January, at which time DNR staff will perform a thorough analysis and interpretation.


Hunting incidents

At midday Tuesday, the DNR reported three firearm-involved hunting incidents during the opening weekend of the nine-day gun deer season. The incidents were as follows:

• Door County, Town of Brussel: On Nov. 20, at approximately 6:45 a.m., a 40-year-old male suffered a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the hand. The victim had placed his hand on the muzzle after pulling the hammer back on his firearm. The victim believed he pulled the trigger, and the bullet struck his left pinky. He sought medical attention, was treated and released. 

• Door County, Sturgeon Bay: On Nov. 21, at approximately 7 a.m., a 10-year-old male was the victim of a gunshot wound. A 45-year-old male shooter was hunting from his residence when he shot at a deer. The shooter attempted to unload his firearm, at which time it discharged inside of the house and struck the victim. The victim was transported to a hospital and treated.

• Waukesha County, Town of Ottawa: On Nov. 21, at approximately 6:21 a.m., a 30-year-old male suffered a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the leg. The victim was in a tree stand when he tried to hang the gun on a hanger. The gun discharged, striking him in the right leg. The victim was transported to a hospital and treated. 

Wisconsin's 10-year average is approximately six hunting incidents for the nine-day gun deer hunt.