A 155-year chronology of Wisconsin deer hunting
[EDITOR’S ADVISORY: The following chronology of deer hunting in Wisconsin
was authored by Wisconsin wildlife biologist, Bruce Bacon, and released
locally through the DNR South Central Region public affairs office.]
FITCHBURG, Wis. -- Wisconsin has a long and storied tradition of regulated
gun deer hunting, going back to 1851. There have been many changes over the
years, but none more dramatic as those experienced by hunters during the
1990s and early 21st century.
– Lafayette County, first reported crop damage by deer.
– First closed season for deer, Feb. 1 through June 30; Indians
permitted to hunt anytime.
– Hunting with dogs prohibited statewide.
– Two game wardens appointed by governor at a monthly salary of $50;
night hunting prohibited statewide.
– Game laws published in pamphlet form.
– First chief warden appointed.
– Lawful to kill any dog running or hunting deer.1895 – Sheboygan
first county closed to deer hunting; deer cannot be transported unless
accompanied by hunter; last October deer season in state.
– First bag limit for deer, two per season; resident license costs $1,
nonresident license costs $30; estimated license sales total 12,000.
– Twelve hunters killed by firearms.
– Estimated 78,164 licenses sold.
– Salt licks prohibited.
– Season 20 days long, limit one deer; first civil service exam given on a
competitive basis for prospective wardens.
– Deer populations drop to record low numbers due to unregulated hunting
and market shooting.
– Twenty-four hunters killed, 26 injured; license sales at 155,000
– First buck only season.
– Shining deer illegal while possessing a firearm; Conservation Commission
delegated some powers related to deer season, but legislature retains authority
to set seasons; deer tags (paper) required for the first time…they cost 10 cents.
– Estimated kill is 25,152.
– First use of metal deer tags…they cost 10 cents.
– Wardens are instructed that “all deer found in possession…with horns
less than three inches in length, is a fawn and should be confiscated.”
– Estimated kill is 7000.
– Legislature passes law closing deer season in alternate years.
– No open season.
– Deer hunters required to wear official conservation button while hunting;
Game Division formed with Conservation Department; estimated kill is 17,000 with 69,049 deer tags sold.
– No open season.
– Estimated kill is 23,000 with 70.284 deer tags sold.
– No open season.
– Deer tag price is raised to $1; estimated kill is 36,009 with 70,245 deer
– No open season; Conservation Congress, an advisory group representing
public opinion registered at annual county hearings, begins to assist the
Conservation Commission in establishing a deer management policy.
– First bow deer season; estimated gun kill is 21,251 with 83,939 deer
– No open season.
– Shortest deer season on record, three days.
– Use of .22 rifle and .410 shotgun prohibited.
– Licensed children between ages 12 and 16 must be accompanied by parent
or guardian; buckshot prohibited statewide.
– Deer predators rare, timber wolves nearing extinction; estimated gun
kill is 40,403 with 124,305 deer tags sold.
– Back tags required while deer hunting.
– First doe and fawn season in 24 years.
– First year of ‘shotgun only’ counties; wearing red clothing required
while hunting deer.
– First ‘any deer’ season since 1919; estimated gun kill is 167,911 with
312,570 deer tags sold.
– Deer hunting license and tag cost $2.50; orange clothing now included
under red clothing law; Wisconsin leads nation in whitetail deer kill for
third consecutive year.
– First season gun deer hunters required to register deer at checking station.
– Two-thirds of bucks harvested are less than three years old; portions
of Walworth and Waukesha Counties and all of Jefferson County open for the
first time since 1906.
– 100th established gun deer season; registered gun kill is 35,562 with
294,645 deer tags sold.
– Legislature authorizes party permit.
– Longest deer season since 1916, 16 days; Rock County open for the first
time since 1906; first harvest by deer management unit (in northwest and
northeast only); registered gun kill is 95,234, of which 44,987 taken by party
permit; 335,866 deer tags and 58,348 party permits sold, respectively.
– First statewide deer registration by unit; Game Management Division of
Conservation Department assumes responsibility for coordinating the state’s
deer program; first open season in Kenosha County since 1906.
– Hunter not permitted to buy a license after opening day of gun season;
Green and Racine Counties open for the first time since 1906; all counties now
open except Milwaukee; registered gun kill is 61,005, of which 25,515 taken by
party permit; 338,208 deer tags and 47,522 party permits sold, respectively.
– Resident big game license increased from $4 to $5; first use of SAK –
sex-age-kill population-reconstruction technique for estimating deer numbers;
hunters required to transport deer openly while driving to registration station;
legislation authorizing unit specific quotas for antlerless harvest established.
– Deer population above 400,000; deer management unit specific population
– First year of quota party permits in eight management units; assassination
of President Kennedy lessens hunting pressure.
– Party permit quota extended to 32 management units.
– Hunter Safety Education Program begins.
– Registered gun kill is 72,844 with 501,799 licenses sold; 13 hunters killed.
– No deer season fatalities.
– Record registered gun kill is 150,845 with 644,594 licenses sold.
– Blaze orange clothing required; first season of Hunter’s Choice permit;
new law prohibits shining wild animals from 10pm to 7pm, Sept. 15 – Dec. 31;
coyote season closed in northern management units to protect nascent wolf
– Record registered deer kill of 166,673 with 629,034 licenses sold.
– Another record registered gun kill of 182,715 with 637,320 licenses sold;
three deer season fatalities.
– Harvest continues to rise with another record registered gun kill of
197,600 with 649,972 licenses sold; experimental antlerless deer shunt in six
southern management units to relieve crop damage.
– Big jump in registered kill, fourth record harvest in a row of 255,726
with license sales totaling 657,969; handgun deer hunting allowed in shotgun
areas; group hunting legalized.
– Fifth consecutive record kill of 274,302 with 670,329 licenses sold;
deer season extended in 21 management units; legislature further strengthens
road hunting restrictions.
– Gun deer season now nine days statewide; landowner preference program
begins for Hunter’s Choice permits.
– First year of bonus antlerless permits; seven fatalities and 46 hunting
– Handguns permitted statewide.
– Record registered harvest of 310,192 with 662,280 licenses sold; pre-hunt
herd estimate of 1.15 million deer; two fatalities and 37 hunting accidents.
– Another record kill of 350,040, including 209,005 antlerless deer; record
license sales of 671,890; pre-hunt herd estimate of 1.3 million deer; season
extended for seven days in 67 management units.
– Third consecutive year of record harvest, 352,330; hunters allowed to buy
more than one antlerless permit; season extended to 72 management units, mostly
in the north; first year of separate, seven-day muzzleloader season.
– Though kill fourth highest on record, 288,820, many hunters voice
discontent over lack of success and claim DNR raised expectations by pre-hunt
harvest prediction of around 370,000; hunters allowed to apply for bonus
antlerless permits in more than one unit; Natural Resources Board approves
Secretary’s recommendation to keep the gun season at nine days; new metro
management units established around La Crosse, Madison and Milwaukee.
– Harvest drops to 217, 584, including 100,977 antlerless deer; pre-hunt
herd population at 1 million with many units well below prescribed goals; 34
units, mainly in the north, designated as buck-only units; one fatality, 17
– Hunters Choice permit availability jumps to 177,340 from 103,140 in 1993;
six northwest management units remain buck only; herd beginning to build-up in
southern agricultural range.
– Harvest totals 398,002, a new state record; 32 accidents, one fatal;
over 577,000 antlerless permits available with 414,000 plus applicants with
163,000 bonus permits offered to hunters; for the first time hunters can use
their bonus or Hunter’s Choice permits in either the gun, bow or muzzleloader
– ‘Earn a Buck” requirement placed on hunters in 19 deer management units
situated in agricultural range where existing deer seasons and permit systems
aren’t controlling herd growth; special four-day antlerless only season, state’s
first October hunt since 1897, takes place in 19 ‘Earn a Buck’ units, resulting
in a kill of 24,954 deer.
– ‘Earn a Buck’ provision scuttled; early Zone T season in seven management
units and three state parks results in over 7000 deer killed; the safest gun
season even with one fatality and 10 accidents.
– An early October gun season for third year in a row held in one management
unit, 67A; harvest of 332,254 is fifth highest; accidents total 19 with two
fatalities; most units in all regions of the state estimated to be above
prescribed goals due to the mild winter of 1997-98.
– Early antlerless Zone T deer season held in seven mainly east-central
management units and one state park; early archery season is extended through
Nov. 18 in Zone T units; pre-hunt herd estimate is 1.5 to 1.6 million deer; 33
management units in the central and southern part of the state are designated
‘watch unit’s that are above population goals and may be designated as Zone T
units next year if quota numbers aren’t filled; resident deer license costs $20;
non-resident license costs $135; record harvest of 402,204 deer.
– Early four-day Zone T antlerless hunts produces kill of 66,417 deer; 97
of the state’s 132 deer management units listed as Zone T; two free antlerless
permits given to all hunters buying deer-related licenses; hunters kill a record
528,494 deer during the early antlerless only, nine-day, muzzleloader and late
antlerless only gun seasons (additionally archers killed more than 86,000 deer
for a total kill of more than 615,000 deer); nine-day gun harvest totals a record
442,581 (170,865 antlered, 271,573 antlerless); 694,957 licensed gun hunters.
– Wisconsin’s pre-hunt population estimated at 1.5 million deer; free
antlerless permit given to all hunters buying deer-related licenses; 67 deer
management units and nine state parks designated as Zone T; October and December
four-day, Zone T antlerless hunts results in kill of 58,107 deer; nine-day gun
harvest is the state’s fifth largest, totaling 361,264 (141,942 antlered, 219,260
antlerless); chronic wasting disease (CWD) later identified in three deer harvested
in the Dane County Town of Vermont.
– Herd estimate at 1.34 million deer; DNR samples about 41,000 deer during
the early Zone T antlerless hunt (Oct. 24-27) and opening weekend (Nov. 23-24)
of the nine-day gun season to determine if CWD is present anywhere else in the
state besides the Disease Eradication Zone in southwest Wisconsin; expanded
hunting opportunities set-up in the CWD Management Zone and a gun deer season
slated for Oct. 24 to Jan. 31 in the CWD Eradication Zone; October and November
four-day, Zone T antlerless hunts in 25 deer management units produce a harvest
of 36,228 deer; hunters register 277,755 deer during the traditional, nine-day
season; number of licensed gun hunters drops about 10 percent with much of the
decrease attributed to concerns about CWD.
– Fall deer population estimated at 1.4 million; landowners in CWD Disease
Eradication Zone (DEZ) can request free permits to harvest deer without a license
and receive two buck tags per permit; earn-a-buck (EAB) rules in effect and no
bag limits on deer in the CWD management zones; deer hunting license sales up
14 percent over 2002, but down 13 percent when compared to 2001; overall, DNR
collects 15,025 samples for disease surveillance with 115 wild deer testing
positive for CWD; all but two positives are from the Disease Eradication zones
(DEZ) of southwest Wisconsin and Rock County; hunters killed 388,344 deer during
the early antlerless only, nine-day gun, muzzleloader and land antlerless only
– Many deer management units (DMU’s) in all regions of the state estimated
to be above prescribed management goals with 48 DMU’s designated as Zone T and
26 units as EAB; fall deer population estimated at 1.7 million deer; hunters
issued one free antlerless permit for each license type (archery or gun) up to
a maximum of two; during all seasons, hunters in the CWD DEZ and much larger
Herd Reduction Zone (HRZ) are required to kill an antlerless deer before
harvesting a buck; hunters kill 413,794 deer during the early antlerless only,
nine-day gun, muzzle loader, late antlerless only and CWD zone deer seasons;
eight gun deer hunting accidents documented with two fatalities; all accidents
are either self-inflicted or shooter and victim were in the same party; hunters
set a new record of venison donations by giving 10,938 deer yielding nearly
500,000 pounds of venison for food pantries to feed needy people across the state.
– Forty-five DMU’s designated as Zone T units with unlimited antlerless
permits and expanded gun hunting opportunities; hunters issued free antlerless
permits for both archery and gun licenses; permits valid in any Zone T and CWD
units; hunters in CWD units could get an unlimited number of antlerless permits
at the rate of four per day; hunters harvest 387,310 deer during the early
October, regular gun, late December and muzzleloader seasons combined, the
eighth highest kill on record; 195,735 deer harvested during the opening weekend
(Nov. 19-20) of the nine-day gun season; gun deer sales total 643,676, down
one percent from 2004; DNR conducts CWD surveillance survey in the agency’s
Northeast Region where 4500 deer are tested and CWD not detected; 14 accidents,
including three fatals, during the nine-day season (Nov. 19-27); top five gun
deer harvest counties – all located in central Wisconsin – are Marathon (15,871),
Clark (13,918), Waupaca (12,260), Shawano (11,748) and Jackson (11,461).
– The 155th deer season; fall herd estimate at 1.6 million deer; term
“Herd Control Unit” replaces Zone T designation; Earn-a-Buck (EAB) requirement
in place for 21 DMUs, but not in the CWD Zones where it is replaced by either-sex
seasons and harvest totals from the early October seasons appear to be lower than
in previous years; DNR to conduct CWD surveillance in the agency’s Western Region;
gun season runs Nov. 18-26, (Nov. 18 – Dec. 10 in the CWD Zones), late archery Nov.
27 – Jan. 7, 2007, muzzleloader Nov. 27 – Dec. 6 and antlerless only hunt Dec. 7-10,
statewide, but hunters must have a unit-specific antlerless deer carcass tag to
hunt in units that aren’t EAB or herd control.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Greg Matthews, Regional Public Affairs Manager,
Fitchburg – (608) 275-3317