Preliminary tallies indicate Wisconsin hunters registered some 313,000 deer during the nine-day gun season, which ended Sunday. That is up 3% from last year. It’s a safe bet that hunters killed a good number more deer than they registered, judging from casual comments from hunters about wounding and losing deer. Even with near-perfect tracking conditions on opening weekend, some hunters I talked to said they lost deer. It’s easy to do on bare ground, but there’s no excuse for giving up on a blood trail, especially when there’s tracking snow.
At any rate, for updated harvest reports, go to the DNR Web site:
On that same page, you’ll find links to download bow totals and combined-season totals. I’m guessing we’ll be somewhere around 450,000 for gun, bow, T-zone and muzzleloader seasons combined when it’s all said and done.
That’s about 449,991 more deer than I have seen so far, and I’m still hunting with all my tags unfilled. Not that it’s anybody’s fault but mine. Read on, if you care to, for my mid-season report.
I say mid-season, because I’m hunting this week in a metro zone and also muzzleloader hunting. Heck, I may even hunt the December T-zone if I haven’t killed anything by then (Dec. 8-11).
Here’s my day-by-day journal, assuming I can remember everything:
Sat. 11/19 (Brother Mike’s birthday and the anniversary of my first deer back in 1963, three days before JFK was killed in Dallas) Breezy morning here in Zone 69, where I am hunting close to home instead of making the usual trek up north. Sitting on the ground in a woodlot within sight of a winter wheat field, I saw nothing, but I must have heard 200 or 300 shots at least, judging from Sunday’s total, when I counted 148 shots in the first three hours. Hunted until 9, then ran errands, including a stop at Midwestern Shooters Supply for a box of Triple 7 pellets, so I could use my muzzleloader instead of a shotgun. Sat in the same spot again for the last two hours, but saw nothing. Geese flew over both morning and afternoon.
Sun. 11/20 Perfectly calm morning. Great Horned Owls kicked off the audio portion of the program as they hooted themselves to roost before dawn. I hooted back at them for fun, and they responded, but stayed where they were. Across the wheat field a few minutes later, several turkeys began yelping to each other. Then the geese woke up, drowing out the turkeys. Next came crows, woodpeckers and gray squirrels and eventually a rooster pheasant chimed in to keep me from dozing. Saw other hunters and counted those 148 shots (How many miles does a shotgun boom carry on a calm, overcast day?), but never saw a deer. Sat again in the afternoon. This time, a turkey flew from a tree on my neighbor’s land out across the field. No deer. The geese went over at treetop height this evening. Should have had some Bismuth BBs with me.
Mon. 11/21 Took the day off from deer to hunt pheasants at Bong Recreation area with Judy Nugent, Paul Dietrich and TV crew of Jose Lozano and Art Welter. We broke in our new videographer, Jose, whose energy and enthusiasm made up for the fact that we were two steps behind the birds all morning. Seems the regulars at Bong know to sweep the grasslands when the bell rings at 9:00. We saw other hunters flush, shoot at and miss plenty of birds, then finally got one up just as we were finishing our last push near a pond. Judy dropped it, and we had a segment, but just barely! Even though crews stock 150 pheasants every day at Bong (We taped that activity after lunch for a second segment.), you have to work hard for your birds, once the hunters have swept through the fields.
Wed., 11/23 Seems to me I hunted Wed. a.m, tho I don’t recall much about it. Oh, yeah! It rained, then snowed a couple inches or so while I sat on my stand. Saw only one deer — a doe that crossed the field and entered the woods probably 40 yards from me, but she was running at first, and snow-covered-brush prevented a clear shot when she stopped, then I lost sight of her when she entered the woods. I didn’t count shots that morning, but there were a lot fewer than on opening weekend.
Turkey Day. Snow turned to rain overnight, then the wind blew hard all day, so I never went out. Helped prepare our wild turkey feast instead, then enjoyed it with Shivani and Dee Dexter, my Fillet King marketing partner. Her first taste of wild turkey. She thanked us for helping her eliminate that from her list, but said it only moved whale blubber up a notch. Can’t help her with that one.
Fri., 11/25. Hunted again this morning for a couple hours, then brought out my Lone Wolf treestand and set it up 20 yards closer to the field edge. Let a deer try to get by me on the edge again and see what happens! Saw a hen turkey late this morning. She crossed the field a few minutes behind a group of hunters making a drive. Hunted again in the evening, but saw nothing. The treestand is definitely a good idea.
Sat. 11/26. Snowed several inches overnight, leaving perfect conditions for morning. Shortly before 7:00, a big doe came trotting along the woods edge. I lifted my muzzleloader as she passed behind a couple big trees, and she stopped about 30 yards away, facing me. Not sure if she had seen me move, I decideed to take her then, rather than risk that she might run off instead of continuing on for a perfect broadside. As it turned out, she might as well have been in Toledo! I put the bead on her chest and pulled the trigger. “Pop!” went the 209 primer. “You’ve got to be kidding!” I said to myself, as the doe wheeled and raced across the field. I put another disc in the rifle and squeezed off again, just to see if that was a fluke. “Pop!” went the primer, so I climbed down from my stand and took the rifle home. When I pulled the breech plug and ran a rod down the barrel, two gooey black blobs oozed out in front of the sabot. On the video that came with the rifle, Toby Bridges drops his in a creek, fishes it out and fires it. I guess that works if you shoot ti right away, but if you get too much water down the barrel, your powder (or in this case, pellets) turns to a soggy mess. Every time I hunt with a muzzleloader, even the modern ones, I marvel at what the likes of Boone, Crockett, Bridger, Lewis & Clark managed to do with the things.
After the Grafton Christmas Parade, I test-fired the rifle and it worked fine. Now, if it rains again, I’m shooting the thing every day!
Sun., 11/27 Hunted morning again in my treestand. Seven does & fawns crossed the field about 7:00 a.m., heading away from me. Nice to know there are that many deer around, with all the shooting. Then it rained steadily all morning, so I trudged home & came back with a camo tree umbrella that kept the rain off me and the rifle and let it run nicely down my back. Rained most of the rest of the day, as I recall. Didn’t go out again. GUN SEASON ENDS
Mon., 11/28 MUZZLELOADER SEASON BEGINS. Treestand morning hunt. Rained off & on. Owls hooting again. No deer.
Tue., 11/29 Got the owl to respond to my hooting this morning, then heard it much closer and turned to see it perched on a limb about 40 yards over my left shoulder. Not the most comfortable feeling, even when you’re weariing blaze orange. It flew off to the east and hooted once more, then was silent. Around 7:00, a gobbler walked out of the woods into the wheat field. When I lifted my binoculars to check his beard, he turned and flew to the west. An hour later, he was back, more nervous this time. He skirted me and walked up a fenceline, then ran 300 yards across the field to the east, which is where he had wanted to go earlier, it seems. If you’ve ever wondered why a wild turkey’s drumsticks are so tough and sinewy, just watch one run sometime. They can outrun any NFL running back for sure, and this one wasn’t trying all that hard, just booking across the open.
So that’s where I stand so far. I’ll go out again tomorrow morning, then Thu. & Fri. we’re taping deer hunts for TV. That should prove interesting, with a new crew and deer that have been hunted for ten days now.
I’ll keep you posted.