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WUWM's Susan Bence reports on Wisconsin environmental issues.

As deer gun season approaches, DNR wishes hunters success and suggests testing harvest for CWD

Wisconsin's nine-day deer gun season begins November 18.
Courtesy of Jonathan Gilbert
Wisconsin's nine-day deer gun season begins November 18.

It’s deer hunting season in Wisconsin.

 Archery and crossbow enthusiasts have been at it since mid September and the nine-day gun deer season kicks off Nov. 18.

“We’re at about 600,000 deer hunters in Wisconsin. Over 300,000 of them purchase an archery license in addition to firearm, and so over half of our deer hunters are hunting outside of that nine-day period and pursuing their interests and have been now for a month-and-a-half,” DNR deer program specialist Jeff Pritzl said during a media briefing Thursday.

The state’s official deer harvesting tradition stretches back to the 1850s.

The DNR must balance hunters’ rights, while at the same time, try to maintain a healthy deer population across the state. Chronic wasting disease (CWD) increasingly threatens Wisconsin’s deer. The infectious and fatal disease was first detected in the state in 2002.

DNR deer herd health specialist Erin Larson says today its prevalence varies across the state.

“We do have areas in the south where we would say that CWD is endemic now. I would say that Iowa, Richland, Sauk are some of those counties that do have much higher prevalence rates,”Larson says.

Just this week the DNR reported disease cases in two northern Wisconsin counties — Trempealeau and Polk.

Deer baiting and feeding map
Wisconsin DNR
Deer baiting and feeding map

“You know, one of our greatest tools with CWD is to try to reduce the risk of addition deer-to-deer contact. Of course that’s going to occur naturally, but trying to discourage that and ways we can is do that is by lowering our deer populations and baiting and feedings. Those regulations are another way to reduce that artificial congregation,” Larson says.

When asked to comment on the overall health of Wisconsin’s deer, Jeff Pritzl says, it depends on who you ask. The population isn’t evenly distributed throughout the state, and sportspeople may not find an abundance where they choose to hunt.

“It’s a win-win relationship to go out, be successful if you can be, but also know you’re doing well for the herd by actually reducing it somewhat. Now that message doesn’t resonate with everyone because the challenge is deer are very unevenly distributed on the landscape,” Prizl says.

The DNR says hunters can have their harvested deer tested for CWD. Health officials recommend against eating meat from deer that test positive for the disease.

Testing is available but not mandatory in Wisconsin.

The DNR is also asking hunters to safely dispose of deer carcass waste. The agency is placing designated dumpsters in every county throughout the state.


Susan is WUWM's environmental reporter.
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