Hunters will trek into the woods starting this weekend with favorable conditions for a successful deer hunt. The gun-deer season kicks off Saturday, Nov. 23 and runs through Dec. 1.

The deer population in Rusk County has been faring well in recent years with the County Deer Advisory Council voting to increase the number of antlerless deer harvest authorizations available, according to Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Conservation Warden Dylan Belisle. Wildlife management is looking to test 300 deer in Rusk County for chronic wasting disease, he said.

Overall deer harvest through the early hunting seasons is similar to 2018.  As of Nov. 12 there were 79,144 deer registered for the archery, crossbow and youth hunting seasons.

People are seeing deer and enjoying time in the woods leading up to the nine-day hunt, DNR officials report. If the various blogs are any indication, some tremendous bucks have been shot this year.

“As for hunters double check your licenses, especially for antlerless harvest authorizations,” Belisle said. “Know the county the harvest authorization is valid for, as well as the land type as public or private.”

The 2019 season offers the latest opening day possible which can influence deer seen and hunter harvest due to reduced rutting activity. It has been a very wet year which has and will continue to influence crop harvest, deer distribution, and hunter access to wooded and marshland areas.  

Corn harvest is significantly behind last year.  As of Nov. 12, statewide harvest is at only 21 percent, less than half of where it was during this time last year and far below the annual average of 65 percent harvest.  The recent cold might help some farmers get into the field to harvest corn, as well as freeze over extremely wet areas to provide better access for hunters

Deer are abundant, with a post-hunt 2018 population of over 1.8 million deer. Deer are especially abundant throughout the Farmland Zones, with antlerless harvest opportunities also abundant. Hunters should feel uninhibited in harvesting antlerless deer.  

The Forest Zones saw a moderate to severe winter in some counties, but deer numbers have increased in recent years following a string of mild winters. Fawn production appears to be good throughout the state including the far north.

For the first time in 10 years, antlerless harvest opportunities are being offered in every county, resulting in no buck-only units. Overall, population estimates in northern Wisconsin are on the rise. Herd size compared to levels seen just a few years ago are higher.  The public and County Deer Advisory Councils are recognizing the increase in many counties as is evident by increased antlerless harvest opportunities.

As always, each hunter will have a different experience based on where in the state they hunt, effort, whether they are hunting public or private land, woods or farmland, hunting pressure and many other factors. There continue to be areas of the state with exceptionally high deer numbers, primarily in the Central and Southern Farmland Zones.

 There are no significant rule changes for 2019. Any changes revolve around CDAC options for season structure such as Holiday Hunt and extended bow season and baiting restrictions due to new CWD detections.  

This is also the third season of Wild Wisconsin and the second year of offering the Hunt Wild Wisconsin app.

Hunters who harvest an adult deer in Ashland, Bayfield, Iron, Price, Rusk, Sawyer and Taylor counties are strongly encouraged to submit a sample from the deer for CWD testing at sampling locations within those counties. CWD testing is free of charge to the hunter, and anyone submitting a sample should receive test results typically 10-14 days after the deer is brought to a sampling station.

There are multiple drop off locations in Rusk County including, Cenex in Weyerhaeuser, Northwoods Convenience in Hawkins, Quality Meats in Conrath and Northwoods Country Store in Sheldon. Other area locations include Whiskey Ridge Sport Shop in Radisson and the DNR Ranger Station in Winter.

The overall sampling goal for this year is 21,000 deer.

The health of the deer herd relies on commitment from hunters. Managing CWD begins with knowing where the disease exists on the landscape, and having this knowledge is only possible with a robust sample size. Please make plans to visit one of the following sampling stations to have your deer submitted for testing.

“We’re grateful for hunters making that extra effort to have their deer sampled for CWD, and to support them, we continue to make access to sampling simpler, faster and easier each year,” said Tami Ryan, acting Wildlife Management bureau director. “Each deer sample is important because it contributes to an accurate understanding of the health of Wisconsin’s deer herd.”

Hunting continues to be a multi-billion dollar industry in Wisconsin, and not only a boost to tourism, local businesses and wildlife management efforts, but also deeply rooted in Wisconsin’s culture. November means deer hunting in Wisconsin, and thousands of hunters from all over the world travel to Wisconsin to enjoy our deer hunting traditions.

There were 3,010 deer harvested last year in Rusk County with 1,831 antlered and 1,179 antlerless.

“The biggest goal is for all hunters to have a safe season,” Belisle said.

Other seasons upcoming include:

— Muzzleloader — Dec 2-11

— 4-day December Antlerless Only — Dec. 12-15.

— Antlerless-only Holiday Hunt (Farmland Zone counties) — Dec. 24 to Jan. 1, 2020.

— Archery/Crossbow — Continues through Jan. 5 (Jan. 31 in Metro sub-units and some Farmland Zone counties).

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