For many deer hunters the gun-deer season in Wisconsin is like a holiday.
As of Monday, sales of licenses for the nine-day season that begins Saturday are up 6% this year.
“In a normal year, we would expect to see a decline of 1 to 2% in license sales because the Baby Boomers are aging out of hunting, so the increase in license sales is really a big deal for us,” said Eric Lobner, Bureau Director with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Division of Fish, Wildlife and Parks Management.
Across the nation and in Wisconsin, Lobner said there is general trend in outdoor recreation during the pandemic including increased activity over the summer in activities like hiking and fishing.
Looking at statistics between the Monday before the start of deer hunting season in 2019 and the Monday before the start of deer hunting season in 2020, archery license sales are up by 8.3% and deer-gun licenses are up, he said.
Lobner said that while the DNR could not pinpoint exactly what’s driving the trend, he did say he thought as a consequence of COVID-19 people are feeling “cooped up,” and wanted to get out and enjoy nature, finding recreation on both public or private land.
“It could be the physical aspects of feeling pent up and they want to get out and exercise and the other thing that we’ve finding is that they are looking for an organic, sustainable meat source, and nothing is more organic then harvesting from a meat source that is locally born,” he said.
Looking at deer harvesting, Lobner said there are not a lot of changes in the process planned for this year.
He highlighted a DNR service thought which hunters can register their deer electronically and receive a conformation through email.
The process also helps with chronic wasting disease (CWD) sampling. Hunters will still need to go to a kiosk or CWD sample station to drop off their deer heads. Samples for CWD are typically collected from the deer’s lymph nodes, he said.
The DNR also is suggesting guidelines for hunters to use to protect themselves against COVID-19, Lobner said.
Recommendations include asking hunters to wear a mask while hunting on public property.
“They don’t need to wear one when they are alone in a tree stand, but when they are on public land, they may come in contact with other members of the public, so we are asking that they put a mask in their pocket,” he said.
Other suggestions include staying at least six feet apart from other people.
“So, maybe step off to the side of the trail when passing others,” he said. He also suggested hunters keep hand sanitizer in their pocket in case they touch gates and other structures while enjoying outdoor recreation.
“We can’t let our guard down. We suggest people think twice about going great distances to go hunting and don’t stay in a cabin with people who are not members of your household,” Lobner said.
He also suggested hunters avoid riding in vehicles to hunting locations with people who are not members of the household.
“Think about finding a local spot for hunting and start a new tradition,” he said.
More information for hunters can be found at Hunt Wild, a DNR app, and the DNR website: dnr.wisconsin.gov.