Fitchburg, WI - 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 1990’s and early twenty-first century.
1834 – Lafayette County, first reported crop damage by deer.
1851 – First closed season for deer, Feb. 1 – June 30; Indians
permitted to hunt anytime.
1876 – Hunting with dogs prohibited statewide.
1887 – Two game wardens appointed by governor at a monthly
salary of $50; night hunting prohibited statewide.
1888 – Game laws published in pamphlet form.
1890 – First chief warden appointed.
1892 – 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.
1897 – First bag limit for deer, two per season; resident
license costs $1, nonresident license costs $30; estimated license
sales total 12,000.
1900 – Twelve hunters killed by firearms.
1903 – Estimated 78,164 licenses sold.
1905 – Salt licks prohibited.
1909 – Season 20 days long, limit one deer; first civil
service exam given on a competitive basis for prospective wardens.
1910 – Deer populations drop to record low numbers due to
unregulated hunting and market shooting.
1914 – Twenty-four hunters killed, 26 injured; license sales
1915 – First buck only season.
1917 – 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.
1919 – Estimated kill is 25,152.
1920 – First use of metal deer tags…they cost 10 cents.
1921 – Wardens are instructed that “all deer found in
possession…with horns less than three inches in length, is a fawn and
should be confiscated.”
1924 – Estimated kill is 7000.
1925 – Legislature passes law closing deer season in alternate
1927 – No open season.
1928 – 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.
1929 – No open season.
1930 – Estimated kill is 23,000 with 70.284 deer tags sold.
1931 – No open season.
1932 – Deer tag price is raised to $1; estimated kill is
36,009 with 70,245 deer tags sold.
1933 – 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.
1934 – First bow deer season; estimated gun kill is 21,251
with 83,939 deer tags sold.
1935 – No open season.
1937 – Shortest deer season on record, three days.
1938 – Use of .22 rifle and .410 shotgun prohibited.
1939 – Licensed children between ages 12 and 16 must be
accompanied by parent or guardian; buckshot prohibited statewide.
1941 – Deer predators rare, timber wolves nearing extinction;
estimated gun kill is 40,403 with 124,305 deer tags sold.
1942 – Back tags required while deer hunting.
1943 – First doe and fawn season in 24 years.
1945 – First year of ‘shotgun only’ counties; wearing red
clothing required while hunting deer.
1950 – First ‘any deer’ season since 1919; estimated gun kill
is 167,911 with 312,570 deer tags sold.
1951 – 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.
1953 – First season gun deer hunters required to register deer
at checking station.
1954 – 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.
1956 – 100th established gun deer season; registered gun kill
is 35,562 with 294,645 deer tags sold.
1957 – Legislature authorizes party permit.
1958 – 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.
1959 – 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.
1960 – 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.
1961 – 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.
1962 – Deer population above 400,000; deer management unit
specific population goals established.
1963 – First year of quota party permits in eight management
units; assassination of President Kennedy lessens hunting pressure.
1964 – Party permit quota extended to 32 management units.
1967 – Hunter Safety Education Program begins.
1970 – Registered gun kill is 72,844 with 501,799 licenses
sold; 13 hunters killed.
1973 – No deer season fatalities.
1978 – Record registered gun kill is 150,845 with 644,594
1980 – 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 population.
1981 – Record registered deer kill of 166,673 with 629,034
1982 – Another record registered gun kill of 182,715 with
637,320 licenses sold; three deer season fatalities.
1983 – 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.
1984 – 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.
1985 – 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.
1986 – Gun deer season now nine days statewide; landowner
preference program begins for Hunter’s Choice permits.
1987 – First year of bonus antlerless permits; seven
fatalities and 46 hunting accidents.
1988 – Handguns permitted statewide.
1989 – 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.
1990 – Another record kill of 350,040, including 209,005
antlerless deer; record license sales of 699,275; pre-hunt herd
estimate of 1.3 million deer; season extended for seven days in 67
1991 – 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.
1992 – 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.
1993 – 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 hunting accidents.
1994 – 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.
1995 – 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 seasons.
1996 – ‘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
1997 – ‘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
1998 – 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.
1999 – 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.
2000 – 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; nine-day gun harvest totals a record 442,581
(170,865 antlered, 271,573 antlerless); 694,957 licensed gun hunters.
2001 – 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.
2002 – 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.
2003 – 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 deer
2004 – 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.
2005 – 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).
2006 – Statewide harvest quota totals 469,385 antlerless deer;
over 1 million antlerless deer permits issued to reach this quota;
all hunters issued one free antlerless permit for each license type
(bow and gun) with permits valid in any Herd Control, EAB and CWD
units; hunters kill the fifth highest gun total (393,306) during the
youth, regular gun, late December and muzzleloader seasons combined;
10 accidents, one fatal, with five self-inflicted and five with
shooter and victim in the same party.
2007 – The 156th deer season; state’s deer herd estimated
between 1.6 and 1.8 million animals heading into the regular nine-day
(Nov. 17-25) gun hunt and the 23-day (Nov. 17-Dec.9) hunt in the CWD
Zones; 57 of Wisconsin’s 130 DMU’s have EAB rules; more than 65,000
hunters “prequalified” for a buck sticker in 2007 by registering an
antlerless deer during 2006; 40 DMU’s, many in the north, are on the
“EAB Watch List” and may be EAB units in 2008 if antlerless kill