Deer hunting has huge impact in Wisconsin

WITH WISCONSIN’S NINE-DAY gun deer hunt underway, here’s a chance to test your knowledge of hunting in Wisconsin.

Which of the following statements is/are true?

1. The number of hunters in Wisconsin increased by 36 percent in the past decade.

2. Chronic wasting disease continues to increase in the state’s deer herd.

3. More Wisconsin hunters died in hunting accidents in the past two years than in the previous five years.

Give yourself an “A”’ if you knew the first two statements are true and the last one is false. Whether you love to hunt, despise the killing of wildlife or simply consider hunting a curiosity amid football season, you should understand its importance in Wisconsin.

Perhaps the best evidence of hunting’s significance is its impact on politics. Consider that this year’s gun season is the first following rule changes that came from an independent review of the state’s deer management. That review was a response to controversies that became an issue in the 2010 gubernatorial campaign. Gov. Scott Walker ordered the review after he took office. To read about the changes, go to dnr. wi.gov and search “deer.”

Hunting’s political impact makes sense. Wisconsin has more residents who hunt than any other state except Texas. And more non-residents hunt in Wisconsin than in any other state except South Dakota. Seven out of every eight of those hunters is a deer hunter.

Those numbers come from a once-every-fiveyears survey by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Fish and Wildlife Service. That survey, for 2011, also indicated that hunting is a large and growing contributor to Wisconsin’s economy. It showed the number of hunters of all types in Wisconsin was 895,000, up from 660,000 10 years earlier. Wisconsin hunters spent $2.5 billion in 2011 - more than twice the revenue of Epic Systems Inc. for that same year - on firearms, ammunition, lodging and other items, up from $1 billion in 2001.

But some trends are troubling. The number of licensed hunters in the nine-day gun deer hunt last year totaled 635,000, down from more than 699,000 in 1990. Furthermore, the number of hunters 65 to 74 years old exceeds the number who are 25 to 34 years old.

Chronic wasting disease remains a threat. In the past 12 years the percentage of deer with the disease has doubled in the state’s former CWD monitoring zone.

Of all the trends in hunting, the brightest may be its growing safety. If this year’s gun deer season is fatality-free, the state will have recorded just one hunting fatality in the past five gun seasons, down from nine deaths in the previous five years.

Hunters should emphasize gun safety and responsible behavior. All of Wisconsin should understand the role hunting plays in our state. — Wisconsin State Journal, Nov. 19


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