Sunny and cool with a chance of deer
JANESVILLE Ideal deer hunting weather includes a fresh fall of snow and crisp cold—something between bone-chilling damp and lung-piercingly bitter.
Local hunters won't see those conditions this year after the deer gun season opens Saturday morning.
Instead, they'll have to settle for second best: sunshine and 50-degree days.
"People would prefer it to be cold and to have snow on the ground," said Kevin Wallenfang, big game ecologist for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
Snow makes it easier to see deer and track them. The fall woods provide effective camouflage for deer.
In past years, hunters have had to deal with "fog so thick you couldn't see 100 feet" and "pouring rain," Wallenfang said.
"If you get good weather, that's great," Wallenfang said. "If you get snow, that's the cherry on the top of things."
Weather always has an impact on the number of deer killed during opening weekend.
"There's an increased hunter effort on weekends like this," Wallenfang said. "Hunters will sit out there all day long and enjoy being outdoors."
Colder weather would be better for preserving deer meat and hides.
Wallenfang recommended hunters pull their kills into the shade and then turn them over on their back to help release body heat. Deer kept in the shade at 50 degrees should be fine for a while, he said.
Larry Masterson, manager at Gander Mountain in Janesville, said hunters have been busy buying licenses.
"The weather hasn't really been a topic," Masterson said. "They're just anxious to get out there and go hunting."
The weather is an "added benefit."
Masterson recommended that hunters dress in layers so they'll be comfortable from early morning chill through the relative warmth of the afternoon.
As of Wednesday, the DNR had issued 446,449 licenses for the gun deer season. That's up from 443,720 at the same time last year.
The DNR hopes more licenses won't mean more accidents. Hunting accidents and deaths have decreased significantly since hunter safety courses were required, Wallenfang said.
Now, rather than gunshot incidents, you're more likely to hear reports of hunters falling out of tree stands or having a heart attack pulling a deer out of the woods.
Such incidents are not considered hunting accidents but remain a serious concern for wardens.
"It's not that pulling the deer out of the woods caused the heart attack—that person was probably headed for a heart attack the next time they shoveled snow," Wallenfang said. "People need to know their own physical limitations."
Always wear a safety strap or harness when in a tree stand and pull up your unloaded firearm on a rope—instead of carrying it up with you.
Let people know where you are hunting and when you'll be back, Wallenfang said.
Finally, keep a cell phone in a secured pocket, so if you do fall out of the tree stand, you can call for help.