MADISON — Cold weather put a damper on Wisconsin's gun deer season, leading hunters to cut their outings short and a slightly weaker harvest than last year, state wildlife officials said Tuesday.
The DNR sold 633,602 licenses, up from 633,460 in 2012. But preliminary totals from the nine-day season show hunters killed 226,582 deer, down 7 percent from 243,739 deer last year.
They took 97,765 bucks, down 15 percent from 2012. The antlerless kill was virtually unchanged from last year; hunters took 128,817 antlerless deer compared with 128,917 in 2012.
The northern area of the state saw a 15 percent drop in the overall harvest, the largest decline of any region, according to the DNR's figures. The buck harvest was down 19 percent and the antlerless harvest was down 11 percent there.
The northeast region was the only area that saw an overall increase, and even that was minuscule at 1.4 percent. The antlerless harvest was up 11 percent in that region but the buck take was down 8 percent.
DNR officials said a cold snap that gripped most of the state during the first half of the season forced many hunters to cut down on hours spent in the woods. Much of Wisconsin saw highs in the teens and 20s during opening weekend. Highs on Thanksgiving Day ranged from the low 20s to the low 30s.
"It was downright brutal out there early in the week, and the opening weekend totals reflected that," DNR big game ecologist Kevin Wallenfang said in a statement. "Feedback from our deer hunter wildlife survey shows that, not surprisingly, hunters themselves felt the weather during the first half of the season ranked the poorest they've seen in the five years that we've done the survey."
The agency reported eight people were shot with a firearm during the season. No one was killed in any of the incidents.
Tomahawk native Jay Leggett, an actor who appeared in TV shows including "Ally McBeal," ''In Living Color" and "NYPD Blue" and went on to write, produce and act in several movies, died of a heart attack in a family cabin in Tomahawk while hunting on opening day.