As Wisconsin approaches the archery season opener, officials with the state Department of Natural Resources continue to see an increase in the number of archery and crossbow deer hunters.
Jeff Pritzl, DNR state deer program specialist, said there are more than 600,000 deer hunters in Wisconsin. He said more than 42% of them are archery or crossbow hunters.
"That number has gradually increased over the years, as actually the number of gun hunters, which is the big show in November, has slightly just been sliding down a little bit over time," Pritzl said. "That's being made up for by more people participating in the crossbow and vertical bow seasons."
Pritzl said advances in technology with equipment and clothing help make the experience more user-friendly.
"I think it just reflects an enthusiasm for hunting and for being outdoors," Pritzl said. "Bow hunting offers more days in the field, more opportunity. And so more people are migrating in that direction."
This is always a busy time of year for Steve "Soup" Campbell, owner of 12-Ring Archery Lanes. Bow hunters went to the Howard shop Friday for tune-ups and set ups. Campbell helped other customers find the right bow for them.
"Right now we're trying to concentrate on pretty much all of the hunters that are going out for opening day," Campbell said while pointing to a line of bows on the wall. "It's always this way every year."
During the last few years, Campbell said he's been balancing challenges with new technology and disruptions to the supply chain due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We've been waiting for everything and that's the challenge of today's times with the economy and where we're going with it," Campbell said. "We have the products here. That's the biggest challenge now with supply and demand of everything. It's not quite toilet paper, but let me tell you, getting shafts in - especially last year - this year it's a little better. But in order for me to help people out, waiting until last minute really puts a bind on it. If i don't have the product here I just can't help them. But we'll get through it."
Campbell said he's seen more demand for bows both adults and children can use. He just had 19 of those models delivered to the store. Within the past five years, Campbell said he's also seen more demand for crossbows.
More families and women are also becoming interested in archery, Campbell said.
"People look to hunting and the outdoors, and I think anything with today's challenges, it has brought family together and hunting together as a pastime," Campbell said. "It's a really cool energy thing that really brings people together."
12-Rings Archery Lanes is working to install the newest video archery range, which will allow people to shoot at moving video. Campbell said he hopes to have it ready to go this winter.
Archery season begins Sept. 18 and runs through Jan. 9. There are 27 Farmland Zone Deer Management Units and all metro sub-units can extend the seasons through Jan. 30.
The following represents the number of antlerless tags with license per county. The DNR also has a map with the same data:
- Brown: 2
- Calumet: 1
- Door: 3
- Fond du Lac: 1
- Green Lake: 3
- Kewaunee: 4
- Manitowoc: 2
- Marinette: Divided (Northern Forest Zone 1 - 0, Central Farmland Zone 2 - 2)
- Menominee: No harvest authorizations issued by the DNR
- Oconto: 3
- Outagamie: 2
- Shawano: 3
- Sheboygan: 2
- Waupaca: 2
- Waushara: 2
- Winnebago: 1
Pritzl said most counties in Northeast Wisconsin already ban baiting and feeding due to CWD. He said there was a recent CWD occurrence in Outagamie County. Because of that, Pritzl said Outagamie County, as well as Calumet County, will be included in the ban. He said the ban lasts two or three years and can expire if there are no incidents of CWD.
The DNR reports archery and crossbow hunters harvested more than 110,000 deer, including more than 64,000 bucks in 2020. That's an increase from 2019.