Being a former sports writer / editor and fond of everything humans tend to play, I have always been intrigued by the numbers. Even more people who accumulate these numbers, but numbers nonetheless.

So when I called Jeff Pritzl, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources deer program specialist, I was looking for numbers, as in the harvest totals to date for the shooting season. arc that opened on September 18, and a look at those numbers.

I have a lot of numbers, a lot of numbers and an unexpected big picture.

Pritzl, very knowledgeable, well versed and insightful on all things deer and all things DNR, was happy to enlighten me with these numbers (more on that later). What I did not expect were other even more interesting numbers.

Like the fact that nearly half of the state’s approximately 575,000 hunters who purchased deer hunting licenses in 2020 also purchased an archery license – vertical or crossbow. That’s nearly 300,000 people hunting white-tailed deer with a vertical bow or crossbow.

This number surprised me.

“There is no doubt that the shift of the deer hunting effort towards the bow and crossbows is definitely here and it is continuing,” said Pritzl. “This has been going on for decades and is a national trend, not just Wisconsin. The advent of the crossbow as the weapon of choice is not for everyone (but there are), they are embracing it.

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Season 2021 is the third year that crossbows can be used by anyone (you need a hunter safety permit if you were born on or after January 1, 1973), without limitations, during the season of archery in Wisconsin. In other states, such as Minnesota, there are provisions for the crossbow (see Minnesota DNR regulations).

Wisconsin, it seems, is ahead on this, at least financially. With the number of deer hunting licenses sold in Wisconsin slowly declining, allowing hunters to use crossbows during traditional archery season seems logical.

“We are in our third year where the use of the crossbow as a weapon choice has moved beyond the vertical arc. The proportion of the harvest that was attributed to that followed, ”said Pritzl.

“What he did, he leveled that income (overall deer license). The total number of hunters tends to decline simply because of demographics as the baby boom generation continues to quit hunting. The advent of the crossbow made up for what was a general decline in numbers during gun season. This has allowed some people to stay in the game longer.

In 2020, archery and crossbow hunters combined to kill more than 110,000 white-tailed deer in Wisconsin, including around $ 64,000. Since the start of the 2021 archery season, from September 18 to October 5, hunters have harvested 10,987 deer, including 4,792 males.

Breaking these numbers down even further, 6,309 deer have been caught with a crossbow so far during Wisconsin’s archery season, while 4,678 have been caught with a vertical or compound bow.

What makes this even more interesting, at least to me, is that the general opinion – if not acceptance – of crossbows is changing. The stigma associated with owning a crossbow is also decreasing, Pritzl said.

Personally, I have owned both and see the pros and cons of each. Going back to my sports days, not everyone likes the designated hitter in baseball (the American League employs him, not the National League), but he has his time and place.

The pros and cons of DH, such as crossbows, will certainly continue to be debated.

“The most important thing that grows and welcomes, and that says a lot about deer hunters, is to understand the variety of options. People recognize that there is no “one” right way to do it and are more tolerant, “said Pritzl. “It’s your license, your adventure, as long as it’s done within the framework of the regulations, there is room for all of that.

“We’ve been through the phase of the advent of compound bows and muzzle magazines, where initially there are reservations and a concern that what you are doing may have a negative impact on me and what I do. . After a few years, it’s not such a bad deal.

It’s not a bad deal to have choices that are in every state’s hunting laws, which is why baseball purists love the National League’s stance on Designated Hitter. Many archery purists will never accept crossbows, while others will embrace them.

Neither is right, neither is wrong. It’s a personal choice, remember to stay tuned to the laws of each state.

MNR continues to monitor what type of deer license is sold, to what demographic group and the success of each. It’s no secret that the white-tailed deer season remains king in Wisconsin, but there are signs of a change.

Try these numbers for size: In 2020, there were 820,299 firearms, bow, crossbow, sports and patronage licenses sold in Wisconsin, allowing these folks to hunt deer. Of this total, 569,203 were licenses for patrons of firearms (deer) and sports.

“The shift to archery hunting and the remoteness of gun season to some extent, mitigates it a bit,” Pritzl said of the traditional nine-day deer hunt. . “The gun season hype has always been an integral part of gun hunting culture in Wisconsin. Now there is just a little discrepancy. Now they are just spreading their efforts. Probably all in all a good thing.

DEER HUNTER STRATEGIES: While the movement of hunters knowing both archery and deer hunting seasons in the same year can be tracked by numbers, a notable trend cannot. If you participate in the deer season, you know that there are fewer and fewer deer hunting groups driving or attempting to move deer.

There are more people sitting and waiting for the deer to come to them than ever before. I was eager to ask Pritzl his opinion on this subject.

“Hunting strategies have changed, it’s not good or bad. Many hunters will base their experience on the number of deer they see, remembering in a particular year how many deer they saw, ”said Pritzl. “Hunters have taken a far more sedentary approach of staying put, staying silent. And staying put in terms of deer sightings can make a big difference.

“If everyone stays put and stays still and doesn’t make intentional efforts to move the deer, this hunting pressure decreases, letting things be quieter, can lead to fewer deer seen.”

Pritzl said it’s now easier to sit on a stand, a floor shade or even a stump overlooking a casting – and stay there all day – because of the equipment and clothing available. .

“Part of it is land ownership, as well as developing better deer stands, better clothes that allow people to sit more comfortably,” Pritzl said. “Having said that, you have to be more patient with yourself.”

Does patience have a number? Ask a friend.

WHITETAIL STORIES: With the Wisconsin archery and crossbow seasons opening for whitetail deer on September 18, there are bound to be some tongue wagging tails. Drop me a line and send me a picture of your big money at [email protected] and it might end up being a Thursday column. I’ve been hunting for 45 years and writing for over 40 years, and I never tire of hearing a good deer story.

Jeff Brown, a longtime former sports editor of The Tribune, is an outdoor freelance writer. Send him story ideas at [email protected]