Opening weekend cold chills early deer harvest
The opening weekend has come and gone and what can be said is this: It was very cold for both days. Saturday was bad, Sunday was worse. And on both days the wind blew hard and mean.
It was, very simply put, very difficult hunting conditions. It has been a long time since we’ve seen that cold on the opening and we suspect many hunters left the woods early both days.
By Tuesday the early tally showed the deer kill was down 18 percent statewide, greater than that in this area. Those are preliminary numbers and will change some. Part of that is due to a significant drop in antlerless permits that resulted in a 41 percent drop in antlerless deer killed in Oneida County. Part of it is due to lower deer numbers overall. Part cab be laid to the late opening date that had the rut mostly done. But a large factor was the bitter cold.
Hunters we talked to spent less time in the field on those two days and less time generally results in fewer deer taken. Given the choice of watching a Packer game or sitting in the bitter cold, many hunters chose the game and the comfort.
Warmer weather later in the week may bring the overall numbers back up a bit but opening weekend typically represents the majority of deer killed so it may well be that this year will be off when all is said and done. Weather is the wild card in any hunt and this year it was a major player.
There remains the weekend ahead as well as muzzleloader season to come so we will still see more deer taken this year. But the big numbers come on the opener and the cold weather pretty much took care of that.
Deer hunters did not enjoy the cold but ice fishermen had to look at it with more enthusiasm. Cold weather combined with lack of snow should result in some very good early ice. Which is not to say it will be safe on every lake; it will not. We saw uneven ice formation on the few lakes we observed and the early season cautions of checking thickness at every step or two still holds.
But on the smaller lakes and sheltered bays on larger water we may well see some ice thick enough for early fishing. Given the early date and possible inconsistent ice thickness we’d not rush out there but if the cold stays and the snow does not come early we hope for quality ice in early December.
The Outdoor Report is provided by the staff of Mel’s Trading Post in downtown Rhinelander.