Skip to main content

2018 Wisconsin Deer Forecast

2018 Wisconsin Deer Forecast

This detailed analysis of the Wisconsin deer picture will give you a realistic view of your 2018 hunting prospects.

Wisconsin’s avid deer hunters can find little to complain about year in and year out, as harvest numbers run well over 300,000 annually. That’s well above New York’s harvest of 230,000 whitetails and not far from Pennsylvania’s near half-million bucks and does taken each year.

While Wisconsin’s categorical harvests tend to rise and fall due to the vagaries of weather, hunter participation and other factors, it’s safe to say that any hunter who wants to tag a whitetail in 2018 should make room in his freezer before he heads for the woods. All indications are that he will not only be successful but will probably see more deer per day than many Eastern-region hunters encounter all season.



There isn’t much point in quibbling about numbers when it comes to Wisconsin’s deer harvest. The difference between 2017’s take of around 320,000 deer is just about 4,000 more than were tagged in 2016, barely more than a percentage point. The difference in most individual categories (archery and crossbow, youth and muzzleloader) were equally scant — blackpowder hunters took exactly two more deer in 2017 than previously. Other numbers were substantially different, but weather or hunter participation were likely reasons for the shift — with an estimated herd of 800,000 animals going into last season, it’s safe to say that there were plenty of deer to go around. Some hunters stayed home on certain days due to bad weather, lack of interest or other obligations; some missed their targets, and some never went out — all of which add up to lost hunter-days and slightly reduced kills. Changes in antlerless permit allocations might have affected final harvest totals as well, and some unfortunate hunters focusing on big bucks saw only immature deer; hence, their tags were not filled.

Add it all up and there’s no reason to look negatively on Wisconsin’s 2018 deer season and nothing to suggest that hunters won’t match or exceed that 300,000 threshold this season.


With all this in mind, here’s a look at some of Wisconsin’s top deer harvest counties with some insight on why these counties are so productive and where hunters can go to take part in the action in 2018.

 
“WisconsinDeer”

FARMLAND ZONES


It should come as no surprise that last year’s top-ranked counties for deer harvest are all in the Central and Southern Farmland zones. One of the simplest, most common equations in deer hunting is farmland = deer. The reasons that there are more whitetails found and tagged in Wisconsin’s farm zones are many, ranging from food availability, quality of cover, access to hunters and winter severity.

Add it all up and the math is clear — if you want to tag a deer in Wisconsin this year, head for any one of the following counties, selected because they were the top-producing counties during the 2016 firearm season:


Waupaca, Marathon, Polk and Dunn

Polk, Dunn, Waupaca and Marathon counties are included in Central Farmland Zone 2. The state contains two farmland zones where Farmland (Zone 2) Antlerless Deer Tags may be included at no cost with the purchase of each deer hunting license. Both zones contain several deer management units (DMUs), most of which can be identified by county boundaries and names. Note that nine DMUs (Adams, Clark, Eau Claire, Jackson, Juneau, Marinette, Monroe, Oconto and Wood) are each split by zone boundaries. Farmland (Zone 2) Antlerless Deer Tags may be used only in the DMU and land type (private or public) specified on the tag.

Tags may be filled during any deer season with the allowed weapon. Tags are Deer Management Unit (DMU) and land type (public or private) specific. The hunter must specify the DMU and land type for the tags he plans to use. If more than one tag per license is offered in the DMU, as is the case in Polk County, different land types may be chosen for each tag.

Tags may be used by Class A & C disabled permit holders and certain active duty military personnel on leave to harvest an antlerless deer in any DMU statewide while hunting on the land type specified on the tag, including buck-only DMUs.

Tags may be selected by Junior deer hunting license holders in addition to the Junior Antlerless Deer Tag included with their deer hunting license. However, they are valid only in the DMU and land type specified on the tag. See the Wisconsin 2018 Deer Hunting Regulations or log onto dnr.wi.gov for complete details.

Vernon, Richland, Sauk

These counties are in the northwest portion of Southern Farmland Zone 2. Vernon County is covered by statewide regulations and is bucks-only with two antlerless deer tags available. The same is true of Sauk County. Richland County offers four antlerless tags. Richland and Sauk counties are also open during the antlerless-only Holiday Hunt.

The DNR Call Center is available to answer hunters’ questions seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Interested hunters should call 1-888-936-7463.

GET INVOLVED

According to the Wisconsin DNR, there is a variety of interesting and exciting deer research taking place in Wisconsin that includes opportunities for hunters and volunteers to get involved. Opportunities, outcomes and project specifics are changing regularly.

Visit the Wisconsin DNR website at dnr.wi.gov and search for “white-tailed deer research.” The top search result should be a page titled “White-tailed deer research projects.” Check that for current information.

In addition, fall 2016 marked the start of the largest and most comprehensive deer research project ever undertaken in Wisconsin: The Southwest Wisconsin CWD, Deer and Predator Study. This venture comes from Governor Scott Walker’s commitment to reevaluating chronic wasting disease in Wisconsin. The project’s goal is to comprehensively examine all factors that might impact deer survival and deer population growth in southern Wisconsin. These include chronic wasting disease, predation, habitat suitability and hunter harvests.

Other studies will occur simultaneously in areas with differing rates of CWD infection, which will help the agency better understand how CWD might or might not be interacting with other factors that ultimately affect the deer herd. Interestingly, this study will also directly estimate the abundance and distribution of deer predators (bobcats and coyotes) within study areas and examine their impact on deer survival and behavior.

Hunters who harvest a deer with a radio collar should call the number on the radio collar so that the research staff can record that deer’s information and re-use the collar. To get involved in the research project click on the DNR’s “CWD Research” link.

For specific questions contact Daniel Storm, ungulate research scientist, 715-365-4712, or e-mail him at DanielJ.Storm@Wisconsin.gov.

2019 DEER SEASON DATES

For trip-planning purposes, Wisconsin’s 2018 deer hunting seasons are:

4Archery and Crossbow: Sept. 15 through Jan. 6, 2019

4Archery and Crossbow Metro Sub-Units Only: Sept. 15 through Jan. 31, 2019

4Gun Hunt for hunters with disabilities (not statewide): Oct. 6-14

4Youth Deer Hunt: Oct. 6-7

4Gun Hunt: Nov. 17-25

4Muzzleloader Hunt: Nov. 26 through Dec. 5

4December 4-day Antlerless Hunt: Dec. 6-9

4Antlerless-Only Holiday Hunt: Dec. 24 through Jan. 1, 2019

 
“WisconsinDeer”

DEER CENTRAL

Wisconsin’s Central Farmland Zone 2 has historically been a major deer producer, and 2017 was no exception. Headed by Marathon County, which has led the state in deer harvests in total harvest, total gun harvest, total archery harvest and total Youth Hunt harvest for the past five years, the Central Farmland Zone accounted for well over half the state’s total deer harvest this past year.

So, what makes this portion of Wisconsin so special? And why does it account for so many deer?

Many of the counties comprising the Central Farmland Zone feature terrain well equipped to support good numbers of deer. It’s typically a good mix of farmland, forest, fields and wetland habitat. Nowhere is this perhaps truer than in Marathon County, which, in addition to offering prime habitat for deer, also offers a fair amount of public access to hunters.

The crown jewel of, and a major focal point for, public hunting in Marathon County is, of course, the 33,000-acre George W. Mead Wildlife Area. The area encompasses an array of different ecosystems, including grasslands, conifer bogs, hardwood forests, wetlands, ponds (reservoirs), upland habitat and agricultural fields. Mead also extends into Wood and Portage counties.

Other Central Farmland counties also offer public land opportunities. Mukwa Wildlife Area in southeastern Waupaca County, Navarino Wildlife Area in northeast Waupaca and southern Shawano counties and other options are also available to hunters.

Although private land hunting accounts for the vast majority of deer harvested in Wisconsin, that doesn’t mean some of these public opportunities should be overlooked. For more information on Wisconsin’s deer hunting seasons, regulations, licensing and other details, log onto dnr.wi.gov.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Bubba Blade: Multi-Flex Interchangeable Blade Set

Bubba Blade: Multi-Flex Interchangeable Blade Set

Four blades in versatile knife system to fit your needs; ICAST Fishing Gear Guide.

P-Line Copolymer Topwater Fishing Line

P-Line Copolymer Topwater Fishing Line

Get the inside info on the new topwater-specific fishing line; ICAST Fishing Gear Guide.

Daiwa J-Fluoro Samurai Fluorocarbon Fishing Line

Daiwa J-Fluoro Samurai Fluorocarbon Fishing Line

Pro angler Cody Meyer calls Daiwa's J-Fluoro Samurai the best fluorocarbon he's ever fished. Meyer spoke with In-Fisherman associate publisher Todd Ceisner as part of the 2020 ICAST New Fishing Gear Guide.

G Loomis NRX Rods

G Loomis NRX Rods

Whatever the target species, these rods feel good in the fly shop when you're giving them a test drive.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Now's the time to finalize plans for the perfect deer season opener.10 Expert Deer Hunting Preparation Tips for Opening Day Whitetail

10 Expert Deer Hunting Preparation Tips for Opening Day

M.D. Johnson - August 26, 2020

Now's the time to finalize plans for the perfect deer season opener.

The colder waters of early spring are prime times to use these proven bait rigs for stripers.3 Proven Bait Rigs for Stripers Striper & Hybrid

3 Proven Bait Rigs for Stripers

J.B. Kasper

The colder waters of early spring are prime times to use these proven bait rigs for stripers.

The best jig fisherman are those that are always aware of what their jig is doing.4 Tips When Jig Fishing For Bass Bass

4 Tips When Jig Fishing For Bass

Chris Schneider - August 25, 2015

The best jig fisherman are those that are always aware of what their jig is doing.

More adjustability and improved balance make these nine compounds even easier to shoot.The Best Compound Bows for 2020 Bows

The Best Compound Bows for 2020

Jace Bauserman - August 24, 2020

More adjustability and improved balance make these nine compounds even easier to shoot.

See More Trending Articles

More Forecast

Recent weather has scrambled early season concentrations of mourning doves and whitewings, but those same conditions could be setting the stage for a fantastic two-week run of early teal for the Lone Star State.2020 Early Teal Forecast for Texas: Perfect Storm Could Deliver Epic Hunting Forecast

2020 Early Teal Forecast for Texas: Perfect Storm Could Deliver Epic Hunting

Lynn Burkhead - September 11, 2020

Recent weather has scrambled early season concentrations of mourning doves and whitewings, but...

Numbers are down in some parts, but a wealth of public land still holds gobblers for you this spring.Tennessee Turkey Hunting Outlook 2019 Forecast

Tennessee Turkey Hunting Outlook 2019

Richard Hines

Numbers are down in some parts, but a wealth of public land still holds gobblers for you this...

Here's what to expect for the 2019 turkey season in the Sunshine State.Florida Turkey Hunting Outlook 2019 Forecast

Florida Turkey Hunting Outlook 2019

Ian Nance

Here's what to expect for the 2019 turkey season in the Sunshine State.

This detailed analysis of the West Virginia deer picture will give you a realistic view of your 2018 hunting prospects.2018 West Virginia Deer Forecast Forecast

2018 West Virginia Deer Forecast

Jeff Knapp - November 06, 2018

This detailed analysis of the West Virginia deer picture will give you a realistic view of...

See More Forecast

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Game & Fish App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now