MILWAUKEE (AP) - Gun license sales are down and archery licenses are up ahead of this weekend's start of Wisconsin's gun deer-hunting season, a Department of Resources spokesman said Wednesday.
But DNR spokesman Ed Culhane said it's too soon to say whether fewer gun hunters will be out since the Friday before the season is usually the busiest single day for sales. But hunting overall is down, he said.
"That is a trend that has been going on for decades and continues," he said.
According to the DNR, there were nearly 376,000 licenses sold as of Tuesday, compared to nearly 403,000 last year at the same time. In the end, there were nearly 604,000 licenses sold as of opening day in 2011. Archery licenses were at nearly 216,000 as of Sunday, up nearly 8,700 over the same time last year.
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"We've recently been seeing an explosion in interest in archery by young people, which can be attributed to the Hunger Game books and movie, where the heroin is an archer," Culhane said.
The gun season starts runs through Nov. 25. The second half of the bow season also starts Saturday and runs through Jan. 6. The muzzleloader season starts Nov. 26.
This year, Gov. Scott Walker wanted to streamline Wisconsin's hunting season structure after hunters complained the multiple seasons were confusing and have drained the fun out of the November gun hunt.
There was no October gun hunt for antlerless deer. There also is no Earn-A-Buck requirement for the first antlered deer.
Culhane said it's too early to know how that will affect interest in hunting this year.
He did say, though, that hunters could see more active deer this year because the gun season is overlapping mating season, which makes deer more active and less cautious. This year's season is at its earliest possible date because it's tied to Thanksgiving, which is early, he said.
On the downside, there isn't expected to be tracking snow on the ground this weekend and the weather is supposed to be warmer than ideal. But the Wisconsin corn harvest was ahead of last year, meaning there will be fewer crops for hunters to see past.
The agency stopped issuing population estimates after the deer trustee appointed last year by Walker recommended it. But Culhane said there are more than 1 million deer roaming around.
Hunters registered a total of 347,711 white-tailed deer in all deer hunting seasons in 2011, including 257,511 in gun seasons and 90,200 in archery seasons.
For the 2011 nine-day gun deer season, hunters registered 228,629 deer, a 3 percent increase from 2010.
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