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Gun opener begins Saturday, deer license sales down over past 2 decades

Eau Claire (WQOW) — Deer hunting license sales have declined nearly six percent over the past 18 years, according to a new report from the  Wisconsin Policy Forum (WPF). So what could be causing this, and are there other businesses associated with hunting feeling the effect?

According to the WPF, deer license sales have dropped by 5.8 percent between 1999 and 2017. Possible factors attributed to the decrease; an increase in urbanization, lack of hunting education, even lack of access to hunting land. The Wisconsin DNR said the decline is tied to the aging baby boomer generation. Ryan Kierstead, owner of Dreamcatcher Outfitters & Taxidermy in Eau Claire, told News 18 there may be other reasons, locally.

“Temperature is huge, weather is very big. Seems to be if the weather cooperates with everyone, therefore they can actually sit out there a longer, seems like I do a little better in here,” Kierstead said. “If we have really bad weather, it’s really super cold or something, I definitely see that effect.”

The DNR said Wisconsin had a colder and snowier winter last year, but this year’s growing season provided plenty of food for deer, so wardens hope for a successful hunt this year. However, if the decline in hunting continues, the WPF said it could be harder for wildlife managers to control deer numbers in the state. Kierstead said an increase in bow hunting over gun hunting could fill that gap.

More: What you need to know before deer hunting in 2018

“I know a lot of my customers would much rather bow hunt than gun hunt,” said Kierstead. “You know, gun hunting being more of that traditional Wisconsin thing, and with deer hunting evolving so much lately, realistically bow hunting is a much bigger deal nowadays, than it ever was before.”

Even if the decline continues, Kierstead deals in more than just deer.

“If my deer numbers are down, it seems as if my bear numbers will be up, or the bird numbers will come up,” Kierstead said. “Last year was really high in fish numbers. Every year really does vary on that.”

We also asked Mike’s Star Market if the supposed decline has affected their processing business; they said no, they’ve actually been fairly busy.

Samantha Wensel

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