Big Game Hunting

Is the traditional gun season gone?

11/20/23 @ 12:09 PM
User since 4/2/10

Just reflecting on how I used to feel about gun seasons years ago verses today. This was my 34th year gun hunting,  used to be excited the week before, couldn't wait to get out. My dad was the same way. Back when we would take the first buck to walk by if you were lucky enough to see one the entire season. And if you had the magical hunters choice permit, that was like a winning lottery ticket. This was before trail cameras, food plots, deer with names and so on. All week doing deer drives with family neighbors and friends. 

Now its tip toeing around property so you don't chase deer to the neighbors,  if even hunting at all. More people switching to archery, less people taking up gun hunting and people simply leaving due to lack of access. No migration north to hunt the Northwoods, deer camps empty and businesses losing customers.  Gone are the days of in person registration and deer stuck on vehicles going home. I truly miss the old days. Never used to see advertisements for people to gun hunt from the DNR, it needed no advertising. Heck, haven't even heard the 30 point buck or 2nd week of deercamp on the radio this year.

Good luck and be safe everyone out there!

Displaying 1 to 14 of 14 posts
11/21/23 @ 7:23 PM
PRO MEMBER User since 6/22/01
I started hunting in 1993 when I was 13.  Two or three years later they had an early "T" season and the DNR introduced "earn a buck."  There were lots of does taken back then, way more than there are now! But definitely more hunters back then.  It was a warzone on opening day!
11/21/23 @ 3:56 PM
User since 4/2/10
Great replys so far.
One thing mentioned and I never thought about was the youth hunt. When I started hunting in 1989, there was no youth hunt. You froze your butt off like everyone else opening day. Not having the kids hunt early was why there was more excitement to opening weekend I feel. And yes, the extra pressure on the herd doesn't help, but not everywhere has youth hunters.
11/21/23 @ 3:32 PM
User since 2/6/06
Changed a lot for me.  The camaraderie is gone.  We still have a group, albeit older, less driven, and not any bigger if not a little smaller.  I know it's a pain for some but going to register deer and seeing everyone bring deer in was a part of the tradition and atmosphere of the weekend.  Access is the biggest issue however.  I can't talk to a non landowner who hasn't lost access in the last 10-15 years.  Maybe not all their access but at least some.  Less access, and the ones with access don't push deer around in fear of someone else getting their deer.  Game cameras really put an end to deer drives in my opinion.  You can trace the decline of gun season to the rise of game cameras almost to the year.  Once people knew what was out there, they felt ownership, which killed access and killed group hunting.  You add in all the extra tags, and now a landowner can hunt and manage their land practically by themselves instead of needing a group anymore. It's become corporate and not the same.  The excitement is gone.  I still go, but it's not the highlight of the year anymore.  
11/21/23 @ 3:25 PM
User since 8/27/01
Interesting topic, lots of great comments.  I have been away for maybe 15 years, but in Wisconsin this year.  So much has changed, hunters are rare, shooters far outnumber hunters.  I actually am trying to find hunters to hunt with, not people that just sit a few hours then call it a hunt.  Gosh I remember sitting opening weekend, then starting to push and yes it is hard, but I do think that if the right hunters actually hunt together, it could be a blast like it used to be.  True my parents are gone, and I have tried with siblings, but that is a disaster, it is all about shooting and not hunting!  I am looking to find a few hunters to hunt with, if anyone is interested, let's talk and maybe start new traditions!  
11/21/23 @ 2:37 PM
User since 6/21/01
A topic I actually read every post on.  I'm 47...been hunting since age 12 when the regulations said I could.  And yes, it's certainly changed.  Less deer drives, more sitting.  Farm fields are scalped by the new equipment and food plots become the way to attract deer.  We used to get one tag and hope we drew an elusive doe tag.  Now we get four doe tags handed to us with every license purchased! (Kewaunee Cty).  As for hunter numbers, I don't think there's less overall....but what I think has killed hunting is the youth season.  A full weekend even before the rut starts to kill deer in their natural patterns before they've seen more than a random bow hunter.  I know families that fill their freezers with deer (many big bucks) the kids shoot, and when the gun hunt rolls around they have no need to go out and hunt for more deer.  So instead of all those people blazing the orange, it's a whole lot quieter during gun season.  And we are right next to the biggest piece of public land in the county, so yes, I can agree there's less people out there.
Beyond that it's the traditions being lost.  Many of our parents aren't able to be around or take part of what was our traditions growing up.  The kids coming up behind us have other priorities like the crazy sports schedules, social media, etc.  Or they try hunting and it's just not fast paced enough and they are bored in a world of instant gratification.  It's hard work to get new hunters!  I've recently gotten my wife into it and she loves it.  I hope my daughter some day wants to hunt and fish with us as well, but if she doesn't, I can't force it.  But by the time she can, grandpa and grandma won't be doing it any more and it won't feel the same either.  Change is inevitible but sometimes it's hard to accept.
11/21/23 @ 10:46 AM
User since 11/29/01
This is my 49th gun season and my 35th gun season at my cabin . I never missed a year since I was about 10 and hunted with my dad. before I had a gun.. My last 35 yrs. have been in Price co. and boy has it changed. In 1989 , the 1st year. there were abut 8 trucks parked at the end of the road where my land starts. This year there was none opening weekend and only 1 last year. That is abut a 90% reduced hunters numbers. I heard one shot for both opening evenings this year . There were 8 of us at one time , but this year I was by myself for the 1st time ever for gun season. Gun  Hunting is dying  up north , there is no doubt. There were only a few more cars going north on WHY51 on Friday morning, On HWY 8 going west of Prentice I was amazed at how few cars there were  so I kept track for a bit. One car oncoming  every mile and sometimes 2 miles would go on my tack before another car and most of the time it was a lone car. I never seen that before . 30 yrs, ago it would be 1 car every 200 yds. It is safe to say that north of HWY 8 , the gun hunter numbers are down 75% in 30 yrs. , and I think it was going down even than.. I am not sure what to think , but there is something wrong with the big woods. Surely the wolves play a big part. Sat. morning they really lit up the woods with many moans, howls and hips for about a minute. It was towards my deer stand but a wolf howl, when dead silent can be heard for miles and miles and so can a gun shot. Surely wolves are a problem despite the woods is much healthier than it was 15 yrs. ago cause lack of deer. No doubt it helps winter survival when the woods is not eaten to death like it was many years ago from too many deer. I did however have a few small bucks, a decent 2 yrs old and an older 3 yr old on the cam... Also , a quick look at bow harvest tells me there were 76,000? deer harvested with bow and crossbows last year. So, if the old gun hunters think they are going to get to the stand early to get the first crack and a buck,,, I have news for them. That buck has a 30% chance of already being shot and in the freezer, maybe 35% chance it is gone, and  by the time gun season starts, the gun hunters are playing second fiddle in the nose bleed section. To almost everyone vehimently disagreeing with me, we should make north of HWY 8 an earlier season . A week earlier season, we would see a few more deer and almost always not as cold. Many say it would slaughter the big bucks. I say the big bucks almost always end up wolf kill after a hard rut, and a cold December has them very vulnerable to the wolves anyway and no doubt , more big bucks are killed from wolves than gun hunters, and by a long shot too. Many say they LOVE the cold, however, in a study  of gun hunters, quitting, the biggest reason is the cold . I hunted 2 hrs. last yr. in Price co. opening day. it was 11 degrees , a stiff north wind and was half froze in 2 hours. Promising to never hunt again in this cold. I went this year cause of the nicer weather.  The last 5 deer have been 5 miles from my home in Washington co. anyway .  Hope this was not too long winded , but that is how I am. Later, ihookem.
11/21/23 @ 10:30 AM
Bowhunting Guy
User since 5/22/18
Interesting discussion. No question that traditional hunting camps are breaking up.

I was blown away at the increase of hunters in Oneida County this year. I counted 17 trucks in a relatively small piece of county land. I know the area well, and literally every spot worth hunting had droves of people. I did not hear a single shot fired from noon-close on Sunday. The small number of deer there are totally nocturnal. 

Another trend I’ve noticed is that as the 40’s get chopped up and developed, more and more people are hunting their newly acquired 5 acre parcel. You now have 8-10 guys hunting what was once 40 contiguous acres. The increase in pressure just blows me away.

Everyone talks about hunter numbers being down, but this was the sharpest increase in people I can remember. I can’t speak for the rest of the state, but unfortunately the future doesn’t appear too bright in this area. 
11/20/23 @ 7:49 PM
User since 9/8/09
Interesting topic and kind of depressing.  Made me stop and think.  This is my 33yr. When I first started I couldn’t sleep the night before and we had100 acres in Adam’s county and I slept on the floor.  Usually one of us would get a hunters choice and I  Loved it!  My father bought a larger property 13yrs ago because grandkids wanting to hunt.  We had 8 hunters opening day this year.  2 nephews don’t get along with others so they didn’t come because family in fighting.  Dad stayed home because mom is sick.  It’s just not the same without him.  We run a bunch of cameras and kids were arguing over where everyone is hunting.  I do a ton of the work all year and they except they can show up and kill a giant.  The past 2 years I have thought about taking all the cameras down.  I think if I stopped doing as much most would stop going.  I do it more for the family to be together then anything else Because that is why my dad bought it.  My 16yr old son gets why I do it which keeps me going!  Good luck to those still hunting.
11/20/23 @ 6:27 PM
PRO MEMBER User since 6/22/01
There were still plenty of people heading north this weekend.  Things have changed though. Lots more people hunting with a crossbow during peak dates and times. Trail cameras, food plots, deer moving more at night , more private property with fewer hunters, lots of things have changed! But there are still lots of deer camps out there.  Northern Wisconsin is a different story though, but south of highway 64 (mostly) is a different story.
11/20/23 @ 6:22 PM
User since 6/23/01
its totally different than when I started hunting 60 years ago. Slept in the car a tent sometimes  or in someones unheated upstairs. Found a stump to sit on if I was lucky. We always did drives on Sunday afternoon. Buck only unless you were lucky enough to get a party permit.  Today no one moves and usually the deer don't either. Expanded bow season has taken it's  lessened gun hunt numbers. Kids today will never know the hunting like it was in the good old days.
11/20/23 @ 6:15 PM
Bassmaster+recordracks 2
Bassmaster+recordracks 2
PRO MEMBER User since 7/24/20
One thing that really killed it is not having to register a deer in town. We used to see hundreds of bucks lined up on main street everybody looking to see the Giants that were there the camaraderie and the talking about the hunt was a big night Saturday night. Also not as many family and friends hunting groups.
11/20/23 @ 2:20 PM
PRO MEMBER User since 2/13/12
This would be my 48th year of deer hunting but due to a recent operation I had to skip this year. I beleive the best years of deer hunting are gone and will never return. First it was ruined when they got that jerk from Texas and his ideals of how to manage deer,second the DNR and our state goverment on the large preditors like bears,wolfs and cougers and there belief that they don,t affect the deer herd. I used to look up to the older hunters and thier knowledge of the woods and deer movement. Now there is no more use of these tools and instead we have trailcams and sniper stands and food plots. The best deer hunting I had was the 70's to the 90's. My dad and I always got a buck or doe on the party permit or hunters choice permit and with it always seen a lot of deer movement all times of the day. Now my son and I are lucky if we see 4 deer total for the season. I will continue to hunt but it just not the same and hard to get excited about it. I have been hunting the same Burrnet county forest lands for my years of deer hunting and do not have acess to private lands as all those have been sold to outer staters. Stay safe and good luck hunting. 
11/20/23 @ 1:30 PM
User since 2/8/17
deer don't move like they used to. The days of groups driving deer is becoming rare. Small acreages and big comfy hunting blinds has everyone just sitting and not moving. I believe the deer are there. If you don't get them on their natural movement you probably don't see one. Then you throw in all the new smells and commotion in the woods the week before and they might move after dark. It is just a different feeling today. This was my 30th gun season. I still go because it is tradition in my family. That tradition is dying in a lot of families. I don't get excited about the gun hunt anymore either. I have just accepted that deer sightings might be limited. I was lucky enough to see 3 deer opening day and shot a doe and a buck. Trail cams show there is no lack of deer. Amount of shooting in my area of Waupaca county was really down. Spent time with my son in law and got to enjoy beautiful weather. Best luck to everyone. 
Displaying 1 to 14 of 14 posts
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