Wisconsin hunters bagged 175,667 deer in a nine-day firearm season wildlife officials described as “quiet.”

That’s a decline of about 8% from 2020 and about 9% less than the five-year average, according to numbers released Tuesday by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

“The general theme of the nine-day deer season was quiet,” said Jeffrey Pritzl, a deer program specialist with the DNR.

That meant both comfortable weather and fewer shots fired, Pritzl said, with the exception of the northern forest, where hunters actually killed 9% more deer than last year.

Officials said it’s too early to speculate on what might have contributed to the 13% decline in antlerless deer killed or the steep overall decline in deer taken in the southern farmland region.

“The short answer is we don’t know. If you asked 10 deer hunters … you’d probably get 10 different answers,” Pritzl said. “There’s human nature and sociology involved here as well as biology.”

But Pritzl noted a growing interest in archery and crossbow hunting that may be contributing to lower participation in the traditional firearm season.

“We’re seeing a shift in the trend of hunter effort and harvest coming out of the nine-day gun deer season,” he said. “It’s really important to wait and take stock after all of the seasons.”

The firearm season accounts for almost two-thirds of the 270,046 total deer killed so far this year, but because of a shorter archery season Pritzl said there’s no direct comparison to the same point in prior years.

Hunters killed just under 340,000 deer last year; about two-thirds of those were killed with firearms, according to DNR data.

The state has issued more than 808,000 licenses this year, a decrease of about 1.5% from last year.

“That’s really good,” said wildlife management program director Eric Lobner. “License sales continue to be strong.”

The DNR reported five injuries and one fatality during the firearm season.

A 65-year-old Minnesota man was killed Tuesday in Iron County when another hunter dropped his gun and it went off, striking him in the chest.

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