Hunt’s opening is safest ever

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Associated Press and Gazette Staff
November 20, 2007

The safest opening weekend in the history of the state’s deer hunt was marred only by the death of young man mistaken by his grandfather for a deer.

The single accidental shooting set a new record for the opening of the nine-day hunt, said Tim Lawhern, hunter safety coordinator for the state Department of Natural Resources. The previous low was four accidental shootings in 2004 and 1997.

“We are happy with the continued trend of safety, but our goal is no fatalities, no injury incidents, period,” Lawhern said. “My heart aches every time I hear of one of these.”

David Ruck, 18, of Saxeville died at a hospital after being shot Sunday morning by his 63-year-old grandfather, Gerald Ruck of Three Lakes, Waushara County Sheriff David Peterson said.

Ruck was shot in the upper leg and inner groin after his grandfather mistook him for a deer while the family hunted on private land near Saxeville, Peterson said.

The teen was dressed in blaze orange, but he wrapped himself in a brown, white and green blanket to warm up as he left the woods about 8:30 a.m., Lawhern said. The grandfather violated one of the basic rules of firearm safety—be certain of the target and what’s beyond it, he said.

“You can’t say, ‘I thought I was shooting at a deer,’ and it not be a deer. You have to know,” Lawhern said.

The DNR also reported Monday that hunters registered 171,584 deer from the first two days of shooting—about 4,000 more than a year ago. Sixty percent were either does or young bucks without antlers.

In Rock County, preliminary numbers show 627 deer were shot; 191 bucks and 436 antlerless animals.

In Walworth county, 198 deer were shot; 63 bucks and 135 antlerless.

In Green and Jefferson counties, the numbers were significantly higher.

Jefferson County hunters took 1,143 deer, 324 bucks and 819 antlerless. In Green County, the numbers were even higher: 1,208 total, 361 bucks and 847 antlerless.

The first weekend of the gun season normally goes a long way toward reducing the size of the whitetail herd—estimated at up to 1.8 million deer going into this fall’s hunt.

Some 630,000 hunters took to the fields and woods last weekend.

There has been an average of seven accidental shootings of hunters on the opening weekend of the tradition-steeped hunt during the past 11 years, Lawhern said. Last year, 10 shooting accidents occurred during the entire season, killing one hunter while he participated in a deer drive on the final weekend.

During a deer drive, hunters walk through the woods, herding deer into an area where shooters are set up.

The only season in history with no shooting fatalities occurred in 1973, Lawhern said.

The first two days of the gun season usually produce half of hunting accidents before participation drops off.

At a glance

Regional deer totals after first two days of nine-day hunt

Here’s a preliminary breakdown of the 171,584 whitetail deer that hunters registered with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources after the opening weekend of the nine-day hunt:

-- 19-county West-Central Region: 65,404 deer (25,188 bucks, 40,216 antlerless).

-- 18-county Northern Region: 40,809 deer (19,396 bucks, 21,413 antlerless).

-- 15-county Northeast Region: 37,792 deer (15,175 bucks, 22,617 antlerless).

-- 11-county South-Central Region: 25,089 deer (9,290 bucks, 15,799 antlerless).

-- Eight-county Southeast Region: 2,490 deer (972 bucks, 1,518 antlerless).

Wildlife officials say the number of antlerless deer is important because it includes does and killing them is a way to reduce the herd growth in overpopulated areas.

AP source: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

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