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Number of youth hunters spike while deer harvested decline

Dakota Winkler's 9-point buck he shot during gun deer season 2017. (Donn Winkler){ }

ASHWAUBENON (WLUK) -- As gun deer season comes to a close, 16-year-old Dakota Winkler of Kimberly proudly celebrates his 9-point buck he shot last week.

"It came in pretty quick so I didn't have much time to think. It's pretty amazing to get a big buck like that," Dakota said.

Dakota started deer hunting at age 10 but says if he could have started earlier he would have.

"Mostly up to my dad whether he would trust me with a gun or not," Dakota said.

Governor Scott Walker signed a bill ending the state's minimum hunting age earlier this month.

Following the new law, the DNR sold 17,267 mentored hunting licenses during opening weekend. That number is up by more than 1,000 over last year.

Jamie Morales of Green Bay said, "I think it will be good. It'll get more of the younger class people in the wood and make our hunting sport continue to grow."

But some parents are troubled by the change.

"I guess it's alright within reason," Pat Lacenski of Denmark said, "I don't think a 6-year-old should be walking around the woods and have any access to a gun."

The latest DNR report shows a preliminary number, on opening weekend, of 102,903 harvested deer compared to 116,615 last year. Some hunters think it's the warm weather, others say it's something else.

"The weather was good, it wasn't the weather, I think it's more of people passing on smaller deer and wanting bigger one," Morales said.

Although hunters don't know why the number of kills is down, they remind us it's not always about getting a buck.

Drew Lundt of Greenville told FOX 11, "It's just amazing being out in the wood and watching the deer and the squirrel and the turkeys, you just got to be there."

The DNR is compiling a final number of registered deer; that will be available later this week.

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