The always highly anticipated Wisconsin gun deer season, considered by many to be an unofficial state holiday, opens this Saturday, Nov. 17, and runs nine days, through Thanksgiving Day weekend.

Hunters both young and old across the state wait all year for the thrill of the hunt, the opportunity to stock their freezer with venison and, of course, the camaraderie with family and friends at deer camp.

Wisconsin has a long and storied tradition of regulated gun deer hunting dating all the way back to 1851, when the first closed season for deer was offered Feb. 1-June 30. A lot has changed in the almost 170 years in between.

Looking at 2018, concerns that our late-April snowstorm may have impacted overall deer survival and fawn recruitment led to the reduction of antlerless harvest quotas in some northern counties.

But overall, all indications from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources point to a successful hunt statewide, as an excellent growing season has yielded abundant food sources for white-tailed deer and deer sightings have been plentiful statewide.

Note a few changes for the 2018 season:

• Deer tags are now being referred to as “harvest authorizations.”

Since last September, hunters no longer are required to validate or physically tag a harvested deer. However, they must carry proof of their harvest authorizations (formerly called tags); this may be an original paper harvest authorization, a reprint, a Go Wild Conservation Card, a DNR-authenticated Wisconsin driver’s license department-approved digital file displayed on an electronic device.

According to the DNR, more than 320,000 deer were registered electronically by phone or online last year, so Wisconsin deer hunters have adapted well to the elimination of in-person registration.

• The archery and crossbow deer seasons have been extended in several Deer Management Units and will close Jan. 31, 2019.

• Baiting and feeding regulations have changed in select counties.

• Boundaries in several Deer Management Zones, DMU’s and metro sub-units have changed. DMZ/DMU boundary changes have occurred in Chippewa, Clark, Eau Claire, Marinette and Oconto counties. Also, boundaries of several metro sub-units have been modified and include Dane, Manitowoc, Sheboygan, Ozaukee and Vernon metro sub-units. Three new metro sub-units have been created, including those in Rock, Eau Claire and Chippewa counties.

• A proposed emergency rule regarding the transport of deer carcasses out of any chronic wasting disease-affected county will not take effect this year. 2018 regulations remain unchanged from 2017.

For more details on these changes, visit dnr.wi.gov.

CWD remains a concern in the Wisconsin deer herd. The state has monitored for the disease for 16 years, since it was first detected in 2002.

During this year’s hunting season, the DNR is continuing to sample deer within the Southern Farmland Zone and at select locations in other CWD-affected counties.

The agency also is sampling deer around CWD-positive deer locations in Adams, Juneau, Portage, Eau Claire, Lincoln and Oneida counties, as well as in the wild deer herd surrounding CWD-positive captive deer facilities in Marathon, Eau Claire, Oneida, Shawano, Waupaca, Marinette and Oconto counties.

Weighted surveillance, which focuses on select age and sex classes of harvested deer, primarily adult males, is considered key in raising the efficacy and efficiency of CWD surveillance and is underway in Washington, Ozaukee, Sheboygan and Fond du Lac counties.

As you make your final preparations before donning that blaze orange and hitting the fields and forests, we wish you a successful and safe hunting season.