Hunting means big bucks. Here’s how it impacts Wisconsin’s economy.

It should be no surprise that hunters spend plenty of money annually on more than just their hunting tags and licenses. Spending is on gear, guns, ammunition, plus at restaurants, meat processors, taxidermists, and more. Photo courtesy WI DNR

By Salina Heller

November 16, 2023

Hunting is not only foundational to Wisconsin’s identity, but contributes $2.5 billion dollars to the state’s economy, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

“Once the tourists are gone, the locals and hunting keep me afloat,” said Mike Bilodeau who owns Rod and Gun Sport Shop, Chetek’s hunting and fishing staple since 1949.

“I’ve had more hunting rifle and ammo sales in the last month than the rest of the year.”

The Numbers

The US Fish and Wildlife Service has sold 600,000-700,000 hunting licenses in the last two years. Those hunters support more than 34,000 jobs and a $1 billion statewide industry.

In Wisconsin, hunting is also a key source of tax revenue, generating $228 million dollars each year.

The Dates

The annual November gun deer season, from Nov. 18-26, draws the most hunters, produces the biggest deer kill, and has the biggest economic impact.

This year, the DNR expects to sell about 550,000 firearm deer licenses. And similar to past seasons, it anticipates hunters from all 50 states and more than a dozen countries will hunt in Wisconsin.

“Between the time people put their boats away and the start of ice fishing season, it’s definitely the bridge,” Bilodeau quipped. “This is the start of our holiday season!”

The Top Counties

We can’t tell you the best hunting spots. (After all, who’s going to spill their secrets?) But we can use last year’s data to determine where hunters had the most success.

The top five counties for deer kill in 2022 were Marathon, Shawano, Waupaca, Clark, and Vernon.

And the most trophy bucks? That title goes to Buffalo County. Buffalo has produced more Boone and Crocket Club record book whitetails than anywhere else in the state.

As a whole, Wisconsin is the #1 ranked state when it comes to hunting records–with 1,822 total entries in the record books.

A majority of Wisconsin’s millions of acres of public land is open to hunting. Visit the DNR’s website (click here) to find a public hunting spot near you.


  • Salina Heller

    A former 15-year veteran of reporting local news for western Wisconsin TV and radio stations, Salina Heller also volunteers in community theater, helps organize the Chippewa Valley Air Show, and is kept busy by her daughter’s elementary school PTA meetings. She is a UW-Eau Claire alum.


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