Jake Hodgkinson, a deputy at the county jail, identified the suspect as Chai Vang but would give no additional details. Several news organizations in Minneapolis-St. Paul reported the suspect was 36-years-old and from St. Paul.
The incident happened when two hunters were returning to their rural cabin on private land in Sawyer County and saw the suspect in one of their tree stands, County Chief Deputy Tim Zeigle said. A confrontation and shooting followed.
It's not known who shot first, Zeigle said.
Both men were wounded and one of them radioed back to the cabin. Other hunters responded and were shot, he said. Some of the victims may have shot back at the suspect, Zeigle said.
The suspect was "sniping" at the victims with a SKS assault-style rifle, Zeigle said. He was "chasing after them and killing them," he said.
The dead included four males, including a teenage boy, and a woman, Zeigle said. The man who radioed for help was not fatally wounded. Some of the victims were shot more than once.
All five were dead when officers arrived, he said.
Authorities found two bodies near each other and the other three were scattered around the area, which is near Town of Meteor in southwestern Sawyer County. Two people who stayed in the cabin emerged safely after the shootings.
The suspect, who did not have a compass, got lost in the woods and two other hunters, not knowing the man was being sought in the shootings, helped him find his way out, Zeigle said. When he emerged from the woods, a Department of Natural Resources officer recognized the deer license on his back, given to police by a victim, Zeigle said.
The man was out of bullets when they arrested him, Zeigle said.
One of the injured hunters was in critical condition at St. Joseph's Hospital. Another was listed in serious condition and the third was in fair condition, both at Lakeview Medical Center.
Wisconsin's statewide deer gun hunting season started Saturday and lasts for nine days.
Bill Wagner, 72, of Oshkosh, was about two miles away near Deer Lake with a party of about 20 other hunters. He said the incident was "very upsetting."
After they got word of a shooting, he and others went to round up the rest of the party. He said they heard sirens, planes and helicopters and noticed the surrounding roads blocked off.
"When you're hunting you don't expect somebody to try to shoot you and murder you," he said. "You have no idea who is coming up to you."
The incident won't stop their hunt, he said.
"We're all old, dyed-in-wool hunters," he said. "We wouldn't go home because of this but we will keep it in our minds. We're not forgetting it."