Learn All About Deer Hunting In Wisconsin
Deer hunting means "whitetails" in Wisconsin. And deer hunters love Wisconsin. Wisconsin is listed number one for listings in both Pope and Young (archery) and Boone and Crockett (firearms). In the past decade more than 700,000 deer hunters annually participated in the hunt, harvesting an average of nearly 500,000 deer per year. That's a lot of venison!
Although there is a lot of dispute as to the size of Wisconsin's whitetail deer herd, we've extrapolated figures and opinions from a bevy of sources, and would estimate that the total herd is about 1,500,000 deer. And that for a state with a population of about five-and-a-half-million people! The density of the deer herd varies considerably by location. Some far northwoods areas have less deer than populated areas in the southern part of the state. Regardless, deer hunting in Wisconsin is a tradition that dates back 150 years – and continues unabated to this date. If you like to hunt deer, Wisconsin and its people will welcome you with open arms.
Speaking generally, the deer hunt will run from sometime in September to sometime in January - -so there's no excuse for saying you can't find the time to hunt deer in Wisconsin. You start out with a bow season, then there's the gun season, after which muzzleloaders, and finally back to bow and arrow. One very nice aspect of the deer hunt in Wisconsin is that whether you're disabled a senior, a neophyte, or a kid just starting out, there are specialized opportunities for you. For instance Wisconsin offers a two day youth only hunt, for kids 10-15. Disabled and those over 65 are able to use a crossbow during the bow season, and there are special regs for using firearms that meet the needs of the disabled. In addition there are many deer hunter courses offered, training, suggestions, affinity groups that offer assistance – just a wonderful cross-section of volunteers, public employees and private citizens/hunters who want to continue the Wisconsin tradition of a great deer hunt. The regs and needed permits are highly complex, so it's best to check with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for information. Contact indicia for the Wisconsin DNR is provided at the end of this article.
Wisconsin is divided into what are called "deer management units" - -and you'll get weary just counting the almost infinite number of these units over the breadth of the entire state. And yes- - you guessed right - -each unit has its own peculiar regs and limits and season specifics. And a map itself won't help you. So here's what you do – sure, contact the DNR. BUT, if you've decided you want to hunt any specific area, call a town or city manager, mayor or administrator - -and if not one of them, by all means try the county sheriff or local police department. What you want to know are the names, and contact information for LOCAL guides, sport shops and hunters. Often law enforcement personnel are excellent sources for contact information - -especially in outlying areas or regions. And of course this site itself has a lot of that type of local contact info. Use it. The people and businesses who help support this site, are real good at providing information that you'll need.
Now - -you're looking for that Pope and Young or Boone and Crockett trophy. Yup – they are truly available in the Badger state. But it would be wrong of this article to specifically name any area that has more of these trophies. There are those areas, which are generally well known by hunters- - and you can consult with the DNR as to which management units have and continue to provide trophies on a regular basis. Just don't forget that if you want a trophy, many others do too, and while there are decent numbers of trophies, you may not get one. Those areas of Wisconsin "specializing" in trophies, may not have a huge "normal" whitetail population. So consider whether you want a deer - -any type of deer- - or only a trophy.
As far as licenses and what you're able to hunt. That IS a crazy-quilt of different opportunities - - again, depending on the specific deer management unit you'll be hunting. There are antlerless only areas, for a portion of a season. There are "earn a buck" areas, for a portion of the season. The different opportunities vary by unit, by season, by year. The list is endless. But if you do your homework, you're going to be fine.
One wonderful thing about Wisconsin, is the fact that deer season is almost a "holy icon" - - and this hunting tradition has been continuous for over 150 years. For instance, the firearm season usually takes place just before and into the Thanksgiving weekend (right now it's a nine day season –usually occurring right in the midst of the rut). "Deer camp" is a great happening. And lots of deer hunters miss Thanksgiving at home- -and by the way, don't think that deer camp is restricted to men. More and more and MORE women are deer hunting and having their blast at their own deer camps. And most any area in the entire state, will offer some type of fabulous program to accommodate those who want to enjoy this camaraderie. Not all mind you, but contact the tourism agencies of a particular area - -again, get the name of the biggest town or the county seat, and locate the local chamber of commerce or tourism bureau. Trust us: There are a figurative "million plans" that every last deer hunting area in Wisconsin - -and friends that means the entire state! - -will offer something that will be both pleasing to you personally and to your wallet. By the way, if requested, the Wisconsin DNR will direct you to one of their local area offices, and you can get a lot of specific info from those local area offices. A caveat however: Don't expect to have someone waiting for your call. Budget and personnel cuts have limited the availability of these local DNR people, but if you leave a message, you'll get a return call within the next day. That much we can promise you.
Wisconsin also prides itself on soliciting and considering opinions and ideas from hunters and hunting organizations. There even a "Conservation Congress" consisting of both private and public individuals, who have meetings all over the state to address problems and questions, and then in conjunction with the DNR and elected officials come up with solutions. And yes, it does get testy at times.
License fees vary - -state residents, seniors, disabled, kids, out of staters - -as we continue to tell you, a lot of complexity and continuous changes, so check thoroughly. You can access (as of this writing) a new "version" of the Wisconsin DNR website. The URL is: http://dnr.wi.gov/. It's a "work in progress." We will state that it can both obtuse and difficult to navigate to find specific basic info at times- - such as the population, density, harvest of deer and the like. But, that info can be found! It is there - -at least if you're patient enough to navigate the site and find the specific page where that info is contained.
We also noted when navigating the DNR website that there is a lot of "old" (not "ancient" but not "real time" current, either) info. You don't need info on 2008 hunting license or hunting reg information, if you need info for the 2011 hunt. There are what appear to be reams upon reams of info that may only interest some small segment of the DNR itself - -such as full transcripts of meetings and the like. We found an overabundance of this type of information throughout the "new" website. Try to focus specifically on what you want to find out, and if you can't find it, give the DNR a call directly and get it from a "live person." We've been successful doing that.
The DNR itself admits that its population estimate systems or density of deer in a particular area needs additional effort. Here's a direct quote from the DNR website, quoting the secretary of the Wisconsin DNR: "National experts say we have one of the best population estimate systems in the nation - -but no system is perfect. We are taking efforts to make our population estimate better. . . "
So. . . what's going to happen in 2011? The DNR is as of this writing, trying to figure out and establish its usual crazy-quilt determination of what can be hunted in a specific management unit, when, and for how long. It changes each and every single year. But with all the hand wringing, the bottom line for all whitetail hunters is that Wisconsin STILL has one of the top three deer harvests per square mile of any state in the country, one of the highest buck harvests per square mile, and THE highest number of trophy bucks registered with Boone and Crockett (firearms), and Pope and Young (archery).
Speaking of public and private hunting land: There's no state in the nation that offers more opportunity of both. Untold thousands upon thousands of acres of public forest land, parks, and wilderness areas are available to deer hunters - -and yes, there are tremendous deer hunting opportunities in urban area situations, as well. It's a mammoth spread all over the state- - north to south, and east to west. Then, there is all the private land, and Cheeseheads are so proud of their fellow Wisconsinites, who usually will welcome hunters onto their private land. All one has to do is be courteous, make a personal visit, or a phone call to a private landowner (Wisconsin farmers are wonderful in this regard). And how do you find out about these private landowners? Simple - -go "local" - -maybe even make a visit to the area you're going to hunt, and sit down in a café, or go to a sport shop, call a guide, speak to someone on the street (not to worry - -in Wisconsin, if you say a "good morning" to someone, they're going to smile and offer you their hand – and that's no exaggeration). The people of Wisconsin are warm, generous, kind and helpful – and that's the truth. Oh yeah – doesn't hurt when you visit a farmer or a private landowner, to bring along a small gift- - candy, maybe a six-pak or two (or three – or more, if you're looking forward to that off-hunt-day/night at deer camp) – and all you need do in return for using private land is to pick up after yourself and not do any damage. You'll be welcome back year after year.
A couple of quick things to also consider. Wisconsin's highways are beautifully maintained, with plenty of four-lane access throughout - -and with no offense to any other state, Wisconsin proudly notes that it has NO TOLL ROADS. If you want to go, there'll be a way to "get there" - -and it won't cost you a buck in fees every ten miles. Plenty of accessible trails in the wilderness and forest areas. Plenty of opportunities in ALL areas. Every last area in the state, no matter how remote will have anything and everything a hunter can use, need or want - -from great infrastructure (hospitals, public services etc.) to accommodations, equipment, food and beverage - -and everything in between. And one thing you may find is one of those fabulous Wisconsin local events- - maybe a church supper – a local celebration – an event. Always something pleasant, fun and inexpensive.
Here's the contact info for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR):
URL for the DNR Website: http://dnr.wi.gov/.
Address and phone: 101 S. Webster Street, PO Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707-7921. 608-266-2621.
And by all means when you get that 30 point buck (and yes- - someone did a couple of years ago - -no kidding!), let us know.