A longtime tradition begins this weekend in Wisconsin when the curtain is raised Nov. 21 on another nine-day deer-hunting season. However, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) wants hunters to take protective measures when it comes to COVID-19, which has killed more than 2,700 people in Wisconsin and infected more than 330,000 others, with some requiring lengthy hospitalizations.
“Hunting is a long-established tradition in Wisconsin. However, with the pandemic, it is up to each of us to keep our communities healthy and safe this deer season,” said DNR Secretary Preston D. Cole. “As hunters new and old make their way into the woods this season, it is important they follow all of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services COVID-19 safety precautions including wearing a mask, keeping six feet of distance from others and avoiding crowds.”
Gov. Tony Evers issued his latest guidelines Nov. 10 to help stop the spread of the virus.
This order advises Wisconsinites to stay home, use extra precautions if they must leave their home and adopt good public health practices. Businesses are also encouraged to take further steps to protect workers, customers and the surrounding community.
“Wisconsin is in crisis – our case numbers are rising and our hospitals are strained,” said DHS Secretary-designee Andrea Palm. “Each of us must do our part to stop the spread of COVID-19. Limiting your interactions with people outside your household is a key step, so we ask hunters to reduce their travel and to hunt with the people you live with.”
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) discourages social gatherings of any size, including getting together with friends or extended family during hunting season at deer camp.
The less time spent with people from other households, the less likely you are to get sick or spread COVID-19 to others.
Try to lodge in your own room, tent or trailer and limit the number of households using shared spaces.
Although activities such as heading to camp or gathering at check stations are often considered an integral part of hunting season, extended physical or close contact increases the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
While deer camp will look different this year, there are still ways to enjoy the social aspects of deer hunting and mentoring through video chats, text messages and other creative ideas that keep you and others safe.
Hunters are reminded to register their deer online or by phone.
Hunters should be aware of the zone, deer management unit and land type on their antlerless deer harvest authorizations and be prepared to follow all regulations.
Each deer hunting license comes with a buck harvest authorization valid for harvesting one buck in any Deer Management Unit (DMU) statewide. Hunters who wish to hunt antlerless deer must possess an unused, valid antlerless harvest authorization. Hunters under age 18 are issued one antlerless harvest authorization with their deer license, valid statewide on the land type designated.
Although each deer license includes one or more antlerless harvest authorizations valid in a Farmland Zone DMU, hunters must select the Zone, DMU and land type (public or private) at the time of purchase or before hunting.
Also, bonus antlerless harvest authorizations may be available for sale. Check antlerless harvest authorization availability on the DNR website.
Hunters pursuing antlerless deer in the Farmland Zone (Zone 2) should select the correct zone, DMU and land type in Go Wild before harvesting the deer. Follow the steps below or view the DNR’s tutorial.
- Go to GoWild.WI.gov and log in to the hunter’s Go Wild account. Follow the prompts and verify all personal information is current. Scroll down to the LICENSE heading.
- Select BUY LICENSES. Under the PRODUCT CATALOG heading, the option to receive Farmland (Zone 2) antlerless harvest authorizations will appear. Select the FARMLAND (ZONE 2) ANTLERLESS DEER HARVEST AUTHORIZATION link.
- Then, select the county or counties (DMU) where Farmland (Zone 2) harvest authorizations will be used and whether it is public or private land.
- Hunters must complete check-out to obtain the Farmland (Zone 2) harvest authorizations properly. Remember to print the Farmland (Zone 2) harvest authorizations to have the number available when reporting the harvest.
If hunters cannot access their online account, they may visit a license agent, which will require a $2 processing fee.
Wisconsin DNR service centers remain temporarily closed.
Purchase available bonus antlerless deer harvest authorizations by using the online licensing center or visiting a license agent.
Hunters must carry proof of license and harvest authorization
Hunters are not required to validate or attach a paper harvest authorization to the deer, but must carry proof of their license and harvest authorization.
Hunters must carry one or more of the following: A paper copy, department-approved PDF displayed on a mobile device, an authenticated Wisconsin driver’s license or a Go Wild Conservation Card.
Registering Deer Harvest
All deer harvested must be registered by 5 p.m. the day after recovery. Using the online site GameReg.Wi.Gov is the fastest and easiest option.
You may also call 1-844-GAME-REG (1-844-426-3734), or find an in-person electronic registration station that provides one of these methods. A registration guide is available online.
Hunters must have their deer harvest authorization number to begin the registration process. Those who do not have their authorization number may access it from their online Go Wild account.
The My GameReg section of the customer homepage provides information on current harvest authorizations. Hunters may view and reprint unused authorizations or click the quick link to report a harvest.
Be safe setting up deer stands
The DNR also reminds hunters to avoid placing deer stands in or near ash trees.
Door County, plus counties in the southern half of Wisconsin and along the Mississippi River, are heavily impacted by ash trees that are dead or dying from emerald ash borer (EAB) infestation and may unexpectedly snap or drop large branches.
Tree stand accidents are the leading cause of serious injury for deer hunters making it essential to place and maintain tree stands carefully.
“Infested or dead ash trees are not as structurally sound as healthy trees, so they are not safe places to put deer stands,” said Bill McNee, DNR Forest Health Specialist. “During this time of year, it can be hard to tell if a tree is infected, so hunters should place deer stands in other types of trees instead.”
Hunters should also be careful around ash trees when on the ground, especially in windy conditions, as infested trees are susceptible to breakage.
When obtaining firewood for hunting trips, outdoor recreation or household heating, it is crucial to be proactive and reduce the spread of invasive pests that threaten trees in forests, parks and yards.
Get your firewood near where you will use it instead of moving it over long distances, which reduces the chance of introducing EAB, gypsy moth and other harmful pests to new areas.
Look for dry firewood, especially wood with loose bark, since it has the lowest risk of being infested.
Purchasing certified firewood is another option. Certified firewood is seasoned or treated to eliminate pests and diseases.
Bundles of certified firewood have a printed label showing certification.
Find retailers that sell certified firewood on the Firewood Scout website.
Visit the DNR Website to learn more about EAB, signs and symptoms of infestation and updates on known EAB infestations.
Get an education
Due to the pandemic, the DNR is offering alternatives to in-person hunter education and outdoor skills classes to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
As of Oct. 15, students of all ages can earn their Wisconsin hunter education safety certification through a single, online-only hunter education course under a temporary change approved by the DNR.
While online-only hunter education safety certification has been available to adults since 2018, this year’s temporary change allows those under age 18 to take the online only course now through Dec. 31, 2020.
Those interested in taking the online-only course who are over 18 years of age may continue to do so after Dec. 31.
First-time hunters should check out the mentored hunting program, which allows novice hunters of any age to purchase a mentored hunting license without first completing a hunter education course, as long as the novice hunts within arm’s reach of a licensed mentor over the age of 18.
If you have not passed Hunter Safety but would like to hunt with a mentor this year, you may buy your license through Go Wild. Upon completion, the license will automatically print as “Mentored Only.”
Final tips for new and returning
The DNR is committed to providing hunters with free and easy access to public lands.
Visit the DNR Web site to locate public hunting land near you.
Consider taking the online only hunter education course as a refresher or to earn your hunter education safety certificate.
Also, check out your local shooting ranges for rifle and shotgun sight-in opportunities.
Finally, don’t forget to buy your license.