Attention Bear Hunters (2020)

The application period for the 2021 bear hunting season will open July 1 after the successful completion of legislative review. The application deadline remains Dec. 10, 2020.

Applicants are reminded to be aware of the new bear management zone boundaries as their usual hunting grounds may change to a new unit beginning in 2021.

State wildlife officials do not know precisely how these changes will specifically affect harvest permit wait times, but they expect there will likely be no significant changes across zones A, B, C and D. There will be no zone changes for the upcoming 2020 bear season.

Wisconsin bear hunting is prevalent, and more people apply each year than the number of licenses available. For 2020, more than 119,000 hunters applied for a permit or a preference point for 11,535 available permits.

The new zones are part of the Wisconsin Black Bear Management Plan, 2019-2029 [see PDF on B2] developed by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Bear Advisory Committee and approved by the Natural Resources Board in May 2019. The new bear management zones are designed to address bear conflicts and manage desired population levels effectively.

People who would like to hunt black bear in Wisconsin must possess a Class A bear license. Hunters may obtain a Class A bear license by:

Applications are required for a Class A license or to receive a preference point. Hunters must apply at least once during a period of three consecutive years, otherwise, all previously accumulated preference points will be lost. Sign up to receive an email when the 2021 bear permit application opens.

HUNTER SAFETY CLASSES RESUME

In-person hunter and recreational vehicle education classes will resume July 13 under a set of guidelines and safety protocols released Friday by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ Recreational Safety and Outdoor Skills Section under Phase II of the Wisconsin State Government Bounce Back Plan.

The in-person hunter and recreational vehicle education classes resuming July 13 are for courses with 50 people or less. Based on a review of enrollment data for DNR hunter safety courses over the past three years, less than 2% of the more than 2,200 courses provided exceeded 50 attendees.

In March, the DNR temporarily suspended all in-person hunter education and recreational safety classes due to public health advisories relating to COVID-19. At the same time, the DNR also canceled, adjusted and postponed an array of other in-person public events, meetings, trainings and agency operations to protect public health.

The suspension reflected the dedication to safety by the DNR and the program; and, provided the time to establish classroom guidelines to keep students and instructors as safe as possible from COVID-19 exposures.

The COVID-19 public health steps go beyond providing the educational safety courses for hunting, boating and off-highway vehicles, and will remain part of the safety class environment as classes start in July. The safety protocols are for the protection of students and instructors, and the communities where they live. The DNR will continue to prioritize the safety of the public, volunteer instructors, and department staff when determining protocols for resuming in-person recreational safety classes.

“We wish we had a one-size-fits-all plan. That is not possible because each safety class – whether it is hunter education or about recreational vehicle use – is different by location and the instructor,” said Lt. Warden Jon King, DNR Bureau of Law Enforcement administrator of the hunter education program. “However, the safety and the well-being of our students and our instructors remains priority Number One regardless of where the class takes place.”

CLASS TIMELINE

The DNR’s Recreational Safety and Outdoor Section will work collaboratively with our volunteer instructors and partners to reopen our safety classes. The timeline is as follows:

  • Instructors may start to enroll classes into
  • on

  • Sunday, June 28

  • .
  • Classes may start

  • Monday, July 13

  • .

SAFETY CLASS PARTICIPANTS CAN EXPECT THESE CHANGES:

  • Social distancing of 6 feet between participants
  • Maximum of 50 participants in any one class
  • Attendees strongly recommended to wear face covering
  • Sanitizing of class equipment
  • Availability and use of hand sanitizer
  • Outdoor class instruction where possible

Wisconsin hunter education started in 1967 with a grassroots effort to reduce hunting incidents and to educate hunters to make them safe, responsible and ethical. Since then, multiple generations of families have attended hunter education. There have been over 20,000 volunteers who have helped educate the hunters of Wisconsin and approximately 1.2 million hunters have been certified. Incident rates for gun deer accidents continue to decrease with 9 years of gun deer seasons with no fatalities.

“Our intent is to go back to normal only when safe,” King said, adding that protocols may change as conditions do. “These safety rules and guidelines are essential until the ongoing pandemic threat is gone.”

The DNR remains strongly committed to the health and safety of recreational safety course instructors and students. The department continues to receive the most up-to-date information and will adjust operations as conditions change.

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