2017 nine-day gun deer season opens Saturday, Nov. 18
MADISON - Wisconsin's nine-day gun deer season opens Saturday, Nov. 18, and Department of Natural Resources staff are enthusiastic about the prospects for 2017.
"We are coming out of a third straight mild winter and a good summer growing season, so as expected we are seeing good to excellent deer numbers throughout most of the state," said DNR big game ecologist Kevin Wallenfang. "The public and County Deer Advisory Councils are also recognizing the increase as is evident by increased antlerless tag availability, especially in some northern counties. So, in general, we are anticipating an overall increase in deer registration this fall."
In 2016, far northern portions of Wisconsin saw an overall gun season increase of approximately 30 percent, while the total deer harvest, including gun, crossbow, and archery, increased by roughly 22 percent.
"In the past, the majority of the annual deer harvest came during the nine-day gun season," Wallenfang said," but for decades there has been a growing percentage of the total fall harvest coming during the early archery seasons. That trend continues as more and more people are turned on by the early archery/crossbow seasons when they can hunt for many more days and in nicer weather, plus during the peak of the rut when the deer are very active."
Wallenfang also noted that hunters need to become familiar with the new deer tagging requirements, baiting restrictions, new treestand rules, and a reduction in the number of buck-only units.
This year marks the third year of electronic deer registration through GameReg. Many hunters who used it in the past are realizing the simplicity and convenience of registering by phone or on their computer or smartphone. Hunters are reminded that registering their deer after harvest is required by 5 p.m. the day following recovery.
Those who have not yet used GameReg are encouraged to use a number of resources available to learn more about it and prepare for success. More GameReg information is available online.
Wisconsin's four Deer Management Zones and county-based Deer Management Units have not changed in 2017. DMUs follow county boundaries in most cases, and nine DMUs are split by zone boundaries. DMU and land type-specific antlerless permits are intended to help manage deer populations more closely on each land type with the hope of enhancing hunting experiences on public land.
With each deer hunting license (archery/crossbow and gun), hunters receive one Buck Deer Tag valid statewide. In addition, each license includes one or more Farmland (Zone 2) Antlerless Deer Tag(s) that must be designated for use in a specific zone, DMU and land type (public access or private) at the time of issuance.
Farmland (Zone 2) antlerless tags may not be used in the Northern Forest or Central Forest zones, but bonus antlerless tags may be available for specific DMUs within these zones.
All Bonus Antlerless Deer Tags are zone, DMU and land-type specific. Bonus tags cost $12 for residents, $20 for nonresidents and $5 for youth (ages 10 and 11).
In 2017, four county DMUs, in whole or in part, are designated as buck-only units and include Ashland, Eau Claire, Iron, and Vilas counties within the Northern and Central Forest zones. Only the Buck Deer Tag issued with each deer license is valid in these DMUs, with some exceptions for youth, Class A and C disabled and military hunters.
Hunters are no longer required to validate paper carcass tags or attach them to harvested deer. It is also no longer required to keep the tag with the meat. However, hunters must carry one of the forms of proof of a deer tag.
Hunters may show proof of having a valid, unfilled deer tag by providing a conservation warden with their Go Wild card, their authenticated driver's license, paper copies, or an electronic copy on their cell phone.
Keep in mind that even with electronic forms of proof of deer tags available, hunters will need the unique tag number to begin the harvest registration process.