Licensing Requirements for Deer Hunting

To legally hunt deer, different licenses are required based on the chosen hunting method:

  • Gun Deer License: Mandatory for those intending to hunt deer using a firearm. This license is specific to firearm users and does not permit the use of other weapons for deer hunting.

  • Archer License: Required for hunters using a bow and arrow. This license exclusively allows the hunting of deer with a bow and arrow, without the authorization to use firearms or crossbows.

  • Crossbow License: Essential for hunters who prefer using a crossbow. Similar to the Archer License, this permits deer hunting only with a crossbow and excludes the use of firearms or bows and arrows.

Additionally, irrespective of the weapon choice, hunters must possess:

  • Valid, Unfilled Harvest Authorization: A crucial document that needs to be present and unused. This authorization is a testament to the hunter's eligibility to harvest deer. It must be valid and not previously used for a deer harvest in the current season.

Important Upgrade Note: Hunters with either an Archer or Crossbow License who wish to utilize both bow and arrow and crossbow in their hunting activities are required to purchase an upgrade. This upgrade is a mandatory addition to the respective licenses, granting the flexibility to switch between the two weapon types during the hunting season.

Harvest Authorizations: Understanding the Basics

Harvest authorizations play a crucial role in deer hunting and are tied to each deer hunting license. The specificities of these authorizations, such as quantity and types, are determined based on the hunting location within the state. It's important to recognize that not all harvest authorizations are universally applicable. Their validity often hinges on factors like the designated open seasons and the specific hunting zones.

Each issued authorization permits the taking of a single deer, defined by the type mentioned in the authorization. To give hunters a clear understanding, this guide delves into the various categories of harvest authorizations. It covers essential aspects like the permissible weapons for each type, and the particular locations and timeframes where these authorizations are applicable.

This information is critical for ensuring legal and ethical hunting practices. Hunters must be well-informed about these regulations to comply with state laws and contribute to sustainable wildlife management.

Deer Harvest Authorization Types in Wisconsin

Gun Buck Deer Harvest Authorization

This authorization is part of the gun deer license and is applicable across all Deer Management Units (DMU) in Wisconsin. It permits the holder to harvest one buck deer using any legal weapon. The authorization remains valid for all firearm deer seasons, except when an antlerless-only hunt is in effect in a DMU. Military personnel may have exceptions to these rules, which can be checked at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources website under “armed forces hunting.”

Bow Buck Deer Harvest Authorization

Acquired with either a bow or crossbow license, this authorization is also valid in any DMU statewide. It enables the harvest of one buck deer using either a bow or crossbow, depending on the license type. The authorization is effective during open archery or crossbow seasons, excluding DMUs designated for antlerless-only hunting.

Junior Antlerless Deer Harvest Authorization

This specific authorization targets young hunters, aged 17 or under. It accompanies each gun, bow, or crossbow license and allows for the harvest of one antlerless deer in any DMU. The land type (public or private) is specified on the authorization. The junior hunter must use this authorization during an open deer season, utilizing the weapon type designated by their license.

Farmland (Zone 2) Antlerless Deer Harvest Authorization

This authorization is included with archer/crossbow or gun deer licenses. It's tailored to the hunter's selected DMU and land type (public or private). The authorization enables the harvest of one antlerless deer and can be utilized with any weapon, provided it aligns with the correct license and season. For military and disabled hunter exceptions, resources are available on the Wisconsin DNR website.

Bonus Antlerless Deer Harvest Authorizations

Offered on a first-come, first-served basis, with a limit of one per person per day, these authorizations allow for the harvest of one antlerless deer per authorization. They are specific to the zone, DMU, and land type as indicated on the authorization. Hunters can use any weapon for harvesting, as long as it corresponds with the season and license type.

Metro Sub-unit Antlerless Deer Harvest Authorizations

These are available in select metro sub-units and are issued free with the purchase of an archer/crossbow or gun deer license. Bonus authorizations might also be available for purchase in certain metro sub-units. The authorizations are valid only within specific metro sub-unit boundaries, the selected DMU, and on the specified land type. Detailed maps and locations of metro sub-units can be found on the Wisconsin DNR website.

Wisconsin Deer Hunting Laws & Regulations

Deer Carcass Transportation Regulations

When it comes to the transportation of deer carcasses, especially in areas affected by Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), there are specific legal restrictions to consider:

  • Carcass Movement Restrictions: Hunters are advised to visit and search for “carcass movement” to find the most current regulations on deer carcass transportation. This is crucial for staying updated with any changes in the law.

  • Transportation in CWD-Affected Counties: It's illegal to transport whole deer carcasses or parts that have been harvested in CWD-affected counties outside of these counties. However, exceptions are:

    • Transporting to an adjacent county.
    • Transporting to a licensed taxidermist or meat processor within 72 hours of deer registration.
  • Permitted Items for Transportation:

    1. Meat that is cut and wrapped, either commercially or privately.
    2. Quarters or meat portions without spinal column attachment.
    3. Deboned meat.
    4. Hides without heads, finished taxidermy heads, and antlers.
    5. Clean skulls or skull plates devoid of lymphoid or brain tissue.
    6. Upper canine teeth.
  • Notification Requirement: Any processor or taxidermist receiving a deer carcass must be informed if the deer was harvested within a CWD-affected area.

  • Interstate and International Transport: Hunters should verify carcass importation regulations of their home state or province, the location where they will be hunting, and any transit areas. For comprehensive information, visit the CWD Alliance website at

Quartering Your Deer

There are specific guidelines for quartering a deer:

  • Division Method: A deer may be divided into a maximum of five pieces to aid in carcass removal from the field. However, the head must remain attached to one of these parts. The removal of the hide and lower legs does not count towards these five parts.

  • Transportation Regulations:

    • Only one quartered deer may be stored or transported at a time before registration.
    • Quartered deer may be transported alongside other intact deer.
  • Additional Removals: Hunters are permitted to remove the lower legs up to the tarsus joint on hind legs and up to the carpus joint on front legs.

  • Field Requirements: While in the field, deer must remain intact, except for field dressing, skinning, and quartering. All parts, excluding the entrails, must be removed from the field.

Baiting and Feeding Deer: Rules and Regulations

Scents in Deer Hunting

When hunting deer, the use of scents to attract them through their sense of smell is permitted statewide. However, hunters must ensure that these scents are not accessible for deer to consume. The regulations stipulate that these scents must be removed daily after shooting hours, with an exception for quantities of two ounces or less, which do not require daily removal. The use and placement of these scents for hunting purposes must adhere to these guidelines.

Utilizing Natural Vegetation and Plantings

Hunting deer with the assistance of materials from natural vegetation or those resulting from standard agricultural or gardening activities is lawful. Similarly, utilizing crops specifically grown and left as wildlife food plots is permissible. However, it's illegal to create or maintain such food plots on lands owned or managed by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Baiting Restrictions

Baiting deer is prohibited in certain counties. Hunters are encouraged to consult the DNR website and search for “baiting and feeding” to find maps indicating where baiting is not allowed. In other parts of the state where baiting is legal, specific conditions apply:

Baiting Amount and Placement

  • For parcels less than 40 acres, a total of up to 2 gallons of bait is allowed.
  • For parcels of 40 acres or more, the limit is 2 gallons per every 40 acres.
  • Bait may be divided but must not exceed the total allowable quantity.

It is illegal to:

  • Set up baiting sites within 100 yards of each other.
  • Hunt near more than two gallons of bait on the same land parcel.
  • Place bait within 50 yards of public trails, roads, or campsites, or within 100 yards of a roadway with a speed limit of 45 mph or higher.
  • Place feed at sites frequented by bears or elk.

Timing Regulations

  • Baiting or feeding for hunting purposes is prohibited during the closed deer season, except from 12 a.m. the day before the archery deer season opener. In 2022, baiting must cease at the end of all deer seasons.
  • Hunting over bait or a feeding site is illegal unless the area has been free of bait or feed material for at least ten consecutive days prior to hunting or dog training.

Note: Even if unlawfully placed bait or feed is removed, this does not negate the possibility of receiving a citation for the initial violation.

Mandatory Deer Registration in Wisconsin

Overview of GameReg Registration

In Wisconsin, registering your deer harvest is a mandatory requirement. This process must be completed through GameReg by 5 p.m. the day following the deer's recovery. All registrations are conducted electronically, ensuring efficiency and compliance.

Methods of Registration

  1. Online Registration:

    • This is the fastest and most convenient method.
    • Access the registration portal at
    • The system is user-friendly and guides hunters through each step.
  2. Phone Registration:

    • Available 24 hours at 1-844-426-3734 (1-844-GAMEREG).
    • When prompted, spell the first three letters of your county using your phone keypad. For instance, for Adams County, enter 'A-D-A' (232).
    • This method is particularly useful for hunters without immediate internet access.
  3. In-Person Registration:

    • Locate a station offering phone or computer access for registration.
    • Stations can be found by searching “registration stations” on the Wisconsin DNR website at
    • This option is ideal for those preferring face-to-face assistance.

Registration Details

  • Deer Harvest Authorization Number:
    • Keep your deer harvest authorization number ready, as it is required at the beginning of the registration process.
  • Confirmation Number:
    • Upon successful registration, you will receive a 10-character confirmation number.
    • For white-tailed deer, these numbers start with 'W' and follow the format W12-345-6789.
    • This number is crucial for your records and potential future reference.

Additional Information

  • For more detailed information on GameReg and the registration process, visit the Wisconsin DNR website and search for “GameReg.”
  • Familiarizing yourself with these processes ensures legal compliance and contributes to the state's wildlife management efforts.

Baiting and Feeding Regulations in Deer Hunting

Illegal Practices in Baiting and Feeding

Hunters must be aware of specific illegal practices concerning baiting and feeding:

  • Animal Parts and Byproducts: The use of any bait or feed material containing animal parts or byproducts is strictly prohibited. This includes substances such as honey, bones, fish, meat, solid animal fat, animal carcasses, and parts of animal carcasses. However, liquid scents are exempt from this restriction.

  • Feeder Restrictions: It's illegal to use feeders that automatically, mechanically, or through gravity, deposit or replenish feed.

  • Material Constraints: Bait or feed contained within or consisting of metal, paper, plastic, glass, wood, or other similar processed materials is not permitted. This does not apply to scent materials, which are allowed under specific conditions.

Group Hunting Law

Regulations for Group Deer Hunting

Group deer hunting, while permitted under certain conditions, has its own set of legal stipulations:

  • Eligibility and Authorization:

    • Group hunting is only legal during a firearm deer season.
    • Each hunter in the group must be licensed and possess a firearm.
    • Only the person to whom junior antlerless deer harvest authorizations are issued (age 17 and under) may fill them.
  • Group Dynamics:

    • A group hunting party must consist of two or more hunters maintaining sight or voice contact at all times. Temporary loss of contact due to terrain or weather conditions is acceptable.
    • Hunters may not harvest deer for individuals who are not actively hunting with the party.
    • The use of cellular phones, radios, or other electronic devices for establishing contact for the purpose of group hunting is prohibited, except for hearing aids.
  • Restrictions:

    • Convicted felons are barred from participating in group deer hunting and cannot allow others to use their harvest authorization.
    • During the youth gun deer hunt, adults are prohibited from hunting deer with firearms.
    • Deer drivers, who do not actively hunt, are not required to have firearms or hunting licenses.
    • Mentors in a group hunting scenario cannot fill their mentee’s deer harvest authorizations.

Regulations on Possession and Sale of Deer

Possession Restrictions

The law strictly prohibits the possession of any deer if the antlers have been modified or removed in a way that makes it impossible to determine the deer's legality. This is particularly pertinent during seasons designated for hunting antlerless deer only. Any deer with altered antlers under these circumstances is deemed illegal.

Additionally, hunters must be in possession of the corresponding deer harvest authorization to legally possess a deer carcass. This is a critical requirement to ensure compliance with wildlife management regulations.

Sale and Barter Guidelines

The regulations regarding the sale or barter of deer or deer parts are specific:

  • The head, skin (provided it's not in a spotted coat), and antlers (not in velvet) of any deer can be legally sold or bartered, but only when these parts are detached from the rest of the carcass.
  • It is illegal to sell or barter velvet antlers or hides in a spotted coat, even if they are obtained during the open deer season. The law also prohibits the transfer of these parts to another person.

Special Case: Albino Deer

The possession of albino deer, characterized by an entirely white body except for the hooves, tarsal glands, and certain head parts, is illegal without specific written authorization from the department. It is important to note that albino and all-white deer are protected and cannot be harvested.

Important Considerations

  • Deer with velvet antlers or in a spotted coat may be legally harvested during the open deer season, but their velvet antlers and spotted hide are not permissible for sale or transfer.
  • The regulations underscore the importance of ethical hunting practices and the responsibility of hunters in wildlife conservation.

Specialized Hunting Programs in Wisconsin

Youth Gun Deer Hunt


  • Eligibility: Open to hunters who are 15 years old or younger with a valid gun deer license.
  • Location: Available statewide in all designated hunting areas.
  • Adult Supervision: Required for all participating youth. Even if the youth hunter is 14 or 15 and holds a hunter education certificate, they must be accompanied by an adult parent or guardian.
    • Supervision Limitation: One adult cannot supervise more than two youth hunters simultaneously.

Regulations and Requirements

  • Clothing: All hunters, except waterfowl hunters, must wear highly visible clothing.
  • Mentorship Rules: Apply to youth aged 11 and under, and to those who haven’t completed hunter education. More details can be found on page 7 of the hunting regulations, focusing on the hunting mentorship program.

Gun Deer Hunt for Hunters with Disabilities

Eligibility and Permits

  • Target Group: Hunters with disabilities holding Class A, C, or D disabled permits, or Class B permits valid for more than one year that authorize hunting or shooting from a stationary vehicle.
  • Requirements: Must have a gun deer license and a designated sponsor.

Registration and Contact

  • Preparation: Disabled hunters interested in participating should contact a hunt sponsor before September 1st.
  • Information Access: For specific rules and sponsor contact details, visit and search for “disabled deer hunt.”

Authorizations and Flexibility

  • Valid Harvest Authorizations: Includes Gun Buck Deer Harvest Authorization, Farmland (Zone 2) Antlerless Deer Harvest Authorizations, and Bonus Antlerless Deer Harvest Authorizations.
  • Farmland (Zone 2) Flexibility: During this special hunt, Farmland (Zone 2) Antlerless Deer Harvest Authorization can be used on either land type, regardless of the designation on the authorization. If not used during this special hunt, it must be used as designated on other deer seasons.

Additional Information for Disabled Hunters

Wisconsin Deer Hunting Laws & Regulations

  • Elk Caution: All hunters, including those participating in the disabled hunt, must adhere to species-specific regulations, such as not shooting elk unless specifically authorized.
  • Archery/Crossbow License Holders: Disabled hunters with an archer/crossbow license may harvest one additional antlerless deer during this special hunt.

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD): Essential Information for Hunters

Understanding CWD

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a fatal neurological disorder affecting deer, elk, and moose, caused by abnormal prions. These prions, highly resilient in the environment, can transmit CWD indirectly through contamination. Hunters can play a crucial role in mitigating CWD spread. For detailed information on reducing CWD risks, visit the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) website and search for "CWD."

Venison Consumption and Safety

Prions are concentrated in the brain, spinal cord, lymph nodes, and spleen, and present in lower concentrations in muscle tissue. They can withstand cooking temperatures. While there have been no reported CWD cases in humans, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends against consuming meat from deer, elk, or moose that test positive for CWD. Following this, the Wisconsin Department of Public Health advises not consuming or distributing venison from deer in CWD-affected areas until CWD-negative test results are confirmed.

If using commercial processing for deer or elk, consider requesting individual processing to prevent meat mixture from multiple animals. Label and store venison from different deer separately. For more information on human prion diseases, contact the Wisconsin Department of Health Services at 608-267-9003.

For guidelines on safe deer handling, search "carcass movement" on the DNR website.

CWD Sampling and Testing

  • Submitting CWD Sampling Data: Use GoWild to submit CWD sampling data. The online form can be accessed via the registration confirmation email or Go Wild harvest history.
  • Carcass Disposal and Sampling Locations: Find maps for carcass disposal and CWD sampling on the DNR website by searching "CWD sampling." The Wisconsin DNR's Hunt Wild App also provides these locations, along with public lands maps, online regulations, and shooting hours based on your location.
  • Checking CWD Test Results: Verify the CWD test results of harvested deer online through the GoWild account or by searching "CWD results" on the DNR website.

Issuance of Replacement Deer Harvest Authorization

In the event a hunter harvests a deer that tests positive for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) during a regular hunting season, specific measures are in place:

  • Eligibility for Replacement: Hunters who have harvested a deer confirmed to be CWD-positive are eligible for a replacement deer harvest authorization.

  • Process of Issuance: This replacement authorization is issued through the hunter’s Go Wild account. The Go Wild system is an accessible platform for hunters to manage their licenses and authorizations.

Key Points

  • Conditions: The replacement authorization is specifically for cases where the harvested deer is tested and confirmed to be infected with CWD.

  • Timing: The replacement is provided during a regular hunting season, aligning with the time when the CWD-positive deer was harvested.

  • Objective: This measure aims to compensate hunters for the loss of a deer due to CWD and encourages testing of harvested deer for this disease.

Importance of CWD Management

  • CWD Impact: Chronic Wasting Disease poses a significant threat to deer populations, affecting their health and the ecosystem's balance.

  • Testing and Reporting: Hunters play a crucial role in managing and monitoring CWD. By testing their harvested deer and reporting CWD-positive cases, they contribute to wildlife health and conservation efforts.


Wild Advisor Pro


The legal advice provided on Wild Advisor Pro is intended as a summary of the hunting, camping, hiking, and fishing laws and regulations and does not constitute legal language or professional advice. We make every effort to ensure the information is accurate and up to date, but it should not be relied upon as legal authority. For the most current and comprehensive explanation of the laws and regulations, please consult the official government websites or a qualified legal professional. Wild Advisor Pro is not responsible for any misunderstandings or misinterpretations of the information presented and shall not be held liable for any losses, damages, or legal disputes arising from the use of this summary information. Always check with the appropriate governmental authorities for the latest information regarding outdoor regulations and compliance.