The whitetail deer hunting in Wisconsin is famous around the globe. Hunters come from all over the country and world to take part in a harvest that often records over 300,000 animals. In fact, Wisconsin is second only to Idaho in the number of non-resident hunting licenses the state issues: 237,000. Whether you’re a resident of the Badger State or want to take a trip there for world-class hunting, you need to know the dates of the Wisconsin deer hunting season and other important regulations.
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Wisconsin 2023 Deer Hunting Season Dates
Wisconsin has some of the easiest deer hunting season dates to navigate in the country. The only thing to be aware of is that during antlerless only hunts, you can only hunt antlerless deer even if those dates overlap a season during which you can normally hunt bucks like the general archery season.
|Archery and Crossbow||Sept. 16, 20223–Jan. 7, 2024|
|Youth* deer hunt||Oct. 7–8, 2023|
|Gun||Nov. 18-26, 2023|
|Muzzleloader||Nov. 27–Dec. 6, 2023|
|December 4-Day Antlerless-Only Hunt||Dec. 7–10, 2023|
Additionally, certain counties have an antlerless-only holiday hunt from December 24, 2023 to January 1, 2024. Some of these counties also extend the archery season to January 31.
Wisconsin Bag Limits
In Wisconsin, you need a “deer harvest authorization” to harvest any deer. You get these with your licenses, and they are specific to both the sex and method of take. The number of authorizations for each sex will depend on the specific conservation circumstances in the area where you want to hunt, so it can vary widely. Just remember that one buck harvest authorization allows the harvest of a single buck, and one antlerless harvest authorization the harvest of a single doe.
Wisconsin Deer Hunting License Requirements and Costs
Like the season dates, Wisconsin deer hunting licenses are also quite straightforward. You must have a license for each method of take you plan to use. However, you can use a bow or crossbow during the archery season with just the gun license.
Like most states, Wisconsin has different prices for residents and non-residents with non-residents paying much higher fees. To qualify for the resident prices, you must have maintained a permanent residence in Wisconsin for at least the 30 consecutive days immediately prior to purchasing the hunting license. Moreover, you must have “domiciliary intent” such as voting in Wisconsin, paying Wisconsin state income taxes or obtaining a Wisconsin driver’s license.
|License Type||Resident Cost||Non-Resident Cost|
If you want to hunt with both a vertical bow and crossbow during the archery season, don’t worry. You don’t have to buy both licenses. Instead, you just buy one and get an archery or crossbow upgrade. It’s $3 for both residents and non-residents.
You may also be able to purchase bonus antlerless harvest authorizations in certain DMUs on a first-come-first-serve basis. When available, these are $12 for residents and $20 for non-residents.
Hunter Education Requirement
If you want a Wisconsin hunting license and were born on or after January 1, 1973, you must show one of the following:
- A Wisconsin hunter education certificate
- Proof of completing a recognized hunter safety course, either from Wisconsin or another state or country
- A previous valid Wisconsin hunting license
- Proof of successfully completing basic training in the US Armed Forces
If you don’t have any of these things, you can still hunt, but only with a “mentor” who is a licensed hunter. They must supervise you at arm’s reach while you hunt, and they may only mentor one hunter per season. The mentored licenses are the same price as the required license you would need otherwise, except in the case of those 11-years-old or younger, in which case it’s $7 for residents and non-residents.
What Weapons Can You Hunt With in Wisconsin?
Although you can use both vertical bows and crossbows during the “Archery and Crossbow” season, an archery license only allows you to use vertical bows, and a crossbow license only allows you to use crossbows. To use both, you must “upgrade” the license for $3. You may use both weapons with a gun license.
There is a minimum draw weight of 30 pounds for vertical bows and 100 pounds for crossbows. Broadheads must have a cutting diameter of at least ⅞ inches.
During the specific muzzleloader season, your firearm must have a breech plug such that you can only load it from the muzzle. This excludes black powder revolvers.
You may, however, use any muzzleloader during the regular firearm season.
In addition to archery equipment and muzzleloaders, you may hunt deer during the general gun season with rifles, shotguns and handguns with the following restrictions:
- No fully automatic firearms
- No air guns
- No shot shells with shot larger than T
- No tracers or incendiary ammunition
- Those under 18 may not hunt with handguns
- A rifle must be at least 26 inches long with a 16-inch barrel
- A shotgun must be at least 26 inches long with an 18-inch barrel
- No suppressors or silencers
Can You Hunt With an AR-15 in Wisconsin?
You can hunt with an AR-15 in Wisconsin, but there are some caveats. Wisconsin doesn’t have any caliber requirements, but it does have an ambiguous requirement of “reasonable equipment.” This is usually interpreted as anything .22-caliber and bigger, which would include the original Colt AR-15 shooting .223 Remington. However, in reality AR-15s and .223 Remington rounds are not designed for hunting, and certain officials may be inclined to restrict them for hunting.
Additionally, take note of the 16-inch barrel requirement. The original AR-15 meets this requirement, but modified AR-15s or “AR-15-style” rifles may not. They may also be a smaller caliber or be modified for automatic fire. In this case, they may not be legal for hunting whitetail deer in Wisconsin.
What Types of Deer Are Popular in Wisconsin?
Wisconsin’s whitetail deer population has been exploding in recent years up nearly 70 percent at the end of the 2022 season, or 1.7 million animals versus one million in 2008. As a result, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has been encouraging deer harvests and making it easier to hunt. This has made whitetail deer the most popular game animal in the state, just like it is in the United States in general.
However, there are actually two closely related deer species that live in Wisconsin: elk and moose. Moose are protected, so you can’t hunt them. They are very rare anyway with only a few sightings in recent decades, but conservation efforts have resulted in an elk herd of several hundred animals and the introduction of annual harvests.
Participation in the elk hunt is granted by lottery. The application is open between March 1 and May 31 and costs $10. If your name is drawn, the seasons last from October 14-November 12, 2023 and December 14-22, 2023. You must purchase an elk hunting license for $49 and attend elk hunter orientation.
The number of elk licenses granted depends on the conservation circumstances that year, but for reference, the 2022 season saw the harvest of eight bull elk. As per treaty regulations, half of the licenses were granted to the Ojibwe tribes, meaning that four licenses were given out by lottery that year.
What Else Is Popular to Hunt in Wisconsin?
Though Wisconsin is famous nationwide for its whitetail deer hunting, there are numerous other animals that are popular to hunt as well. Most notably, there is an extensive bear harvest each year with over 4,000 taken in 2022. Additionally, there is a wolf season in the winter, something you won’t find in many other states.
Other game animals include:
- Wild turkey
- Migratory birds
- Small mammals
- Cottontail rabbit
- Other game birds