Regular Firearms Deer Season

Send by email Printer-friendly version Share this

Wisconsin’s regular nine-day gun deer season opens statewide Saturday, Nov. 20, and state wildlife officials say, if weather cooperates, hunters should have plenty of opportunities to fill deer tags and continue to help reduce the size of the state’s deer herd.

Wildlife officials estimate the state’s deer herd is about 1.7 million animals statewide.

Last year, hunters registered 324,460 deer during the regular nine-day season, according to Keith Warnke, deer ecologist for the Department of Natural Resources.

“The 2004 gun opener will be right in the middle of the possible season-opening dates allowed by our current season rules,” Warnke said. “But this will still be at the very tail-end of the breeding season, which generally occurs in late October to early November.”

Deer population models indicate the herd is above goal in many deer management units (DMU). Population goals take into account such things as deer habitat, hunter requests, hunter density, agricultural damage, and vehicle-deer accidents.

In all, 26 of the state’s 135 deer management units have Earn-a-Buck rules in place in 2004. Earn-a-Buck means hunters must first shoot an antlerless deer to “earn” their buck harvest privilege. This is the first EAB season since 1996 and is the outcome of recommendations coming from the Deer 2000 process.

“It is important that hunters shooting antlerless deer in Earn-a-Buck (EAB) units register their antlerless deer in the unit of kill or an adjacent Earn-a-Buck unit in order to get a buck authorization sticker,” said Warnke. “Only those registration stations in EAB units have the buck authorization stickers. Hunters can bring in an antlerless deer and a buck at the same time for registration.”

Many hunters participated in the October Zone T and Earn-a-Buck hunt so they would have a buck permit in their pocket on opening day. Earn-a-Buck permits earned outside of CWD management units are good in any non-CWD unit. EAB stickers earned in a CWD unit are good only in CWD units.

“Hunters could greatly help us out if they make sure that each antlerless deer registered in an EAB zone has its ear slit by the registration station attendant as required,” said Warnke. “Sometimes, with all the action of opening weekend, things can get missed.”

Maps of the state’s DMUs with specific season dates, bag limits and tagging options are in the 2004 Wisconsin Deer Hunting Regulations pamphlet available on the DNR Web site at or at license vendors and DNR Service Centers.

Forty-eight deer management units were included in the Oct. 28-31 Zone T antlerless deer hunt. The Zone T units are all more than 20 percent above target population goals. Hunters receive one free Zone T antlerless carcass tag with each deer hunting license (gun and archery) they purchase that can be used to shoot an antlerless deer in any of the designated Zone T or Earn-a-Buck units during any deer hunting season. In addition to Zone T, many DMUs will have bonus antlerless tags available for hunters who wish to harvest additional antlerless deer. Bonus antlerless tags are available for purchase ($12 resident, $20 non-resident) from any license agent.

Hunters registered a preliminary 67,167 deer during the Oct. 28 to 31, Zone T hunt. A second Zone T hunt will be held Dec. 9 to 12. To minimize conflicts with other winter recreationists in the northern part of the state, Zone T DMUs north of Highway 8 will not participate in the December Zone T hunt. There is also a muzzleloader deer season from Nov. 29 through Dec. 8.

“There are 17 DMUs that are possible Earn-a-Buck units in 2005,” said Brad Koele DNR assistant deer ecologist. “These are units in a second consecutive season of Zone T. If populations in those units remain more than 20 percent over goal they may be Earn-a-Buck units in 2005.”

Venison Donation Program

Fifty-three Wisconsin counties have at least one meat processor participating in the 2004 Vension Donation Program. A list of participating processors is on the DNR Web site and is updated regularly as additional processors sign on. The processors will accept field dressed deer registered with a silver tag, butcher them and package the venison for delivery to food pantries around the state. The silver registration tag means the deer came from outside the CWD Disease Eradication Zone. There is no cost to the hunter for processing and the meat will go to a good cause, notes program coordinator, Laurie Fike. Fike recommends calling ahead to a processor to check on hours of operation and if they can take the deer right away.

“Hunters donated 305,000 pounds of venison to the program in 2003,” said Fike, and over a million pounds since 2000. This incredibly successful program has made a lot of high quality food available to needy families and provided hunters with an outlet for excess venison.”

Donations from inside the Disease Eradication Zone

There is a separate venison donation programs in place in 2004 for hunters in the CWD – Disease Eradication Zone (DEZ). Hunters can take deer to processors in the DEZ who will store the meat until CWD test results come back for the deer. Deer testing not positive will be processed for the pantry program. Positive testing deer will be disposed of at the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory’s tissue digester.

Testing for CWD outside of surveillance effort

People hunting outside of the counties designated for CWD surveillance can have their deer tested for CWD at their own expense through participating private veterinary practitioners around the state. A complete list of participating veterinarians can be found on the CWD pages of the DNR Web site.

Once a hunter has registered a deer, they can take it to a participating veterinarian in their area who has been trained to extract samples for CWD testing. Samples will be extracted at each participating clinic and sent to a U.S. Department of Agriculture certified laboratory for testing. Results will be returned to the veterinarian who submitted the sample and shared with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Each participating veterinarian will decide when they will begin accepting requests for sampling and testing and determine the fee that they will charge for sampling services and testing costs.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Brad Koele (general deer hunting) (608) 261-7589 or Jenny Pelej (CWD information) - (608) 266-0920