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Getting a bear hunting license

How to get a Wisconsin bear hunting license

If you would like to hunt black bear in Wisconsin, you must possess a Class A bear license. You may obtain a Class A bear license by:

How to apply for the Class A bear license drawing

Wisconsin bear hunting is extremely popular and more people apply each year than the number of licenses available. In 2020, over 129,000 hunters applied for a permit or a preference point for 11,530 available permits. According to state statute, Class A licenses, also called harvest permits or kill tags, are awarded through a "preference point lottery system." In order to be authorized to purchase a Class A license, you must be a drawing winner. You may apply once each year and you may either purchase a preference point or ask to be included in the drawing. If you are not a drawing winner, one preference point will be added to your total.

Preference points required to be a drawing winner

The number of preference points required to be a drawing winner is dependent on a number of variables, including the number of harvest permits allotted for the upcoming season, the number of applicants, and the bear management zone in which you wish to hunt. Results of the last bear drawing and the number of preference points drawing winners had for each bear management zone [PDF].

Where to apply

Applications for a Class A bear license can be made online or at any license sales location. Please note paper applications are no longer available. The deadline for bear season applications is always Dec. 10.

When to apply for a preference point only

Some hunters may not wish to hunt the upcoming bear season, but would still like to accumulate a preference point. The bear application allows the applicant to specify they would like a preference point only, which does not place them in the drawing. Once an applicant is a drawing winner, they are authorized to purchase a Class A license and their preference point total returns to zero. Their preference point total is reset to zero even if for some reason, they cannot or chose not to hunt bear that year.

The preference point only option is nice when an applicant does not wish to risk being a drawing winner, but still wishes to increase their preference point total.

How drawing winners are notified

The bear drawing is held in early-mid February. Shortly after the drawing, the department will send a postcard notifying drawing winners they are authorized to purchase a Class A bear license. You may check your drawing results online by accessing your DNR Customer account. Shortly after the drawing, accounts will be updated to notify the drawing winners that they have been authorized to purchase a Class A license. It is the permit applicant's responsibility to know their drawing status and whether they were selected for purchasing a harvest permit.

Miscellaneous notes about the bear application process
  • You must apply at least once every three years or your preference point total returns to zero.
  • Residents and non-residents are treated equally in the drawing.
  • Preference points are not associated with a specific bear management zone. Specify the bear management zone only when requesting to be included in the bear drawing.
  • If you are selected in the drawing, your preference point total will return to zero even if you do not purchase the Class A bear license.
  • Generally, preference points may not be transferred. You may transfer a Class A bear license to a youth (ages 10-17), a person with disabilities, active duty military or Purple Heart recipients. There is a provision that allows the transfer of preference points upon death: Deceased Customer Preference Approval Transfer [PDF].