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Deer hunting

White-tailed Buck

Season Dates, Regulations And Hours

Nationally recognized as one of the country's premier states for hunting white-tailed deer, Wisconsin has both an abundant herd and a reputation for producing some of the largest bucks in the world. Hunters have a number of opportunities this fall. 

2023 Season Dates

Archery and Crossbow* Sept. 16 -Jan. 7, 2024
Youth Deer Hunt Oct. 7-8

Gun Deer Hunt for Hunters with Disabilities**

Oct. 7-15
Gun Nov. 18-26
Muzzleloader Nov. 27 -Dec. 6
Statewide Antlerless-only Dec. 7-10
Antlerless-only Holiday Hunt*** Dec. 24 -Jan. 1, 2024

* Season continues until Jan. 31, 2024 in Metro subunits and select Farmland Counties.

** This is not a statewide season. More information is available at the DNR's Deer Hunting For Hunters With Disabilities webpage

*** Open only in select Farmland (zone 2) counties; see regulations for open counties.


A complete list of rules and regulations can be found in the Fall 2023- Spring 2024 Combined Hunting Regulations [PDF]

Additionally, hunters should refer to the Baiting And Feeding Regulations webpage often to find out if your county allows baiting and feeding of deer. The Carcass Movement, Processing and Disposal webpage also has good information on how and where deer can be moved.


Hunting hours differ depending on location in the state. Hunters can use the following documents to check hunting hours for the part of the state they hunt.

Purchase A Hunting License

Purchase a Hunting License

Wisconsin has made it easy to buy licenses and registrations. Hunters can purchase deer licenses and bonus authorizations through the Go Wild app or at license sale locations.

Anterless Harvest Authorizations

Bonus antlerless harvest authorizations will be available for purchase starting Aug. 14 through the Go Wild app or at any license sale locations.

These bonus antlerless harvest authorizations may be filled with any weapon type during the appropriate season. They must be filled in the zone, unit and land type (public or private) designated on each harvest authorization. Bonus antlerless harvest authorizations are available on a first-come, first-served basis for $12 each for residents, $20 each for nonresidents and $5 for youth hunters under age 12.

One to four additional Farmland (Zone 2) antlerless harvest authorizations [PDF] will be included in 2023 with each deer hunting license, depending on the unit of choice.

Unsure which Deer Management Unit (DMU) to select? Head over to the Public Access Lands mapping application. Click "Show Layer List," then turn on "DNR Hunting Zones" and select "Deer Zones". Zoom in on your area to determine which DMU you fall within.

Hunting In Metro Sub-Units

For full details, including county lists and maps of metro sub-units, see the 2023 Metro Sub-unit Guide [PDF].

Hunters may use any of their Farmland (Zone 2) antlerless deer harvest authorizations included with their license or purchased bonus antlerless deer harvest authorizations to hunt in a metro sub-unit by selecting the deer management unit (DMU) where the sub-unit is located. These harvest authorizations are valid within the entire DMU, including any metro sub-unit within that DMU.

Hunters may also request a metro sub-unit antlerless deer harvest authorization at no cost or purchase a bonus metro sub-unit antlerless deer harvest authorization. These options are available only in certain counties, and the harvest authorizations are limited to the boundaries of the metro sub-unit selected.

Hunting Programs

The DNR and partner organizations provide ways to learn to hunt or enjoy new experiences this deer hunting season. 

First-time Hunters

Anyone can obtain a mentored-only hunting license and hunt without first completing a hunter education course. They must be accompanied by a licensed hunter (mentor), hunt within arm's reach of the mentor and follow other rules. Learn more about Wisconsin's Mentored Hunting Program.

Learn to Hunt programs combine four-plus hours of classroom and field instruction before a novice goes hunting with a qualified mentor. Learn to Hunts provides a great opportunity for beginners of all ages and backgrounds to learn how to hunt safely and ethically in Wisconsin.

Youth Deer Hunt

Youth hunters under the age of 16 may hunt deer with a gun in all Deer Management Units except state parks and non-quota units during the Youth Deer Hunt. A gun deer hunting license is required if hunting with a firearm.

Hunters With Disabilities

Thanks to generous landowners sponsoring hunters with disabilities on their land, the Wisconsin Deer Hunt for Hunters with Disabilities continues to grow. Hunters wishing to participate and landowners wanting to open their property can learn more at the DNR's Deer Hunting For Hunters With Disabilities webpage.

Sandhill Wildlife Area

Sandhill Wildlife Area (9,150 acres) is open to the public year-round and hosts many outdoor workshops and wildlife studies. This year, multiple special hunts are happening at Sandhill as part of a research study on deer densities. Apply for one of this year's special hunting opportunities at the Sandhill Wildlife Outdoor Skills webpage.

Active Service Members

Wisconsin law extends certain permit and licensure privileges to active members of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore Hunting

There are a number of harvest opportunities available within the lakeshore.

Where To Hunt

Not everyone has access to a "back 40." Luckily, Wisconsin has over seven million acres of open public hunting land across diverse habitats. 

Find Properties Open To Public Hunting

With support from the USDA, the DNR partners with private landowners to lease public access to hunting habitats across the Voluntary Public Access (VPA) Program. Additionally, through the Managed Forest Law (MFL) and Forest Crop Law (FCL) programs, private forest lands are open to the public for recreation, including deer hunting.

Hunters can search for their next deer hunting spot through:

  • Public land access
    • Use this resource to find public land for any outdoor activity, including hunting, fishing, hiking, camping and wildlife viewing.
  • Voluntary Public Access Program (VPA)
    • Through this program, hundreds of landowners have opened their land to the public for year-round hunting, fishing, trapping and wildlife viewing. Hunters do not need to contact landowners for permission to access these properties.
    • Over 30,000 acres of private land are accessible to the public and can be found using the VPA interactive map.

Use the DNR's Public Access Lands Maps to explore public hunting options across the state.

Hunting Safety Tips

Safety should be every hunter's top target each fall.

Remember, at least 50% of each hunter's clothing above the waist must be blaze orange or pink any time there is a firearm deer season in progress, and any head covering must be at least 50% blaze orange or pink. 

Make sure to follow the four rules of basic firearm safety – TAB-K.

  • T = Treat every firearm as if it is loaded. Never assume a gun is unloaded, and never treat it that way, even if you watch as it is unloaded. Make it a habit to treat guns like they are always loaded.
  • A = Always point the muzzle in a safe direction. About one-third of all hunting incidents are self-inflicted injuries. That means the muzzle was pointed at some part of the hunter's body. A safe approach is where the bullet will travel and harm no one in the event of an unwanted discharge. There are no accidental discharges with firearms, only unwanted discharges.
  • B = Be sure of your target and what's beyond it. Positive target identification is a must. To shoot at something you only think is a legal target is gambling. In the case of human injury, that means gambling on human life. You must be specific and correct in judgment before deciding to shoot. Otherwise, it's reckless behavior. In addition to identifying the target, a hunter must know that a safe backstop for their bullet is present in every shooting situation. We don't always hit our target; in some cases, the bullet passes through the target. A safe backstop guarantees that no one will get hurt.
  • K = Keep your finger outside the trigger guard until ready to shoot. If a hunter stumbles with a firearm in one hand and nothing in the other, whatever that person does with their free hand will automatically happen with the hand holding the gun. If a finger is inside the trigger guard, that hand will likely close around the gun's pistol grip and on the trigger, causing an unwanted discharge.

Hunter Resources

This fall, get ahead of the game and take advantage of the DNR's resources that help hunters succeed before and after the hunt.

Wild Wisconsin

Hunters interested in learning more about Wisconsin's deer hunting culture, research and tips should watch the Wild Wisconsin web series.

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)

Visit the DNR's CWD webpage to learn what hunters can do to slow the spread and how to get your deer tested.

Field Dressing And Butchering Guides

Save this Field Dressing Deer: Pocket Guide for pointers while in the field, and watch the DNR's guide to processing your deer at home.

Don't shoot an elk!

Remember, always be sure of your target!

A graphic showing the difference between elk and deer. The heading says “Don’t shoot an elk! Know the difference and be sure of your target before you shoot. Next to an image of both a bull and cow elk text highlights, “dark brown mane, tan rump patch and small tail” Beside the bull elk it says, “antlers sweep back.” The buck photo points out that the antlers of a male deer curve forward. Additional deer highlights next to a buck and doe highlight, “white underside of tail, white throat patch, and a same color body, legs and neck.” There is additionally a note about overall size that says, “an elk calf will be about the same size as an adult white-tailed doe. Bull elk stand 1-2 ft. taller at the shoulders than an adult buck.” Photo credit on the image is noted to Lisa Freshwaters Arndt and Snapshot Wisconsin.

Deer Donation Program

Wisconsin hunters have a chance to give back during the hunting season by donating their deer to help stock food pantries via the DNR's Deer Donation Program.

Deer Management

Learn about Wisconsin's Deer Management.

Register A Harvest

Harvested A Deer? Here's What's Next.

  1. Register your deer through GameRegRegistration is required and must be completed by 5 p.m. the day after the deer carcass is recovered.

  2. Get your deer tested for Chronic Wasting DiseaseCWD testing is not required, but it is recommended. It's also free and easy to do.

  3. Process your deer and enjoy your venison. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services and the Centers for Disease Control recommend not eating venison from deer that have tested positive for CWD.

  4. Safely dispose of deer carcass waste. Several options are available to safely and legally dispose of deer carcass waste to help slow the spread of CWD.

  5. Commemorate your first harvest. If you or a friend or family member celebrated their first deer harvest this year, request a personalized First Deer Certificate.

What Is CWD?

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a degenerative disease of the brain and nervous tissue that infects white-tailed deer and other cervids. It belongs to the family of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) or prion diseases. CWD occurs only in members of the cervid or deer family. 

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources began monitoring the state's wild white-tailed deer for CWD in 1999. The first positives were found in 2002. While testing a harvested deer is not required, hunters are encouraged to learn about CWD in Wisconsin and stay up to date on mandatory baiting and feeding restrictions.

Visit the DNR's Chronic Wasting Disease webpage to learn more about how to get your deer tested and help slow the spread.