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Elk Hunting

Elk in the woods

Season Dates, Regulations And Hours

Once eliminated from the state through overhunting, Wisconsin now boasts a healthy, growing elk population thanks to two restoration efforts that began in 1995 and concluded in 2019. By 2018, the elk herd had grown enough in size to sustain a harvest. In October of that year, Wisconsin held its first managed elk hunt. This hunt was a testament to years of restoration, careful management and the strength of partnerships across agencies and states, tribal governments, and non-profit organizations.

2023 Season Dates

Archery, Crossbow and Firearm

Oct. 14 - Nov. 12 and Dec. 14 - 22

*Licenses awarded by drawing. Only bull elk may be harvested.

Hunting Hours – concurrent with Big Game Shooting Hours

Shooting Hours

Hunting hours differ depending on the time of year and location (northern or southern half of the state). Hunters can use the following documents to check hunting hours in the part of the state they hunt.

Purchase A Hunting License

Purchase a Hunting License

The 2023 Wisconsin elk hunt application period is open from Mar. 1 through May 31, and only Wisconsin residents may apply. Visit your Go Wild account or a licensed agent to submit your application. Drawing results will be available in June.

The application fee is $10.

Quotas: The Department of Natural Resources will approve an annual harvest quota based on the recommendation of the Elk Advisory Committee. Of the tags issued in the Clam Lake Elk Range, Ojibwe tribes may declare up to 50% of the quota, per treaty rights within the Ceded Territory. The other half will be randomly drawn for Wisconsin resident applicants.

Note: A person authorized to purchase a license for a permit or harvest authorization issued under a cumulative preference drawing may transfer their awarded permit or harvest authorization to another who meets the required qualifications on the Authorization Transfer webpage.

Elk Drawing Process

On March 1, the elk hunting application period opens in Wisconsin. The application process is open for three months, closing on May 31. The application is $10. 

The drawing is completed in June, and each license winner will receive a phone call from DNR staff, notifying them of their success. It is highly recommended to update all personal contact information within the Go Wild system to ensure contact is made with successful applicants after the drawing occurs. Successful applicants must attend a mandatory elk hunter orientation, usually held in September, before purchasing an elk hunting license ($49). 

Only one application may be submitted per person per year, and no preference points are given. This allows all applicants an equal opportunity to draw an elk tag within Wisconsin successfully. If a preference point system were used for elk in Wisconsin, due to the limited number of tags issued and the number of applicants each year, those who did not apply the first year would have almost no chance of being awarded a tag in future drawings.

The application process is only open to Wisconsin residents when 100 or fewer elk hunting licenses are allocated, with exceptions for nonresident Purple Heart recipients and Armed Forces members who exhibit proof of meeting qualifying criteria. When more than 100 elk hunting licenses are issued, Wisconsin residents and nonresidents may apply.

A Wisconsin Elk tag is a once-in-a-lifetime hunt. As the law currently stands, you cannot apply through the application process if you have been previously selected in the state application or drawn in the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) Raffle drawing.

For those interested in how the $10 application fee is used, $7 is designated for elk management and research in Wisconsin. These funds are used to enhance elk habitat, which benefits the elk herd and many other wildlife species within the elk management zones. Funding also contributes to ongoing elk research and monitoring. The remaining $3 covers administrative fees, vendor fees, etc.

Ojibwe Tribes And The Elk Hunt

The Ojibwe tribes reserved their right to hunt, fish and gather off-reservation when they signed Treaties with the United States. These federally recognized treaty rights allow them to hunt on public lands within the Ceded Territory of northern Wisconsin, as well as reserve the right to declare up to 50% of the total harvest quota for a variety of wildlife, including elk. Tribal members who are Wisconsin residents can apply through the state drawing if they choose to do so. Non-tribal hunters are not allowed to participate in a tribal elk hunt.

The tribes of Wisconsin have been strong supporters and partners of elk re-introduction and management efforts. Elk presence on the landscape and the ability to pursue elk were historically (and continue to be) valued for subsistence, cultural, religious, medicinal and economic significance to the Ojibwe Tribes and Ho-Chunk Nation.

Like deer, the Ojibwe tribal elk hunting season begins the day after Labor Day and runs through the first Sunday after New Year's Day. As is often the case, the Ojibwe tribes are anticipated to have some rules that differ from those required of state hunters. Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Commission maintains tribal elk hunting rules and regulations and is available on the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission's website [EXIT DNR].

Where To Hunt

Currently, all elk hunting will occur in the Clam Lake elk range. No hunting will occur in the Black River elk range in Jackson County. Public land makes up approximately 68% of the total land area in the Clam Lake elk range, including national, State, and county forest ownerships. The greater Clam Lake area has ample accommodations, including several hotels, resorts, cabin rentals and campgrounds.

In addition, there may be lands open for hunting under the Open Managed Forest Law program or Forest Crop Law program. Maps of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest may be obtained from the Forest Service. The DNR's Public Access Lands atlas is a valuable tool for locating public land open to hunting.

Elk may be pursued on private property if landowner permission is granted.

Hunting Safety Tips

Elk hunters must carry proof of their elk hunting license and elk carcass tag.

  • Proof of a license may include an original or reprinted paper copy, a Go Wild conservation card, a Go Wild-authenticated Wisconsin driver's license or a digital PDF file issued by the department and displayed on an electronic device.
  • Only an original or reprinted paper copy is accepted for the elk carcass tag.

Currently, there is no requirement to wear blaze orange or blaze pink. However, it is highly recommended that at least some highly visible clothing (vest, hat, etc.) be worn. Other types of hunting and recreation will occur during this period, in addition to elk hunting, so safety should be a high priority.

If the weapon is legal for deer hunting in Wisconsin, it is legal for elk hunting. As such, elk may be hunted with harpoons, including vertical bow, crossbow, muzzleloader, centerfire handgun or centerfire firearm.

Hunter Logistics

All license winners must attend elk hunter orientation before their elk hunting license is issued or posted to their Go Wild account. Hunters will be introduced to various topics related to Wisconsin elk management and research, the history of the Wisconsin elk re-introduction, hunt preparation, rules and regulations, registration process, disease/tissue sampling and more. Hunters will also have the chance to meet department staff and ask elk hunting or related questions.

The location and timeframe will be shared with successful drawing winners in the given year. The course is free of charge. Hunters who did not win an elk tag will not be permitted to attend the elk orientation course.

If you intend to hunt alone, you must comply with hunter education requirements as are in place for all hunting activities in Wisconsin, including passing an official hunter safety class. The elk hunter education/orientation course does not qualify for the hunter education requirement.

Mentored hunting is allowed. A hunter who has not obtained hunter education requirements may still participate with a qualified mentor. The mentor must hold a valid Wisconsin hunting license of any type. The mentor may carry a weapon if hunting other game, such as deer, during an open deer hunting season or if the mentor possesses a concealed carry permit. The mentor is not authorized to kill an elk for a mentee unless dispatching a wounded elk for a mentee who is age 17 or younger. Visit the mentored hunting page for more information.

Additional people may accompany a licensed elk hunter on the hunt. However, group hunting is prohibited. Only the person issued the elk hunting license may shoot an elk. Having extra people along may be particularly helpful in recovering an elk from the field. There is no limit to the number of people who may accompany or assist the hunter.

Elk may be divided into as many as five pieces. The head must remain attached to one of the five parts of the carcass, and the bones must stay as part of each piece. Elk cannot be "boned out," as is standard on western elk hunts. If removed, the hide and lower legs do not count as one of the five parts. All parts must be removed from the field except the internal organs,

Register A Harvest

Upon harvesting an elk, the elk carcass tag must be immediately validated by removing the bottom portion (validation stub). Hunters are encouraged to protect paper tags. The tag must be attached to the elk if the hunter leaves the animal temporarily. If you leave it, tag it.

All harvested elk must be registered and are required to present their elk in person by 5 p.m. the day after recovery. To do so, they must contact a local wildlife biologist to register the elk in the field or at a mutually agreed-upon meeting place. Instruction and details will be provided to the hunters at the elk hunter orientation.

GameReg is not an available option for elk registration. After in-person registration is completed, department staff will enter the hunter's elk in GameReg. The harvest record will appear on the hunter's Go Wild account. The elk registration confirmation number will then be available to the hunter.

Hunters will be provided tissue sampling kits at orientation for herd health sampling. Hunters will be asked to provide CWD tissue samples at registration, which include lymph nodes and obex. Additional tissue samples may include lung tissue, liver tissue, skin, a tooth, etc.

Elk Health & Diseases

The unique nature of a small, reintroduced elk population in Wisconsin has provided the opportunity to test a high percentage of the individuals for exposure to diseases of significance to elk, humans and domestic animals. Since the initial re-introduction of the northern elk population in 1995, intensive monitoring using radio collars has allowed for a sound background on the exposure of elk to diseases of concern and prompt mortality investigations to determine the cause of death.

Through regular capture and handling of elk in Wisconsin, blood and fecal samples have been collected to evaluate exposure to organisms responsible for Brucellosis, Johne's Disease, Bluetongue, Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD), Leptospirosis, Eastern Equine Encephalitis, Western Equine Encephalitis, Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis, West Nile Virus (WNV), Anaplasmosis, Neosporosis, Bovine Herpes, Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis (IBR) and Bovine Viral Diarrhea (BVD). These surveillance efforts have revealed either limited exposure by Wisconsin elk (WNV and EEE) or no identified exposure (all others). These tests represented both surveillance efforts for diseases that elk have been identified as compatible hosts for, and sources of, infection that are not present in Wisconsin (Brucella species) as well as investigatory in evaluating possible diseases that could impact elk populations. 

Based on the diseases and parasites that have been identified within Wisconsin and a desire to prevent the introduction of diseases not present within the state, a testing plan was developed in collaboration with other state and federal agencies for the 2015-2019 elk translocation from Kentucky. The plan included testing for diseases that primarily affect wildlife and those that primarily affect domestic animals but can spill over into wildlife and included testing for Bovine Tuberculosis (TB), Bovine Brucellosis (Brucella abortus), Bovine Viral Diarrhea Virus, Bluetongue and Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease. The protocol outlined in that plan was executed in full, and no elk were identified as infected with these diseases.  

Chronic Wasting Disease in Elk

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a fatal, infectious nervous system disease of deer, moose, elk and reindeer/caribou. It belongs to the family of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) or prion diseases.

The DNR began monitoring the state's wild white-tailed deer population for CWD in 1999. The first positive detections were found in 2002 in Dane County, approximately 250 miles from the Northern Elk Management Zone and approximately 120 miles from the Central Elk Management Zone. Prior to the most recent re-introduction, extensive testing was conducted within both elk management zones to monitor for the presence of CWD. During translocation, additional measures were also taken to ensure that equipment and staff were not transmitting the prion that causes CWD to translocated elk. As of October 2022, no wild elk has been diagnosed with CWD in Wisconsin. 

Other Considerations for Elk Health

Baiting And Feeding: Currently, baiting and feeding elk are prohibited by the Administrative Code. Wisconsin's current prohibition on baiting and feeding elk is a strong management tool with multiple benefits. In Wisconsin, recreational feeding of elk has been responsible for multiple vehicle collisions as elk crossed roadways to reach backyard feeding operations, and prohibitive rule changes helped drastically reduce roadway mortality. Additionally, baiting/feeding has caused several elk mortalities via metabolic toxicity associated with grain overload (the introduction of readily digestible carbohydrates, such as corn, that their rumen cannot process appropriately).

Rehabilitation: The behavior and nature of elk make them an unlikely candidate for inclusion in wildlife rehabilitation efforts, and it is recommended that they are not included in these endeavors. 

Previous Elk Hunts

Elk Hunt 2022

The 2022 elk hunting season was completed with the successful harvest of eight bull elk. Each state-licensed hunter and member of the Ojibwe tribes harvested four elk. One state-licensed hunter finished the first modern-day vertical bow-harvested elk in Wisconsin. 2022 also marked this final year (2018-2022) in which Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation held a drawing to issue one tag from the State of Wisconsin portion of the elk harvest quota.

First bow harvest of elk          2022 elk harvest photo

Elk Hunt 2021

In the fall of 2021, Wisconsin hunters pursued four bull elk while Ojibwe hunters harvested four bull elk under the guides of an evenly split 8-bull elk quota. Three DNR-licensed hunters completed their harvest.

2021 harvest of elk           2021 Elk harvest photo

Elk Hunt 2020

The 2020 elk hunting ended with all five state hunters harvesting an elk in the Clam Lake Range.

2020-Elk-Hunt-Clam-Lake-TR-2.jpg          2020 Elk Hunt Clam Lake AC2.jpg

Elk Hunt 2019

The 2019 elk season concluded with the harvest of the tenth bull on Nov. 10, 2019. The 10-bull quota for 2019 was met, with five bulls being harvested by state hunters and five bulls by the members of the Ojibwe Tribes. The 2019 Wisconsin elk hunt occurred only within the Clam Lake elk range in Ashland, Bayfield, Price and Sawyer counties.

hunter with elk          hunter with elk

Elk Hunt 2018

Wisconsin's first managed elk hunt in state history drew intense interest, with over 38,400 applicants in the state drawing and an additional 5,000 raffle tickets sold by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. Nine bulls were harvested out of the 10-bull quota, including four bulls by state hunters during the 39-day hunt and five bulls by members of the Ojibwe Tribes.

hunter with elk          hunter with elk