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 November of that year, Wisconsin held its first managed elk hunt, a testament to years of restoration, careful management and the strength of partnerships across agencies and states, tribal governments and non-profit organizations.
Each spring, the DNR opens the application period for a once-in-a-lifetime tag to harvest a Wisconsin elk during the fall hunting season. For each $10 application sold, $7 go to elk management and research in Wisconsin. These funds are used to enhance elk habitat, which benefits the elk herd and many other wildlife species that call the Northwoods home. Funding also contributes to ongoing elk research and monitoring.
2021 Elk Application
Application Dates: March 1 - May 31, 2021
The application period for the 2021 Wisconsin elk hunt is open March 1 through May 31, and only Wisconsin residents may apply. Visit your Go Wild account or a license agent to submit your application. Drawing results will be available in mid-June.
The application fee is $10. In addition, one bull tag is raffled off by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation [EXIT DNR]. Raffle tickets are also $10 each, and there is no limit on the number of raffle tickets an individual may purchase.
Proceeds from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation raffle and $7 from each application go to elk management and research in Wisconsin. During the first three hunting seasons, applicants generated over $400,000 to fund the health and growth of Wisconsin’s elk herd. These funds are used to enhance elk habitat, which benefits the elk herd and many other wildlife species that call the Northwoods home. Funding also contributes to ongoing elk research and monitoring.
Tag levels: The Natural Resources Board will consider the DNR's quota recommendation at its May meeting. Of the tags that will be issued, half will be issued to state hunters and the other half will be used by members of the Ojibwe tribes according to treaty rights.
2021 Elk Hunting Season
Season Dates: Oct. 16 - Nov. 14; Dec. 9-17
License fee: $49
Application winners will be announced in early June. Successful applicants must attend a mandatory elk hunter orientation and purchase an elk hunting license ($49) prior to being issued their license and tag.
Elk hunting regulations will be available in August.
2020 Elk Hunt
The 2020 elk hunting ended with all five state hunters harvesting an elk in the Clam lake Range.
2019 Elk Hunt
The 2019 elk season has 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.
2018 Elk Hunt
Wisconsin’s first managed elk hunt in state history drew strong 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.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Questions About The Elk Herd And Hunt
Why are only bulls allowed in the harvest?
The long-term elk population goal of the Clam Lake elk herd is 1400. As we continue to manage for herd growth, females will be protected to maximize annual calf recruitment. The herd currently contains a high proportion of bulls, and many of those bulls do not participate in the rut due to the social and rutting behavior of elk who use “harems” (one bull with multiple cows).
What is the current elk population estimate in the Clam Lake elk range?
At its peak in 2020, the northern herd estimate is projected to be approximately 300 in total scattered throughout the range in several groups. Aside from hunter harvest, elk are removed from the herd each year due to a variety of causes, including illegal harvest, depredation, drowning and car accidents.
Why isn’t the hunt occurring in the Black River elk range?
The elk reintroduction effort in Jackson County’s Black River elk range started just a few years ago when 73 elk were released there in 2015 and 2016. The department and our partners agree that the herd will need several years of growth before hunting is offered. The population is anticipated to approach 100 elk after calving in 2020.
What if I shoot a bull that is wearing a radio collar?
Many of the elk in the herd wear a radio collar used for monitoring and research. Collared animals are perfectly legal for harvest. If the collar is functioning properly, we will likely ask the hunter to return the collar to us so that it can be used again.
- Questions About Applying For An Elk Hunting License
How many elk tags are available in 2021?
The 2021 elk quota has not yet been set. The Natural Resources Board will consider the 2021 elk quota at its May meeting. Of the tags that will be issued, half will be issued to state hunters and the other half will be used by members of the Ojibwe tribes according to treaty rights.
How do I apply for an elk hunting license?
What are the dates to apply for an elk hunting license?
The application is available March 1 through May 31.
How much will it cost to apply for an elk hunting license?
The cost to apply is $10.
Can I apply more than once per year?
No, just like other big game species applications, only one application may be submitted per person. However, you may purchase as many raffle tickets from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation as you wish (see details below).
Will preference points be awarded for elk like they are for bear?
No. The drawing for an elk hunting license is strictly a random drawing and preference points will not be awarded. If a preference point system were used, anyone who did not apply the very first year would have virtually no chance to ever be awarded a tag in the future considering so few tags awarded to so many anticipated applicants. Without preference points, all applicants will have an equal opportunity each year.
If I win either the state drawing or RMEF raffle drawing, can I apply again in the future?
As law currently stands, receiving an elk hunting license is a once-in-a-lifetime event. You will not be able to apply through the state application process, nor will you be allowed to win the RMEF raffle.
How much will the hunting license cost if I am one of the lucky hunters who is drawn?
A Wisconsin resident elk hunting license is $49.
Can non-residents apply?
When 100 or fewer elk hunting licenses are allocated, only Wisconsin residents may apply, 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 allocated, both residents and nonresidents may apply.
When will the drawing winners be selected?
The drawing for those who apply through Go Wild will be completed in early June. The winner of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation raffle will be drawn in late July (see details below).
How will license winners be notified?
Each license winner will receive a phone call telling them of their success in the drawing. Winners will be provided with additional information about the hunt, elk hunter education requirements, etc.
Where do the revenues from the application fees go?
By law, $7 from each elk hunting application is earmarked for elk management and research in Wisconsin. The remaining $3 is designated for covering administrative fees, vendor fees, etc.
- Questions About License Transfers And Deferrals
Can an elk hunting license be transferred to another hunter?
Yes. There are two circumstances under which an elk hunting license can be transferred:
- The winner may transfer their license to a resident youth hunter 17 years old or younger.
- They may transfer the license to a resident holding a valid Class A, B, C, or D disabled permit.
To transfer the license to another hunter, the application to do so must be received at least 15 days prior to the start of the season. An exception to the 15-day requirement is if the hunter dies before the first day of the season. Additional details on transferring an elk tag are available on the awarded permit or harvest authorization transfers page.
Can active military personnel defer the use of their license if they win?
Yes, an elk license issued to a member of the Armed Forces or National Guard who is on active duty and unable to hunt may be deferred.
If someone transfers their elk hunting license, can they still apply in the future?
Current statute specifies that a person may be issued or transferred only one elk hunting license in his or her lifetime. While law allows the holder of an elk tag to transfer that tag to a youth or disabled permit holder, the act of holding the elk license/tag prior to its transfer counts as a lifetime win. As such, the transfer or may not apply through the state drawing, be a Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) raffle winner, or receive an elk tag transfer in the future (unless the current law is changed). You may purchase RMEF raffle tickets in future years, but would be wise to put another eligible recipient’s name on the ticket because you would not be allowed to win due to the fact that we could not issue you the license.
Can someone sell their elk hunting license to another hunter?
No, selling the license is strictly prohibited. No compensation of money or other considerations of any kind may be accepted for the transfer.
- Questions about the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Raffle
Why does RMEF get one of the licenses?
Several years ago, legislation was passed that allowed the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation to raffle one elk hunting license during each of the first five elk hunting seasons to help financially support elk management in Wisconsin. RMEF has been a major supporter of Wisconsin’s elk reintroduction. They have invested over almost $10 million on elk reintroduction, management and research, as well as outdoor education projects, land protection, habitat improvement, and much more.
How will RMEF award their license?
RMEF is awarding the tag in a raffle. When legislation was passed, it was desired that every Wisconsin citizen would have an equal opportunity to win the tag, rather than have it auctioned to the highest bidder.
How do I buy RMEF elk hunt raffle tickets?
RMEF will make tickets available in a variety of ways. Tickets will be sold at RMEF banquets and other events. Elk Foundation volunteers will also be provided with a supply to sell. Tickets may also be purchased on the RMEF web site [EXIT DNR].
How much are the raffle tickets?
Each raffle ticket will be sold for $10, and you may enter as many times as you wish.
When will RMEF raffle tickets be available for purchase?
RMEF raffle tickets are expected to be available in March.
When will RMEF draw the raffle winner?
The winner will be drawn at the RMEF Wisconsin State Banquet in late July.
Where do the proceeds from the raffle go?
All raffle proceeds from the sale of RMEF raffle tickets are earmarked for elk management in Wisconsin.
- Questions About Ojibwe Tribes And The Elk Hunt
Why are the tribes entitled to half of the harvest quota?
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, reserved for the Ojibwe tribes up to 50% of the total harvest for a variety of wildlife, including elk. The tribes have been strong supporters of the elk reintroduction efforts and have contributed resources as well. In addition, elk hunting has high cultural significance to the Ojibwe tribes.
How many elk are the tribes allowed to take?
The Ojibwe tribes are entitled to 50% of the annual quota which will vary from year to year based on the total quota for all hunters.
Can the tribes buy a state elk hunting license?
Tribal members who are Wisconsin residents can apply through the state drawing, or purchase RMEF elk hunt raffle tickets if they choose to do so.
Can I buy an elk hunting license from the tribes?
No, non-tribal hunters are not allowed to purchase a license or participate in a tribal elk hunt.
When does the tribal elk hunting season occur?
Like deer, the Ojibwe tribal elk hunting season begins the day after Labor Day and runs through the first Sunday after the first Saturday in January. This fall, that means they are allowed to start hunting on September 8th and continue until January 3rd, 2021.
Are the elk hunting rules for the tribes the same as for state hunters?
As is often the case, the Ojibwe tribes are anticipated to have some rules that differ from those required of state hunters. Tribal elk hunting rules are currently being determined and will be available on the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission’s website [EXIT DNR] when complete.
- Questions About Hunter Education Requirements And Mentored Hunting
Will elk hunters be required to take elk hunter orientation?
Yes, all license winner will be required to attend before their elk hunting license will be issued or posted to their Go Wild account.
What will be taught in elk hunter orientation?
Hunters will be introduced to a variety of topics related to Wisconsin elk management and research, history of the Wisconsin reintroduction, hunt preparation, rules and regulations of the hunt, registration requirements, disease/tissue sampling requirements and much more. You will also have the chance to meet with staff from the DNR and partner organizations. Answering hunter questions is a large part of the course.
Where will elk hunter orientation be held?
The location is yet to be determined. Past elk hunter orientations have been held near Clam Lake.
When will it be held?
We anticipate the class will occur in early September.
Is there a fee for elk hunter orientation?
No, the course is free of charge.
Can I take elk hunter orientation, even if I don’t draw a tag?
No. With a small cohort of hunters, our desire is to give them very personal attention in a small venue that is easy to plan. Considering the likelihood of receiving a tag, it is not our desire to have dozens or hundreds of participants. That said, if a youth hunter or someone who may need assistance would like to bring a parent, mentor, etc., they will be encouraged and welcome.
What if I can’t attend on the planned date?
With such a small number of participants, we will deal with this issue if/when the situation arises.
Do I need to pass an official hunter safety class to receive my license?
Yes, if you intend to hunt alone, you are required to comply with same hunter education requirements as are in place for all hunting activities in Wisconsin. Mentored hunting is also allowed, so someone who has not obtained hunter education requirements may still participate with a qualified mentor. The elk hunter education/orientation course does not meet the hunter education requirement. Visit the mentored hunting page for more information.
If I hunt with a mentored hunter, does the mentor need to be licensed?
Yes, the mentor must hold a current, valid Wisconsin hunting license of any type.
Can the mentor carry a weapon?
The mentor may carry a weapon if hunting other game, such as deer during the archery deer 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.
- Questions About Where To Hunt
Where will the hunt take place?
All elk hunting in 2021 will occur in the Clam Lake elk range. Whether hunting will be allowed in the entire Clam Lake elk range will be determined by the Natural Resources Board in May, and no hunting will occur in the Black River elk range in Jackson County.
Will it be hard to find a place to hunt if I draw the tag?
No. Public land makes up approximately 65% of the total land area in the Clam Lake elk range. These are U.S. Forest Service lands of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, Wisconsin DNR lands and county forest lands. 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 useful tool for locating public land open to hunting.
Can I hunt elk on private land?
Yes, as long as you have permission from the landowner before entering their land.
Are there places to stay in the area?
Yes. While somewhat remote from larger towns, the greater Clam Lake area has ample accommodations that include several Northwoods hotels, resorts, cabin rentals, and campgrounds. There are also several restaurants, as well as groceries, fuel, etc. in the area.
- Questions About Season Details
What are the elk hunting season dates for state hunters (i.e. non-tribal)?
October 16-November 14. Any unsuccessful hunters during that period may try again December 9-17.
What are elk hunters required to carry in the field as proof of hunting eligibility?
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.
- For the elk carcass tag, only an original or reprinted paper copy is accepted.
If my friend draws a license, can I go along?
Yes, an elk hunter may bring additional spectators on the hunt. We hope and expect that friends and family will want to experience this hunt, even if they are not drawn for a tag. Having extra people along may be particularly helpful in recovering an elk from the field. There is no limit to the number of spectators who may tag along, participate in any way other than shooting the elk or help after an animal is harvested. Group bagging is not allowed, so only the person issued the elk hunting license may hunt or shoot an elk.
Is high visibility clothing required?
Currently, there is no requirement to wear blaze orange or blaze pink. However, it is highly recommended that at least some piece of highly visible clothing (vest, hat, etc.) be warn. Other types of hunting will be underway during this period in addition to both tribal and non-tribal elk hunting, so safety should be a high priority.
What weapons are allowed?
Elk may be hunted with bow, crossbow, muzzleloader, centerfire handgun or centerfire rifle. If the weapon is legal for deer hunting, it is legal for elk hunting.
What must be done upon harvesting an elk?
Similar to bear carcass tags, the elk carcass tag must be immediately validated by removing the bottom portion (validation stub). Hunters are encouraged to protect paper tags in a plastic, sealable baggie. Then, the tag must be attached to the elk if the hunter leaves the animal temporarily. If you leave it, tag it!
Can I cut my elk into quarters to make it easier to get it out of the field?
Yes, elk may be divided just as a deer 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 remain as part of each piece. In other words, the elk cannot be “boned out” as is common on western elk hunts. The hide and lower legs, if removed, do not count as one of the five parts, but all parts other than the internal organs must be removed from the field. Only one elk that has been quartered may be stored or transported at a time prior to registration, but quartered elk can be transported with other intact elk.
- Questions About Harvest Registration
If I get an elk will I be required to register it?
Yes, all harvested elk must be registered, just as is required for deer, bear, turkey, etc.
How will hunters register their elk?
Successful hunters are required to present their elk IN PERSON by 5 p.m. the day after harvest to have it registered.
Where will the registration station be located?
No stations will be established. Instead, hunters will be provided with instructions at the elk hunter education class and will contact the local wildlife biologist to register the elk in the field or at a mutually agreed upon meeting place.
Will GameReg be an available option?
Not in 2021. All harvested elk must be registered in person. Once completed, department staff will enter the hunter’s elk in GameReg so that a record of harvest appears on the hunter’s personal Go Wild account.
Will hunters be required to provide tissue samples for health testing?
Yes, hunters will be asked to provide tissue samples at the time of registration. These are likely to include lymph nodes and obex for CWD testing. In addition, we will provide hunters with sampling kits and request that they collect various tissue samples that normally would be left in the field during field dressing such lung tissue, liver tissue, etc.