Hunters and state wildlife officials are gearing up for the fall hunting season, including the 2019 archery and crossbow deer seasons that run concurrently state­wide from this Saturday, Sept. 14, to Jan. 5, 2020.

For the second straight year, some archery hunters in the Northern Forest Zone will be allowed to harvest an antlerless deer if the deer hunter has an authorization permit. Throughout the remainder of the state, antlerless hunting opportunities are available through the use of Farmland Zone and bonus antlerless author­izations.

Archery and crossbow deer hunters have a continuous season framework that includes hunting during all gun deer seasons in November and December, plus the option to fill a gun deer tag using crossbow or archery equipment during open firearm seasons.

In its first five years, hunting with a crossbow has provided additional opportunity for many hunters throughout Wisconsin and accounts for the highest rate of participation by women, more than any other deer hunting method, according to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Those interested in using a conventional bow and a crossbow may do so by paying full price for one of the licenses and purchasing a $3 upgrade for the second license. Hunters will use the same buck and antlerless authorizations issued with their first license of choice.



Challenging winter


With an estimated 1.8 million deer on the landscape statewide, more and longer hunting opportunities than ever and an abundance of antlerless harvest opportunities, DNR wildlife experts predict an excellent 2019 Wisconsin deer hunting season.

Despite some areas of deep snow and cold temperatures across the North Woods last winter, Wisconsin’s winter didn’t really settle in until mid to late January in 2019. While some winter losses are experienced every year, they were not known to be significant as many fawns are being seen this summer.

The rest of the state saw a relatively mild winter overall despite short periods of snow and cold, and the effects did not have significant impacts on the herd.

For the first time in 10 years, no deer management unit will be restricted to buck-only deer seasons, and even the far northern counties — including Vilas, Oneida and Forest — have at least some limited antlerless hunting opportunities.

While Northern Forest County Deer Advisory Councils (CDACs) are attempting to maintain or build the herd with limited antlerless harvest authorizations, the Farm­land Zones are struggling to bring deer populations down to socially and biologically acceptable levels.

Many counties in the Farmland Zone have made multiple antlerless harvest authorizations available, in­cluding them with each deer hunting license. Hunters are encouraged to use at least one antlerless harvest authorization this fall, especially in units that offer three to six authorizations in farmland areas.



Baiting prohibited


Under state statute 29.336, Wis. Stats, the DNR is required to prohibit baiting and feeding of deer when one of three criteria is found to exist: a county lies within a designated chronic wasting disease (CWD) control zone; a CWD or bovine tuberculosis (TB) positive wild or captive deer is found within the county; or a portion of a county is within a 10-mile radius of the location of a CWD-positive wild or captive deer. 

If the department determines a county meets at least one of these three criteria, a secretary’s order is issued designating that county as a county where baiting and feeding deer is prohibited.

Because multiple captive deer on a Three Lakes game farm tested positive for CWD, baiting is not allowed in Vilas, Oneida or Forest counties.

In August 2017, an Act signed into law to amend current state statute did the following:

— Removed deer baiting and feeding prohibitions in counties where 36 months have passed since any confirmed positive test for CWD or bovine tuberculosis within the county; and

— removed deer baiting and feeding prohibitions in adjacent counties where 24 months have passed since any confirmed positive test for chronic wasting disease or bovine tuberculosis within a 10-mile radius of the county.

With this new legislation, the 24/36-month period starts over again with each new positive test result as it is confirmed.

Hunters should check the DNR baiting and feeding webpage frequently for updates, as new baiting and feeding bans may be enacted or removed during 2019 and beyond.



GameReg tips

All harvested deer must be registered electronically by 5 p.m. the day after the deer is recovered. The GameReg system will prompt hunters to answer a series of questions, beginning with the carcass tag number and the hunter’s date of birth.

Hunters will have three options for registering their deer:

— Online at game­reg.wi.gov;

— By phone at 1-(844) 426-3734 (GAME-REG); or

— Electronically at a participating in-person registration station.

For more information regarding electronic registration, visit gamereg.wi.gov.

For more general information regarding deer hunting in Wisconsin, visit dnr.wi.gov.