Hunt zone

With the deer opener days away, gun hunters across Wisconsin are preparing for the annual chase. A mild 2020-21 winter and below-average harvests in 2019 and 2020, mean Wisconsin deer hunters can look forward to increased harvest opportunities around the state, according to the DNR.

That includes northern Wisconsin, where the mild winter allowed for deer population growth across the region, the DNR says.

It’s important for hunters to remember habitat quantity and quality varies greatly across the landscape and the number of deer inhabiting individual properties can vary significantly.

Polk County DNR warden Peter Wetzel would like hunters to remember the requirement to register their deer is by 5p.m. the day after they take possession of their harvest, or they could face a fine of $343.50. 

Wetzel said, “The requirement to make every reasonable effort to retrieve all game that is killed or crippled does not give hunters the right to trespass.”

He would also like to remind hunters of other regulations. “It is It is illegal to hunt or discharge a firearm, bow, or crossbow within 50 feet of the roadway’s center,” said Wetzel. Doing so brings a fine of $217.90 and it is illegal to possess a loaded gun in a vehicle, which sees a fine of $258.10.

It is illegal to deposit the remaining carcass from a harvest on the roadside, or in a public parking lot and it comes with a fine of $200.50 or more.

Wetzel said, “It is illegal to shine for wild animals between 10p.m. and 7a.m. (Fine of $222.90+), and it is a crime to shine deer while in possession of a firearm, bow, or crossbow.”

This season 36 counties will offer the antlerless-only holiday hunt from Dec. 24 to Jan. 1.

In addition, archery and crossbow deer seasons have been extended in 27 counties, closing Jan. 31.

Due to recent findings of chronic wasting disease (CWD), baiting and feeding regulations have changed in select counties, including Polk County. A fine of $343.50 or more could be imposed on an individual caught baiting. 

CWD is a fatal, contagious neurological disease of deer, elk, moose and reindeer caused by a misshapen form of a protein called a prion. It has not been shown to cause illness in humans, but health experts advise meat from CWD-positive animals not be consumed.

The disease is spread to healthy animals through contact with an infected animal’s saliva, urine, blood, feces, carcass or contaminated environment.

By taking precautions while in the field, hunters can minimize the spread of CWD. The DNR recommends using synthetic scents, refraining from baiting and feeding and properly disposing deer carcasses.

In 2021, CWD testing will be available to all hunters through a combination of in-person, self-service and on-request sampling locations.

Individuals and organizations can volunteer to sponsor a self-service CWD kiosk or deer carcass dumpster through the DNR’s Adopt-a-Kiosk and Adopt-a-Dumpster programs. Again, this year, the department will offer a cost-sharing option to offset the expense of sponsoring a dumpster. Find more information on how to get involved on the DNR website.

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