Wisconsinites transform the landscape for nine days each fall for what the Department of Natural Resources calls the “traditional” gun-deer hunting season.
This is the time when blaze-orange (and since 2016 also blaze-pink) outfits dot the fields, forests, taverns and gas stations in rural areas from Superior to Shopiere.
The state has other, limited deer-hunting seasons, but the gun-deer season is the big one.
Deer should be plentiful this year, the DNR says, although the agency offers no predictions about the hunt.
Here are five things to know about the upcoming season. Note the first one might be of interest to Rock County residents who are not hunters.
1. In an effort to reduce the deer herd in areas surrounding Janesville and Beloit, a special zone has been created: Inside the so-called “metro sub-unit” zone, the DNR is allowing the harvest of more antlerless deer than in most other areas.
The hope is that by reducing the herd, the number of car-deer crashes will be reduced, as will the number of deer-chewed shrubs in people’s yards, said Jason Cotter, senior wildlife biologist for the DNR.
Cotter said the special zone was created through the DNR’s Rock County Deer Advisory Council, whose members are local residents.
Note that while the nine-day season ends Sunday, Nov. 25, deer hunting in this special sub-unit lasts through Wednesday, Dec. 5.
2. Mentored hunters may now carry their own weapons: In the past, only one weapon was allowed between a mentor and mentee. Starting last year, both have been allowed to carry.
Hunters must be mentored if they have not taken a hunter-safety course or are under age 11, whether or not they have taken the course, said Margaret Janovetz of the Janesville DNR Service Center.
The mentoring program was enacted to encourage people to give hunting a try without having to go through the course, Janovetz said.
3. Have you heard about the new rule for moving your harvested deer across county lines? Forget about it: Gov. Scott Walker signed the emergency rule in September. It was supposed to slow the spread of chronic wasting disease.
But on the day it was to go into effect, it was rescinded by the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules. Sen. Steve Nass, R-La Grange, who is the committee’s co-chairman, worked to quash it.
Nass said the rule would confuse hunters so soon before deer hunting season, according to news reports.
Walker has said he would work with legislators to re-introduce the rule, but Janovetz said that for this season, the old rule remains in effect, so hunters may transport their deer out of chronic wasting disease zones and butcher them at home, if they wish.
4. The DNR did away with carcass tags in 2016, having hunters instead register their kills by phone or on the internet: New this year is a name. The document that once was a tag is now called a deer harvest authorization.
The number on the authorization document must be given when registering the deer, Janovetz said.
Hunters who don’t carry the paper document must have the number and must have a DNR-authenticated Wisconsin driver’s license with a DNR-approved digital file displayed on an electronic device or a DNR “Go Wild” card.
5. Questions? You might have them, considering that the rules are printed in tiny type in a 47-page booklet.
“It gets confusing once in a while,” Janovetz acknowledged.
For answers, call the DNR hotline, 888-936-7463, ext. 4, from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily except for Thanksgiving Day, when it closes an hour earlier.
The center is closed on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.