Back Tags and Paper Licenses No Longer Required for Wisconsin Hunters

AJ Gall

It’s official, Wisconsin Hunters will no longer have to wear back tags while hunting deer, black bear, or elk.  Also, as part of the Go Wild initiative you will no longer be required to carry a paper license when you are out hunting or fishing.

While the two rule changes came about at roughly the same time, they are, in fact, two different entities.  The annoying back tag that has been attached as a license plate on Wisconsin hunters for years was actually a Law, not a DNR regulation.  It was first created back in 1942 and was something the DNR could not change.  Finally, in 2015 the process began with a group of state representatives pushing to eliminate the need for hunters to wear a back tag.  On February 29th, 2016, Governor Walker signed the amended Senate Bill 289 which officially eliminated the requirement to wear a DNR issued back tag while hunting deer, bear, or elk.

Wisconsin hunter wearing a back tagA back tag is no longer required to be worn by Wisconsin hunters heading into the 2016 hunting season.

On another note, the switch to paperless licensing is set to take place this March and is part of the Go Wild initiative.  The Go Wild initiative is a major effort by Wisconsin DNR to encourage people to get outdoors and enjoy all of the recreational opportunities.  The Go Wild licensing system will make it easier than ever to get your hunting, fishing, conservation, patron licenses and more.  The new system secures your license and registration information electronically – no more worries about losing your one and only copy.  As part of the system, the DNR will offer an optional conservation card that provides proof of purchase of your licenses and hunter safety certificates.  Other methods of proof include a validated Wisconsin driver’s license, a plain paper copy, or display on a mobile device.

To sum things up, you will buy your specific type of license like you did before (online or at a service center), but will not receive or be required to carry any type of paper license on you like the neon yellow film paper of the past.  You do however, have to carry a form of identification or proof of licensing.  Here is a list of acceptable proof or forms to carry:

  • Driver’s Licenseby simply carrying this, any officer can search electronically for any licenses you may hold.
  • Conservation Cardthis is new this year and is basically a card similar to a credit card, only it displays your DNR customer number.
  • An electronic form of your licensea PDF of your license on your mobile device will work.
  • Print out a paper copy of the licensethis is the same as the past, only it will be on standard computer paper.

By now some of you hunters may be wondering how you will tag game species that in the past had a printout tag such as: deer, bear, turkey, and goose.  For any species that requires an immediate tag upon harvesting, you’ll still have to validate a paper copy.  However, it will no longer be printed on the special film paper, but rather you can print off your tags at home or at a service department.  Validation will likely require marking with a pen, rather than slicing with a knife, and have a space allocated for you to write down the registration number.

Since this is all brand new for the Department of Natural Resources and details are limited, I urge you to follow along and keep updates on the new regulations attached to the paperless licensing system and elimination of back tags using the following links.

Wisconsin DNR Go Wild Initiative


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About The Author
From Woods to Table

AJ Gall

AJ Gall's prior hunting and wildlife experiences began long ago and make him the perfect contributing deer hunting guru.  As a habitat consultant under Dr. Grant Woods, AJ has worked on properties in 13 different states, amassing over 25,000 acres of quality deer management. He now uses that knowledge to help clients find their dream hunting properties as a licensed real estate agent in Wisconsin.  


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