Bear hunting

Video wisconsin bear hunting tips

Purchase A Hunting License

Wisconsin has made it easy to buy licenses and registrations. Hunters can purchase a license and preference points through their Go Wild account or at a license sale location.

To hunt black bears in Wisconsin, you must possess a Class A bear license.

You may obtain a Class A bear license by:

  • being selected in the bear drawing,
  • participating in the Learn to Bear Hunt Program,
  • receiving a Class A bear license transfer via the Awarded Permit Transfers Program,
  • the Deceased Customer Preference Approval Transfer [PDF]

How To Apply For The Class A Bear License

More hunters apply than the number of annual licenses available. According to state statute, Class A licenses, also called harvest permits or kill tags, are awarded through a “preference point lottery system.” To be authorized to purchase a Class A license, you must be a drawing winner. You may apply once yearly and buy a preference point or ask to be included in the drawing. If you are not a drawing winner, one preference point will be added to your total.

The number of preference points needed to be a drawing winner depends on several variables, including the number of harvest permits allotted for the upcoming season, the number of applicants and the bear management zone you wish to hunt.

Check out the 2024 Bear License Drawing Summary for details about the drawing for the 2024 season.

Where To Apply

Applications for a Class A bear license can be made online or at any license sales location. Please note paper applications are no longer available. The deadline for bear season applications is always on Dec. 10. before the season.

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When To Apply For A Preference Point Only

Some hunters may not wish to hunt the upcoming bear season but would still like to accumulate a preference point. The bear application allows the applicant to specify a preference point-only application, which does not place them in the drawing. Once an applicant is a drawing winner, they are authorized to purchase a Class A license and their preference point total returns to zero. Their preference point total is reset to zero even if, for some reason, they cannot or choose not to hunt bears that year.

The preference point-only option is excellent when an applicant does not risk being a drawing winner but still wishes to increase their preference point total.

Check Your Preference Points

There are three ways hunters can determine the number of preference points they have accumulated. You must apply for a bear license or preference point at least once every three years to avoid losing your accumulated preference points. To find out how many points you have accumulated:

  • contact the DNR Call Center at 1-888-936-7463;
  • visit the online licensing center; or
  • contact your local DNR Service Center.

Group Applications

A maximum of four people who wish to hunt together may apply for a Class A bear hunting license as a group. In this scenario, all group members will share the same result (successful or unsuccessful) in the license lottery. Each group must designate a group leader, and the group leader’s DNR customer I.D. number must be written on each group member’s application in the designated section when applying. If group members have different preference point statuses, the lowest preference point status is used for the entire group in the drawing. Group members must each apply for identical zones; if different, the group leader’s choice will be used.

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How Are Drawing Winners Notified

The bear drawing is held in early-mid February. Shortly after the drawing, the department will send a postcard notifying drawing winners they are authorized to purchase a Class A bear license.

You may also check your drawing results online by accessing your DNR Customer account. After the drawing, accounts will be updated to notify the drawing winners that they have been authorized to purchase a Class A license. The permit applicant must know their drawing status and whether they were selected for purchasing a harvest permit. If selected in the drawing, your preference point total will return to zero even if you do not purchase the Class A bear license.

Transfer A Permit Or Preference Points

A person authorized to purchase a license for a permit or harvest authorization issued under a cumulative preference drawing may transfer their awarded permit or harvest authorization to another who meets the required qualifications. Generally, preference points may not be transferred. However, a surviving spouse, personal representative, guardian or trustee (designee) may authorize a transfer of awarded permits, harvest authorizations or accumulated preference points/preference category from a deceased individual to a minor. Please visit the Awarded Permit or Harvest Authorizations Transfers page to learn more.

Miscellaneous Notes About The Bear Application Process

  • You must apply at least once every three years, or your preference point total returns to zero.
  • Residents and non-residents are treated equally in the drawing.
  • Preference points are not associated with a specific bear management zone. Specify the bear management zone only when requesting to be included in the bear drawing.