Deer Shining in Wisconsin
Deer shining has been practiced by hunters and non-hunters alike in Wisconsin for decades. Shining consists of using bright lights to spot locations of active deer herds. Since deer feel safer at night, they tend to be the most active during this time which is why hunters prefer to scout at night.
Tools used to shine deer include high powered, hand held lights-usually one million candle lights along with a pair of binoculars. The lights and binoculars can be found in any hunting/camping store or at amazon.com. Before shining it’s always a good idea to check on shining regulations in your area if you are unsure about what the laws in your county are.
My dad, his buddies, and I have been shining ever since I can remember. My mom and dad’s first date was shining deer as you can see, around here deer shining is a common pastime. Today my dad, our hunting buddies, and I deer shine to find where the deer have moved from year to year.
In the area where we hunt the DNR have been cutting down trees on public lands. With the cutting of habitat deer are constantly moving and knowing where they are relocating will help us better plan our deer stands and blinds come the fall hunting season.
- From September 15 to December 31 (during hunting season) shining is only allowed from sundown to 10 pm.
- January to September there is no time limit on shining. (For example we usually head out at sundown and shine until about 2 or 3 in the morning)
- You are not allowed to shine deer if you are in possession of or carrying a weapon in your vehicle.
- In addition, shining to aid in the hunting of deer or other animals is illegal.
- Fines for violating state laws are 2,000 dollars or more for shining while hunting and 300 when not hunting.
- It is a violation of federal law to shine at any time on any national wildlife refuge.
*Note: Be responsible, do not shine on people's houses or livestock. With spot lights being one million candlelight they can penetrate curtains and shine a mile or more instead of just a few hundred yards. You can shine private and public land as long as there are no signs stating otherwise, just be respectful when shining on people's private property.
It is also a good idea to double check local ordinances if you are not familiar with the land you want to shine. Some localities may have slightly different rules and regulations than what the DNR has listed on their site.
Why People Shine Deer:
- Most people find shining deer an enjoyment as well as an educational processes. Shining, for hunters is a way for prepping for the fall hunting season.
- Hunters use shining as a way to monitor the deer herds in the area. The DNR can over and under count deer populations and having the ability to see for yourself what is actually out on the lands you plan to hunt is a great tool. Preseason scouting is an important tool hunters use to place their deer stands for the fall season.
- Hunters also use shining for learning the patterns of the deer herds. Depending on food sources and habitats deer will produce more or less young. Following the deer and figuring out their food sources and migration patterns will greatly increase your chances of bagging that prize buck.
- Most hunters shine during the months of May, June, and July as the does are having their babies and the herds are growing and dispersing throughout the region.
Have you ever gone shining?
What to Bring:
Although Wisconsin can have warm nights driving along marsh roads can be a bit chilly. If you are planning to stay out late, remember that the earlier into the morning it gets, the colder the temperatures will become. Bringing a blanket along with a sweatshirt is a good idea. If you plan on holding the light all night a pair of gloves will keep your hand and fingers warm. Snacks and sodas are also a big plus. My family has a tradition of always stopping at this particular gas station to pick up goodies for the night.
If you know the area that you are shining bringing tennis shoes is a plus if you plan on getting out of the vehicle. In our area there are two artisan wells that we love to stop and fill up our bottles with water. Nothing tastes better than a good bottle of fresh clean artisan well water.
If we are so lucky to spot other wildlife my dad will stop and let us get out to better see and learn about the wildlife around us. We've got to experience Whippoorwills, snapping and painted turtles, and bats just to name a few. Sharing these moments with family is a great way to bond and learn about the animals that inhabit the marshes while they are in their natural habitat.
Reporting Illegal Uses of Shining:
If you see people using spot lights illegally whether it is for hunting or shining when it is not allowed, report them to the DNR. Whether you are a hunter or simply enjoy looking at deer in their natural habitat, shining in Wisconsin has great benefits. However, those that are doing it illegally can ruin the hobby for the rest of us. Right now we have a lot of freedom in regards to what time of night and even the month we would like to shine. I don't know about you, but I'd love to keep my shining freedom. Other states like Minnesota and Michigan for example only allow deer shining until 10 p.m. Or in other words two hours after sundown. Not much can be seen and learned in under two hours. I for one don't ever want to see our shining laws change due to poachers and those who choose to abuse the law. Reporting the illegal use of spotlights can help protect our shining laws and keep the DNR from creating stricter laws like our neighboring states.
Some people believe that shining deer harms the animal, however this is not true. Most deer will not stay in the light for long, in fact most will bolt after being spotted. If you have the capability of calling to the deer like my dad does, you can get the deer to turn back and look before they are gone back into the woods for good. However, most do not stay frozen for long. I have been shining for ten plus years and there is no harm when shining is done properly.