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Deer Shining in Wisconsin

Cholee is an avid hunter of more than ten years. She grew up in a family where she gained first hand knowledge of the trade.

The ultimate guide to deer shining.

The ultimate guide to deer shining.

What Is Deer Shining?

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 or big box store like Walmart. 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. As you can see, around here deer shining is a favorite pastime. Today, my dad, our hunting buddies, and I shine to find where the deer have moved from the past year.

In the area where we hunt the DNR have been cutting down trees on public lands. With the cutting of their 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.

Deer shining is a favorite pastime in my area.

Deer shining is a favorite pastime in my area.

Wisconsin's Regulations:

  • From September 15 to December 31 (during hunting season) shining is only allowed from sundown to 10 p.m.
  • From 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 spotlights 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

  1. 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.
  2. 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 hunting season.
  3. Hunters also use shining for learning the patterns of the deer herds. Depending on food sources and changes to their habitat, deer will produce more or less young. Following the deer and figuring out their food sources and migration patterns from food to bedding down, will greatly increase your chances of bagging that prize buck.
  4. Most hunters shine during the months of May, June, and July as the does are having babies and the herds are growing and dispersing throughout the region.

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 drinks are also a big plus. My family has a tradition of always stopping at a particular gas station to stock up on goodies for the night.

If you know the area that you are shining, bringing tennis shoes or even knee high boots is also a plus; especially if you plan on getting out of the vehicle. In our area there are two artisan wells that we love to stop at and fill up our empty bottles. 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 have had the pleasure of experiencing Whippoorwills, owls, snapping and painted turtles, 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 is great family fun.

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, for only two hours after sundown. Not much can be seen 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 laws. Reporting the illegal use of spotlights can help protect our shining laws and keep the DNR from creating stricter regulations like in 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.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: Can you deer shine the week before rifle season?

Answer: Yes you can. Shining is allowed between September 15th through December 31st from dusk until 10p.m. From 10p.m. to 7a.m. shining is not allowed during the aforementioned dates.

Question: What counties is it illegal to deer shine?

Answer: As far as I am aware it is legal to shine in all Wisconsin counties as long as you are following the laws.

I believe counties can make their own statues/laws in addition to the state laws, but in no WI county is it illegal to shine.

Question: Is it illegal for the driver to be using the spotlight in Wisconsin?

Answer: As far as shining laws go, no it's not illegal. Although, it could potentially fall under Wi's distracted driving laws.

The driver of our vehicle almost always was in charge of one of the two spotlights. We've been stopped by DNR personal as well as county police officers and were never sighted for any violations.

As long as you are safe, know the area well, and are experienced I do not see a problem with the driver using the spotlight. Most of the time your vehicle will be moving very slowly; if it's moving at all while the spotlights are being shined out of the window.

© 2012 Cholee Clay


Cholee Clay (author) from Wisconsin on August 18, 2014:

It's people like that, that give shining a bad rap. Most people shining homes are shining illegally and recklessly and are the ones that we need to look out for, so we can protect the deer population and the sport of shining.

All shiners I know have scouted the area they are going to shine, as they hunt that area every year and know where every house, barn, and abandoned buildings are. It's almost always the inexperienced and illegal shiners we need to keep an eye out for.

screwirresponsibleshiners on August 10, 2014:

Shining is all good and fine until you get that idiot that's shining in your windows at 12 am

Cholee Clay (author) from Wisconsin on October 14, 2012:

moonlake: Thanks for the comment and voting! It's sad to hear about those few people who still refuse to follow simple rules and regulations. It's people like that who will ultimately ruin it for those who actually partake in shining the proper way.

If people aren't careful and follow the rules, I'm sure shining will likely be banned all over the United States. I already know of a few states where it is no longer legal to shine deer, because of people poaching.

moonlake from America on October 13, 2012:

We have fields across the road from us that always have deer in them and some big bucks along with coyotes and wolf. We see people shining here all the time. One night we saw a car shining then heard a gun shot. Out of season. Interesting hub voted uP!

Cholee Clay (author) from Wisconsin on July 08, 2012:

aShLeYbIc- We take my dad's friend's little girl and my puppy when we go shining sometimes and they love it. The way her face lights up is priceless:)

Hope you and your kids get to enjoy many more nights of shining. Last time we went we only saw 64 or so, a bad night for us as we usually see upwards to 150 to 200 deer in one night.

aShLeYbIc on July 08, 2012:

I love shining for deer! I did it all the time when I was a kid! I now take my own kids with me to shine for deer! They love it!! :) My 5 year old was shining and he got to see a Doe with her fawn! It was soo cute to see his reaction! :)