The Deer Tagging Process Explained

Wildlife populations in the United States are very carefully managed, and hunting is a part of that ecosystem that keeps the populations in check. Non-hunters often believe that shooting is causing populations to decrease, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Hunting is managed precisely to ensure that only a sustainable number of deer are harvested each year. Plus, the money from hunting goes back into ensuring that not only the deer population but other wildlife can flourish in the area. Without hunting the wildlife and natural habitat would suffer.

What is a Tag?

To ensure that these populations are managed carefully, preventing over-harvesting but also ensuring that enough are killed each season, you need a tag. A tag is literal and figurative, it’s a physical tag that you attach to a dead animal, and figuratively it gives you the legal right to hunt a single deer.

How Can I Get a Tag?

Tags differ depending on the state in which you live, but they are usually available either through a lottery or by purchasing over the counter. In large counties you can often apply or buy a tag to hunt in a specific area, meaning that you only have the legal right to harvest a deer from that area and any other location would be illegal.

Premium tags for areas with high deer populations and where people like to hunt tend to be given by lottery, while less popular areas can be purchased OTC. It’s also normally possible to purchase tags online, but many prefer to do so in person because a mailing issue could prevent you from hunting for weeks because you must have the tag on you at all times.

What Can I Hunt?

Tags are available for different types of deer. Typically a deer tag will require that the animal is over a few years old, has fully developed antlers and is in the location where the tag is designated. However, some tags are for antlerless deer, in which case you can hunt does as well as species that don’t have fully developed or any antlers.

You must be very careful to ensure that the animals that you kill are the same as those on your tag. Failure to do so is likely to lead to a heavy fine. To prevent this, it’s important to understand what you’re looking for and to hunt with a friend if you are a beginner.

Handling a Kill

Once you have killed an animal, you must know what to do next. Having a tag and killing the right animal isn’t enough, you must follow the instructions for your state to the letter to prevent a fine or other legal action.

Tagging the Animal

Usually, the first step will be to tag the animal. Once you have found the animal, you should ensure that it is dead before attaching the tag otherwise the deer could kick or bite which could cause serious injury. You can check it’s dead by making plenty of noise and stamping around, before poking it gently and looking for movement.

To attach the tag, you typically want to choose either the neck or a leg. The neck is the obvious choice, but if you are removing the head in the forest, you should attach the tag to the deer’s leg very tightly to ensure that it doesn’t fall off.

Check Stations

Depending on your state rules you may be required to bring any kills to a checking station where they will confirm that the animal matches the tag that you have. At this point, they may check it for disease and other biological data which allows them to keep track of the population and learn more about the species in the area.

Cutting the Animal

Once you begin to butcher the animal, either yourself or through a third-party service, the tagging requirements are usually removed, meaning that you can throw the tag away if you wish.

Getting More Tags

Should you decide that you want to continue hunting, you may be able to apply for more tags, but usually, these will have been taken. In this case, buying tags over the counter is typically the only way to be able to hunt more animals in a single season.

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