Ask a CO: Explaining the tagging system

by Editorial Staff | November 16, 2021
a 2021 deer tag
Photo from

Q: When do I have to invalidate (notch) my tag?
A: If you are the tag holder for that animal, you must invalidate the tag immediately after the kill, at the site of the kill. The animal cannot be moved until the tag holder arrives at the kill site and invalidates the tag.

Q: Do I still have to tag the animal?
A: You must tag the animal if you are no longer immediately accompanying the animal or no longer immediately available to produce the tag for inspection. For example, if you are transporting the animal in a vehicle which you are not in, or if you are going back out hunting. Generally, if you can no longer see the animal, your tag should be on it. Don’t forget – the tag must be invalidated by the tag holder at the kill site before the animal is moved.

Leave tags securely attached

Q: Can I take the tag off the animal?
A: If you are the person whose tag is on the animal, you may take the tag off. However, as soon as you are no longer immediately accompanying the animal, or no longer immediately available to produce the tag for inspection, the tag must go back on the animal. Taking tags off and back on may result in the tag becoming worn, making it difficult to keep it intact and legible. The best practice is to leave the tag, securely attached, on the animal.

Q: Does the tag have to be on when I leave an animal at the butcher shop?
A: Yes. When you leave the animal at the butcher shop, you are no longer immediately accompanying it, so the tag must be placed on the animal in accordance with the instructions that accompanied the tag.

Q: How far can I be from the animal and not have to tag it?
A: While the law does not specify a distance, generally if you cannot see the animal, or are not in a position to immediately produce the tag to a conservation officer inspecting the animal, the tag must be securely attached to the animal following the instructions that accompanied the tag.

The processing stage

Q: What if I want to take the head (of a deer) to a taxidermist?
A: If you wish to take the head of a deer to a taxidermist, you must first butcher the carcass and prepare the meat for long-term storage. In the case of deer, the instructions that accompany the tag require that the head of the animal be kept with the carcass until it has been transported to the site of processing and is being processed for long-term storage. This means actually being cut up and frozen, canned, smoked or prepared in some other fashion for long-term storage.

Q: What do I do with the tag if I process the meat of my bear at camp?
A: Once your bear meat has been processed for long-term storage, such as being cut up and frozen, canned or smoked, the tag no longer needs to go on the animal. Note, though, that simply deboning the bear to take to a butcher to make into sausage does not constitute being prepared for long-term storage. You must either continue to accompany the meat, or attach the tag in accordance with the instructions to the tendon of one of the hind legs.

David Critchlow (Provincial Enforcement Specialist, MNDMNRF)

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Originally published in the Nov.-Dec. 2020 issue of Ontario OUT of DOORS magazine. Ask a CO is also a regular feature in the print edition.

Please check the most recent Ontario hunting and fishing regulations summaries, as rules and regulations can change.

For more instalments of Ask a CO, click here

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  1. Michael Quaiattini wrote: I applied for a deer tag...paid the fee never got a tag i need to do a report for MNR still?
    • Meghan Sutherland wrote: Michael, You should contact the MNDMNRF about your lost tag. Here is a link to their contact page: