Archaic peoples got their food by hunting wild animals and gathering wild plants. As the climate changed during the Archaic period, the type and availability of plants and animals also changed. People living during this time needed to adapt to these changes. People did not need to hunt in large groups, unlike the earlier Paleo peoples who had hunted big animals such as mammoths and mastodons. These large animals were now extinct. People began to do more individualized hunting of small game. Elk and deer could be found throughout the state. Moose and caribou were still in the northern part of the state. People also hunted smaller game like raccoons, rabbits, beaver, birds and aquatic resources like fish and shellfish.
Deer became the most important game animal hunted in Wisconsin, a title it has kept to the present day. The deer was the perfect size for a single hunter to kill, butcher, and return to the camp. The deer was the source of meat, fat, hides for clothing and shelter, and bone and antler for tools. Virtually every part of the animal was used. The tendons were used for sinew to bind spear points to their haft. The bones were cracked open to get the bone marrow.
Archaeologists find evidence of domesticated dogs at some Archaic sites. Dogs would have helped in hunting, guarded the camps, and might have served as a source of food in hard times.
Plant foods became important during this time. They used mainly nuts, but seeds, fruits and berries were also important. Archaeologists find the first nutting stones and date them to this time. These stones were used for the bulk processing of nuts and other plants. They may have collected wild gourds for use as containers.