LANSING – A new package of deer hunting regulations designed to simplify rules and remove barriers to participation was introduced to the Michigan Natural Resources Commission (NRC) earlier this month at the commission’s regular monthly meeting, which was conducted in an online and conference call format due to COVID-19 public health and safety concerns. 

The regulations, proposed for the 2020 deer hunting season, are scheduled for an NRC vote in June.

Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) deer program experts say the regulations, if approved, will provide additional opportunities and cost savings for hunters and offer flexibility in how hunters pursue deer. The DNR said it uses existing and projected data to gauge the impact of proposed regulations. The data shows that the projected changes will not have a significant negative effect on the deer herd or the quality of deer hunting, according to the DNR.

“These recommendations are aimed at making it easier for hunters of all ages and experience levels to enjoy a Michigan outdoor tradition, while at the same time facing the present and future challenges of managing the state’s deer population,” said Chad Stewart, the DNR’s deer, elk and moose program leader. “We hope that hunters across the state will take the opportunity to review the regulations and share their opinions, because their feedback is critical in shaping the future of deer hunting.”

Proposed regulation changes include:

Statewide

• Change Liberty and Independence hunt qualifications to include deaf people.

• Allow mentored youths (age 9 and younger), junior license holders (age 10-16) and apprentice license holders to be exempt from antler point restrictions in all seasons, in all deer management units (DMUs) and under all licenses.

• Require a 60% support threshold from a survey to prompt the DNR to recommend antler point restrictions (APRs) to the NRC, as decided by the 2019 APR work group. This replaces the 66% support threshold recommended by previous APR work groups. Additionally, failed APR initiatives would face a 10-year moratorium before another initiative would be considered.

• Change the statewide limit for antlerless license purchase to 10 per hunter. This limit offers maximum opportunity for those who wish to manage abundant deer on their property.

• Require hunter orange to be visible on occupied ground blinds.

• Standardize baiting practices (eliminate the requirement to use single-bite baits in select counties) during the Liberty and Independence hunts for hunters with disabilities.

Upper Peninsula

• Allow Upper Peninsula archers to resume pursuing antlerless deer in all DMUs with their deer/deer combination license.

• Remove remnant APRs on the deer license in parts of DMU 122.

Lower Peninsula

• In addition to the archery season, allow antlerless deer to be taken on the deer/deer combination license during the firearm and muzzleloader seasons in all Lower Peninsula DMUs.

• Open early and late antlerless seasons in all Lower Peninsula mainland DMUs.

• Allow antlerless deer to be taken on a deer/deer combination license during both the early and late antlerless seasons in the Lower Peninsula.

• Change antlerless quotas in select DMUs.

• Shorten muzzleloader season in the southern Lower Peninsula to 10 days and extend the late antlerless season to provide consistency between all regions of the state.

• Allow legal firearms to be used during the muzzleloader season in the southern Lower Peninsula.

• Scale carcass movement restrictions to areas most affected by chronic wasting disease. This eases some of the movement restrictions in parts of the state with a lower risk of harvesting a CWD-positive animal while still applying those restrictions to areas with the highest risk.

• Resume four-point restriction on combination license in select DMUs in the Lower Peninsula.

• Continue the expanded archery season through Jan. 31 for one more year in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties.

Read the full NRC proposal memo or the justifications behind the 2020 proposed regulation changes at Michigan.gov/Deer.

Hunters are encouraged to review the proposed regulations and share their feedback either through an anonymous survey or by email to NRC@Michigan.gov. All comments must be received by June 5 and will be shared with members of the Michigan Natural Resources Commission.