Lansing, MI — November 14, 2022
For Michigan sportsmen and sportswomen who love to hunt whitetail deer, this evening is almost like the night before Christmas when you were a child. The anticipation is enough to keep you awake and staring at the ceiling. It has been 50 weeks since the final day of the firearms deer hunting season last year.
Some hunters head to deer camps in the northern lower or upper peninsula. Others will visit local fields they have been scouting for months. No matter where you hunt, the hope of sighting a huge buck with handsome antlers is on the minds of everyone who will be heading out to a bind or treestand in the early morning hours.
Hunters can expect excellent conditions for the 2022 firearm deer season, which begins Tuesday, November 15. To ensure a safe season, Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officers are sharing best practices and tips to avoid the most common violations and mistakes they see every year.
Hunt Safe, Know the Law
“Most of the violations conservation officers encounter during firearm deer season are simple mistakes people make when they get caught up in the excitement of the hunt or forget to put safety first,” said F/Lt. Jason Wicklund, DNR Law Enforcement Division. “Our top priority is keeping people safe, so they have a good story to tell friends and family about their successful hunt.”
1 – Properly Tag Your Deer
Before field-dressing or moving a deer, kill tags should be filled out (including the month and date the deer was taken and the deer’s gender, and the number of antler points) and properly placed on the deer. Conservation officers often see the wrong kill tag on downed game. Such as fish or turkey licenses on deer. Often, this is a simple mistake made in the dark and can be corrected by re-tagging the deer as soon as you notice the error. Remember, too, that reporting your deer within 72 hours of harvest is just as important as tagging it. Everything hunters need to know is available on the DNR’s harvest reporting webpage.
2 – Know Your Firearm and How it Functions
Take the time to familiarize yourself with your firearm and make sure it is properly sighted and functioning before you go hunting. If it’s been a while since you used your firearm, consider visiting a local shooting range to shoot some live rounds. Safely handling your firearm is an important part of being a responsible hunter.
3 – Know Your Target and What’s Beyond It
Know the area you’ll be hunting, including nearby buildings and properties. No one may hunt with a firearm within 450 feet of an occupied structure (including buildings, dwellings, homes, residences, cabins, barns, or structures used for farm operations) unless they have permission from the landowner.
Each year, conservation officers investigate property damage caused by firearms. Rifle rounds travel long distances – hunters are responsible for where bullets end up.
4 – Respect Landowner Rights
Always respect posted trespassing signs and property boundaries. If a deer runs onto private property, the hunter cannot retrieve it without the landowner’s permission. Conservation officers usually are contacted when trespass disagreements escalate, and a resolution cannot be reached.
If you are hunting near someone else’s property, contact the landowner ahead of time; don’t wait until you’re tracking game. Most of the time, a friendly call or visit to your neighbor will remedy the situation.
5 – Share Public Land
Research and scout the land you plan to hunt before opening day. State-managed land is a popular place to hunt. Confrontations over hunting spots, or the illegal posting of trespassing or hunting signs on state-managed public land, do occur. Conservation officers, who are often asked to help resolve disputes, say the main reason for these situations is usually last-minute hunters who randomly pick a spot.
Brush, constructed blinds, and tree stands on public land are just that – public. Regardless of who constructed, purchased, or tends to these blinds, when they’re on state-managed public land, they are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Public land cannot be posted or reserved.
Tree stands used on public land must be portable and have the hunter’s name, address, and Michigan driver’s license number or DNR sport card number affixed in legible English that can easily be read from the ground. Hunting platforms cannot be affixed or attached to any tree by nails, screws, or bolts.
6 – Leave the Land Better Than You Found It
Practice the “leave no trace” ethic and don’t litter. Whatever is brought into the woods must be taken back out. It is the responsibility of all hunters to be good environmental stewards and clean up after themselves.
Leaving propane bottles, hand-warmer wrappers, food wrappers, bottles, and other trash is illegal and may result in a fine.
7 – Wear Hunter Orange
Hunters are required by law to wear hunter orange as the outermost layer of clothing at all times. Hunter orange garments, including camouflage, must be at least 50% hunter orange and be visible from all directions. Clothing options include a cap, hat, vest, jacket, or raincoat, and must remain on even if you are in a hunting blind. The DNR recommends wearing as much hunter orange as possible to increase visibility to other hunters.
8 – Know and Follow Baiting Regulations
Baiting and feeding are banned in the entire Lower Peninsula and in the core chronic wasting disease surveillance area in the Upper Peninsula (portions of Delta, Dickinson, and Menominee counties) except for hunters with disabilities who meet specific requirements.
In approved U.P. baiting areas, 2 gallons of bait can be spread in an area that measures 10 feet by 10 feet. On commercial forest land, the bait must be brought in each night unless the landowner has given permission. Use bait sparingly to help curb the spread of diseases like bovine tuberculosis and chronic wasting disease.
9 – Hunt In-season, During Legal Hours
During firearm season, a hunter may legally shoot game starting 30 minutes before sunrise and until 30 minutes after sunset. Anyone who witnesses or suspects hunting outside of legal hours should immediately call or text the DNR’s Report All Poaching hotline at 800-292-7800. Fast reporting makes it more likely that a conservation officer will identify the suspect.
10 – Be Respectful to Other Hunters
Michigan law prohibits anyone obstructing or interfering with the lawful taking of animals. Hunter harassment – when a person or organization intentionally sabotages another hunter’s quality opportunity to take game – is a misdemeanor offense. Examples include spraying repellent around a hunter’s blind, creating loud noises and/or barriers that prevent or deter a hunter or game from accessing an area, or destroying other hunters’ equipment, such as trail cameras and blinds.
Anyone who feels targeted by hunter harassment or who witnesses a natural resource violation should immediately call or text the Report All Poaching Hotline line at 800-292-7800. Information can be left anonymously; monetary rewards may be offered for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of violators.
For more information on the firearm deer season, hunting safety, lands open to hunting, hunting digests, and more, visit Michigan.gov/Hunting.
Michigan conservation officers are fully commissioned law enforcement officers who provide natural resources protection, ensure recreational safety and protect residents through general law enforcement and conducting lifesaving operations in the communities they serve. Learn more at Michigan.gov/ConservationOfficers.
Have Fun, Stay Safe, and Best of Luck for a Successful Hunt.
Attention Deer Hunters, The DNR is Asking for Your Help
If you see a bear den in the northern Lower Peninsula, let us know. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources asks hunters and others who spend time outdoors to keep an eye out for bear dens while in the field this fall and – if they find one – to report the location to the DNR to help with an ongoing bear management program.
If you find a bear den in the northern Lower Peninsula, record the location with a GPS unit, if possible, and contact Mark Boersen at 989-275-5151 or BoersenM@Michigan.gov with specific location information.
The DNR is looking for locations of denned bears in the northern Lower Peninsula to grow the surrogate sow program, which places orphaned bear cubs with mother bears. After locating a bear den, DNR wildlife biologists will determine whether the animal is a good candidate to join the program and if so, will fit the bear with a radio tracking device.
“Information gathered from the bears assists in managing the black bear population,” said Boersen, a wildlife biologist working out of the DNR Roscommon Customer Service Center. “The goal is to have eight or nine sows in the program. We currently are monitoring four females from aircraft and the ground.”
Bears selected for the program will be sedated and fitted with a collar and ear tags. A small, nonfunctional tooth will be collected to determine the bear’s age and to provide a DNA sample. Upon completion of the short procedure, biologists will carefully return the bear to its den, where it will sleep through the remainder of the winter months.
As a reminder, it is illegal to disturb, harm, or molest a bear or bear den. Those who think they have found a den should report it and allow DNR biologists to investigate further.
Learn more about bears and bear management in Michigan at Michigan.gov/Bear.