Top 10 Best Practices for Michigan’s Firearm Deer Season

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Department of Natural Resources, Lansing, MI — November 6, 2023

Michigan’s firearm deer season is just over one week away. The traditional November 15th opener will see thousands of deer hunters head afield for that trophy buck or the winter’s meat supply.

Blake Boan shows off his trophy buck taken during bow hunting season. Firearm hunters will take to the woods on November 15th.

With the season approaching, many hunters are busy scouting land, watching trail cameras, and preparing equipment for opening day. 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.

Here Are 10 of the Best Practices for Deer Hunters to Remember

Properly Tag Your Deer
Before field-dressing or moving a deer, kill tags must be filled out (including the month and date the deer was taken and the deer’s gender and number of antler points) and properly placed on the deer. Conservation officers often see the wrong kill tag on 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 Hunt, Fish app.

Know Your Firearm and How It Functions
Safely handling your firearm is an important part of being a responsible hunter. 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 practice. Many ranges have extended hours this time of year. You can locate a shooting range through the DNR’s Hunt Fish app.

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.

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’ll be 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.

Share Public Land
Research and scout the land you plan to hunt before opening day. State-managed land is a popular place to hunt. Conservation officers often respond to confrontations over hunting spots, blocking of roads, and illegally posting “no trespassing” or “no hunting” signs on state-managed public land. Conservation officers, who are often asked to help resolve these disputes, say hunter confrontations over hunting spots are often due to 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 one of the following affixed in legible English that can easily be read from the ground: the hunter’s name and address, complete driver’s license number, or DNR Sportcard number. Hunting platforms cannot be affixed or attached to any tree by nails, screws, or bolts.

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.

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.

Know and Follow Baiting Regulations
Baiting and feeding are banned in the entire Lower Peninsula.

In the Upper Peninsula, baiting may occur from Sept. 15 to Jan. 1. Bait volume at any hunting site cannot exceed 2 gallons. Bait must be spread on the ground and in an area that measures a minimum of 10 feet by 10 feet or its equivalent. Mechanical spin-cast feeders are legal to use, provided the spin-cast feeder does not distribute more than the maximum volume allowed. On commercial forest land, 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.

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.

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 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 licensed 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.

Most of all, have a safe hunt and enjoy all the great outdoor features Michigan offers.