Michigan DNR Wants Hunter Input on Proposed 2020 Deer Hunting Regulations

LANSING — It may still be spring, but already thoughts are turning to an autumnal Michigan tradition.

Amid the current COVID-19 pandemic, the Michigan Natural Resources Commission met recently via an online and conference call format for its regularly scheduled meeting. One of the topics discussed was a new package of deer hunting regulations designed to simplify rules and remove barriers to participation. The proposed regulations, if adopted at the NRC”s upcoming June meeting, would be for the upcoming 2020 deer hunting season.

If approved DNR officials believe the new regulations will provide additional opportunities and cost savings for hunters and offer flexibility in how hunters pursue deer. The DNR is using existing and projected data to gauge the impact of proposed regulations.

The data shows the projected changes will not have a significant negative effect on the deer herd or the quality of deer hunting.

“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,‘ Chad Stewart, the DNR’s deer, elk and moose program leader said. “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.‘

WHAT ARE THE PROPOSED CHANGES?

The proposed changes include a set that is statewide, a set for the Upper Peninsula, and a set for the Lower Peninsula. The Lower Peninsula has the most proposed regulations with nine, followed by the statewide with six and two for the Upper Peninsula.

The proposed statewide changes include:

• 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 workgroup. This replaces the 66% support threshold recommended by previous APR workgroups. 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.

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• 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.

The proposed changes in the Upper Peninsula include:

• 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.

The proposed changes in the Lower Peninsula include:

• 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.

LOCAL IMPACT

DNR Deer Program Biologist Ashley Autenrieth the first thing she wants hunters to understand is that the proposed regulations are not a done deal. She also said there are quite a few proposed changes but the idea is to ensure they help to simplify things for hunters.

An example of that is the proposed regulation that allows antlerless deer to be taken on the deer/deer combination license during the firearm and muzzleloader seasons in all Lower Peninsula DMUs. This would be in addition to the archery season.

“What we are doing you are making it so license, single deer and combo, are good for a buck or two bucks, but also antlerless deer during all of our seasons,” she said. “When we went into this regulation cycle, we wanted simplification of regulations and opportunities for hunters. So from the perspective for both, we are accomplishing that.”

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While the new regulations also address things like APR and the threshold needed for new areas to incorporate them, these proposed regulations do nothing to remove the baiting ban that is in place.

In August 2018, the Michigan Natural Resources Commission released its new regulations designed to combat the spread of chronic wasting disease. These new regulations include a statewide ban on the use of all-natural cervid urine-based lures and attractants, except for lures that are approved by the Archery Trade Association. It also included is an immediate ban on baiting and feeding in the 16-county area identified as the CWD Management Zone. This area includes Calhoun, Clinton, Eaton, Gratiot, Hillsdale, Ingham, Ionia, Isabella, Jackson, Kent, Mecosta, Montcalm, Muskegon, Newaygo, Ottawa, and Shiawassee counties.

A ban on baiting and feeding in the Lower Peninsula, effective Jan. 31, 2019, also was part of the new regulations. There is an exception to this ban for hunters with disabilities who meet specific requirements. The start date on this regulation also was intended to allow bait producers and retailers time to adjust to the new rule.

With a lot of uncertainty due to COVID-19, Autenrieth said the DNR, like many agencies, businesses, and residents, are planning for the worst and hoping for the best. That means figuring out how to serve customers in case of a second wave happens at some point this year.

“We are hoping to have a game plan for what the season will look like by mid-summer,” she said.

LOOKING FOR INPUT FROM HUNTERS

Hunters or anyone else who wants to read the full NRC proposal memo or the justifications behind the 2020 proposed deer hunting regulation changes can see them at michigan.gov/deer.

Hunters also are encouraged to review the proposed regulations and share their feedback either through an anonymous survey or by email to [email protected]. All the comments must be received by June 5 and will be shared with members of the NRC.

“They (hunters) certinaly have the opportunity to send comments in and we want to hear from them,” Autenrieth said.

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