Fall in the Mitten State can mean many things: trips to the cider mill; planning for Halloween and Thanksgiving; and the start of football season for Wolverines, Spartans and Lions alike. One other thing Michiganders know how to enjoy in the autumn is getting outdoors, whether to try new activities or practice time-honored traditions.
Autumn in Michigan can be a great time for fishing, hunting, and riding off-road vehicles (ORVs) in the natural beauty of the Wolverine State. But for those who are new to these activities, getting started can be a little intimidating. Here’s some important information on what equipment and permits you’ll need, when the season begins and ends, and some suggestions for neat places to check out across the state as you enjoy your new hobbies.
Getting a fishing license is straightforward and affordable for Michiganders. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) issues annual all-species fishing licenses, good from March 1 through March 31 of the following year, for just $26 per person so long as you’re a Michigan resident. You can buy your fishing license in person at a licensed retailer or online for your convenience.
If you want to bring your kids along or show nieces and nephews from out of town the fun of fishing in the Mitten, there’s good news: Michigan does not require fishing licenses for those under 18, regardless of where they reside, though optional youth licenses are available for $2.
Once you’re licensed and have your gear ready (ask at your local outdoor supply store about which kinds of rods and tackle are best for the area and type of fishing you’re angling for), it’s time to head to the water. As a Great Lakes state, Michigan is home to a variety of great fishing spots including lakes, bays, and rivers where you can fish for salmon, steelhead, walleye, and more. And if you’re lucky enough to have a successful catch, you’re welcome to clean and cook it for a delicious dinner.
The Michigan DNR is also responsible for hunting licenses, which can be purchased for a variety of game such as deer (with or without antlers), waterfowl, wild turkey, and, by special application, larger and more exotic game. You’ll need a base license for whatever type of hunting you plan to do, which costs $11 for state residents with discounts for youths and seniors.
When hunting, be sure to only use a longbow and arrows, a permitted hunting rifle, or if you have a license to do so, a permitted crossbow. Hunting laws around weaponry and the times permitted for hunting are strictly regulated in Michigan for reasons of safety and conservation, so it’s important to do your homework. When you’re out, be sure you’re wearing bright safety clothing so other hunters can see you. Awful accidents can happen when people are mistaken for game.
Game you’ve hunted can make for food, clothing, and other traditional uses like carvings from deer bones. Try looking up some recipes and ideas for storing wild turkey and venison to make the most of a successful hunting trip.
Want to explore parts unknown on wheels? Off-road vehicles are a fun way to move around in nature and take a wild ride through Michigan’s great outdoors. Michigan is home to more than 4,000 miles of state-designated ORV trails as well as eligible country roads and state and national forest routes. In wintertime, you can also legally enjoy ORV riding on the frozen surfaces of public waters—but be very sure to check if the ice is thick enough to support your vehicle.
To ride your ORV on designated country roads, forest trails, and frozen public waters, you’ll need an ORV license, which can be purchased online or in designated retailers for $26.25 and remains valid for one year. For ORV trails, you’ll need an ORV trail permit, which is an additional $10 on top of your license. Young Michiganders can also enjoy ORV riding, although those under 16 will need to complete a mandatory safety course. Remember to follow trail etiquette, including staying on the trails, being aware of two-way traffic, yielding to uphill drivers, and more. Be sure to check in advance on the Michigan DNR website before you hit the trails—some weekends are open to ORV riders without a permit, meaning you can expect crowds, while certain trails are closed to ORV riders during hunting season. Once you’ve found your trail and confirmed that it’s accessible, you’ll be ready to ride.
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