Going deer hunting with a firearm in Michigan? Here’s what to know

Photo Courtesy of David Kenyon via Michigan Department of Natural Resources photo archive.

By Lucas Henkel

November 14, 2023

Firearm deer hunting season kicks off Wednesday—here’s what Michiganders need to know.

Michigan’s 2023 firearm deer hunting season is officially here! From best practices to tips on how to avoid the most common hunting violations, here’s what conservation officers with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources say you should know before heading out to hunt this year:

Dress to impress

Wearing “hunter orange” isn’t just a fashion statement—it’s also a safety tool. Orange is one of the most highly visible colors to the human eye, even in low-light conditions. The DNR recommends that the color be worn as the outermost layer of clothing when Michiganders go out hunting. If you’re wearing camo, it’s required that at least 50% of your garment be hunter orange.

Speaking of safety, it’s also recommended that you tell a friend/family member when and where you’re going hunting in case of an emergency. Make sure your phone is fully charged before you head to your destination in case you need to call for help.

“I know a good spot”

Almost every hunter has their own “secret spot,” so it’s important to research and scout the land you plan to hunt on before opening day. State-managed land is a popular place to hunt—and the DNR provides plenty of ways to find the best place to make camp or set up a treestand in Michigan.

Remember, no one may hunt with a firearm within 450 feet of an occupied structure—including buildings, residences, cabins, barns, or structures used for farm operations—unless they have permission from the landowner. Rifle rounds travel long distances and can cause property damage. As a hunter, you are responsible for where your bullets end up.

Be mindful of posted trespassing signs and property boundaries. If your deer goes onto property marked as “no trespassing,” you must have the landowner’s permission to retrieve your game. Conservation officers—who are often asked to help resolve disputes between hunters and landowners during these situations—say confrontations over hunting spots are often due to hunters who picked a spot at the last minute.

Wherever you go, remember to clean up after yourself. Leaving trash in any form—from hand warmer wrappers to pop bottles—is illegal and may result in a fine.

Know your firearm and how it functions

Safely handling your firearm is a critical part of being a responsible hunter. Take the time to familiarize yourself with your firearm and make sure it’s working properly before you go hunting. When transporting firearms in vehicles—whether it’s to a shooting range or out in the woods—make sure they’re unloaded and in a case.

When you’re out hunting, keep the safety of your firearm on until you are prepared to take your shot, and only put your finger on the trigger when you’re ready to shoot. While you’re patiently waiting for a deer, keep the muzzle of your firearm pointed in a safe direction.

Be respectful of other hunters

During firearm hunting season, you may legally shoot game from 30 minutes before sunrise until 30 minutes after sunset. Any hunting outside of that timeframe could be reported as poaching to the DNR.

Michigan law prohibits anyone obstructing or interfering with the lawful taking of animals. Harassing another hunter and/or intentionally sabotaging their quality opportunity to take game is a misdemeanor in Michigan. Examples include spraying repellent around a hunter’s blind, creating loud noises or barriers that prevent or deter a hunter or game from accessing an area, or destroying another hunter’s equipment.

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, and monetary rewards may be offered for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of violators.

Retrieving and recording game

Congrats on bringing down your deer! Before you move it, a “kill tag” must be filled out and properly placed on the deer. The tag includes the deer’s gender, the number of antler points it has, and the date the deer was taken.

Hunters are required to report a successful harvest within 72 hours of the kill or before transferring possession of the deer—whether that be another person, processor, or taxidermist. This year, instead of reporting the exact harvest location, hunters will only need to indicate the general area of the harvest. Michiganders can file their deer harvest through the digital reporting tool on the DNR’s website.

For more information on the firearm deer hunting season, hunting safety, lands open to hunting, and more, visit Michigan.gov/Hunting

Author

  • Lucas Henkel

    Lucas Henkel is a multimedia reporter who strives to inform and inspire local communities. Before joining The 'Gander, Lucas served as a journalist for the Lansing City Pulse.

CATEGORIES: COMMUNITY | NATURE

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