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Michigan Hunting Seasons

HECS Hunting

January 18, 2023

With more than 340,000 acres of state-owned game areas, national forest land, and private lands with public access, Michigan is a virtual playground for hunters.

With low license costs and a high deer population, hunting in the Great Lakes State is an experience unlike any other. The state has a variety of open seasons for deer, wild turkeys, rabbits, grouse, and even feral pigeons. 

Before you set off on your next adventure, you’ll need to know the dates for the various Michigan hunting seasons. That way, you can plan to apply for the proper licenses and get the gear you need to hunt successfully.

Deer Hunting Season in Michigan

Michigan has the second largest deer population in the country, with an estimated two million deer. In 2021, 600,000 hunters harvested 53% of the deer population.

Hunters, your chances of punching a tag this deer season are high, so if you want to join the ranks of successful Michigan hunters, here’s what you need to know.  

Deer Hunting Season Dates

Michigan deer season kicks off with the Liberty Hunt, a special hunt where youth, veterans with disabilities, and qualifying individuals with disabilities can bag one deer. The Independence Hunt is an additional season that offers hunters with disabilities a four-day firearm hunt. 

For those looking to participate in the early and late antlerless hunt, be aware that hunting can only occur on private land. The upper peninsula of Michigan is closed off during these antlerless deer hunts. 

SeasonDates
Liberty HuntSeptember 10th & 11th
Early Antlerless Deer HuntingSeptember 17th & 18th
Independence HuntOctober 13th – October 16th
Archery SeasonOctober 1st – November 14th December 1st – January 1st
Regular Firearm SeasonNovember 15th – November 30th
Muzzleloader SeasonDecember 2nd – December 11th
Late Antlerless Deer HuntingDecember 12th – January 1st

The bag limit for each deer season is one deer. Hunters can purchase extra tags to harvest additional deer, however, there is a statewide limit of two antlered bucks per license year. 

Hunting season spans Michigan’s coldest months, so be sure to bring the right deer hunting gear to increase your chances of bagging a buck this year!

Where to Hunt in Michigan

In Michigan, you can hunt on federal Forest Service and Fish and Wildlife Service lands, state wildlife areas, forests, national parks, and open private lands. Here are some of the most popular places for deer hunting in the state:

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources makes it easy to find a prime area near you with Mi-Hunt. Use the app to see boundaries for public or private land and access helpful information for planning your hunt, including trails, ground cover data, and nearby recreational facilities. 

Approved Hunting Equipment in Michigan

There are two zones for deer hunting — the limited firearm zone in the southern half of the Lower Peninsula and the northern zone. Here’s what you can use to hunt deer in Michigan in the limited firearm zone during firearm deer season:

  • Shotgun with a smooth or rifled barrel and of any gauge
  • Muzzleloading rifle or a black powder handgun
  • A .35-caliber or larger conventional handgun, air gun, or rifle
  • Bow and arrow
  • Crossbow

North of the limited firearm deer zone, you can hunt with any caliber of firearm except for a .22-caliber or smaller, as well as a crossbow and bow.

See the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Hunting Digest for more details. 

Cost of Deer Hunting Licenses 

Each year, residents and non-residents must apply for base and deer licenses. Before getting a license for the first time, hunters born after 1960 must complete an approved hunting safety course.

Here are the costs for licenses for this deer season:

JuniorResidentNon-residentSenior
Base License$6$11$151$8
Antlerless Deer license$20$20$20$20
Deer LicenseN/A$20$20$8

Residents and non-residents of any age can purchase a universal antlerless deer license for $20. This hunting license allows individuals to harvest one deer from any public or private land within a Deer Management Unit (DMU) in Michigan. Hunters can view DMU areas on the Department of Natural Resources website.  

Once you purchase a base license, you can also buy your hunting licenses for other types of game. Getting your licenses is easy — you can apply for yours online through the Michigan DNR eLicense website. 

Deer Hunting Rules

Aside from holding a deer hunting license and using legal equipment, there are a few rules that all hunters should know. 

First, you can’t take a deer swimming in water or use dogs to hunt deer in Michigan. You can, however, use a leashed dog to recover a wounded animal. 

Baiting is banned in the Lower and Upper Peninsula in the CWD (Chronic Wasting Disease) surveillance area. There is an exception to this rule — hunters with disabilities who meet special requirements can bait during the Independence Hunt and the Liberty Hunt.

From August 15th to April 30th, all hunters must wear fluorescent orange on their hat and chest area. The color must be visible from any 360-degree angle, and camouflaged clothing must be 50% orange. Hunters are permitted to forgo the orange garment during the archery deer season. 

Other Hunting Seasons in Michigan

Deer aren’t the only game you can hunt in Michigan. Once you have your base license, you can apply for licenses to hunt various big and small game in the state. Here are the other hunting seasons for popular game in Michigan:

SpeciesHunting Season Dates
TurkeyJuly 1st – August 1st September 15th – November 14th
BearLicense application period is May 1st – June 1st Hunting dates vary by region
ElkAugust 30th – September 2nd September 16th – September 19th September 30th – October 3rd December 10th – December 18th
Cottontail Rabbit and Snowshoe HareSeptember 15th – March 31st
Pheasant (Male Only)Zone 1: October 10th – October 31st Zone 2 & 3: October 20th – November 14th Zone 3: December 1st – January 1st
QuailOctober 20th  – November 14th
Ruffed GrouseSeptember 15th – November 14th December 1st – January 1st
Coyote, Feral Pigeon, Russian Boar, Red SquirrelYear-round

If you’re hoping to take down a bear or pheasant, you’ll need to use your hunting location to determine the open-season dates. 

Conclusion

With the second largest deer population in the United States and a variety of big and small game hunting opportunities, you’re bound to experience memorable hunting adventures in Michigan. Whether you’re a seasoned marksman or new to hunting, everybody has ample hunting opportunities to punch a tag while exploring the Great Lakes State!

Hunting season dates may vary across the state and by county. For specific dates in your part of Michigan, visit the Michigan Department of Natural Resources website.

About the Author : HECS Hunting

Mike is a lifelong bowhunter and self described “science geek” who has over 50 years experience bowhunting big game animals all over the world. Mikes passion is hunting elk and he has taken 48 elk with a bow to date. Mike has taken 31 big game species with a bow worldwide and counting. Besides being a bowhunting fanatic Mike is also a recognized inventor who is always looking to new innovation to help him become more successful in the field. With 11 patents and involvement in countless outside projects within the hunting industry Mike has a reputation as a innovative problem solver in his 30 year career in the hunting industry.

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