2013-09-12 / Outdoors

Rule changes to deer season

Antler restrictions, new DMUs created

LANSING – It may be early September, but the first rounds of deer season – the Liberty Hunt and the early antlerless deer season, Sept. 21-22 – are only two weeks away. There have been some significant changes made to deer hunting regulations for the 2013 season, so hunters expecting to go out this fall should familiarize themselves with the rules.

The most significant change is the addition of 12 counties in the northwestern Lower to those with antler restrictions. Beginning this year deer hunters in Antrim, Benzie, Charlevoix, Emmet, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, Lake, Manistee, Mason, Missaukee, Osceola and Wexford counties will be restricted to bucks with a minimum of three antler points on at least one antler. The 12 counties join Leelanau County, which has had that regulation for a decade.

The rule was adopted by the Natural Resources Commission after hunters from the area petitioned for the antler restrictions and Wildlife Division officials at the Department of Natural Resources conducted surveys indicating that at least two-thirds of the hunters supported the change.

“The regulation will be in place for five years and we will evaluate support among hunters as to whether they would like to see it remain in place after that,” said Brent Rudolph, the DNR’s deer and elk program.

Hunters who opt for the two-tag combination license will still be restricted to one buck with at least four antler points on one antler if they choose to take a second buck.

The September early antlerless season and Liberty Hunt -- the former hunts for 100 percent disabled veterans and youth – will run concurrently as they did last year. Youths, 16 years of age or younger, may participate, as well as hunters with disabilities who meet one of the following criteria:

Is a veteran who has been determined to be 100 percent disabled or rated as unemployable by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs;

Has been issued a permit by the DNR to hunt from a standing vehicle;

Has been issued a permit by the DNR to hunt using a laser-sighting device; or

Is legally blind as defined by law.

September hunting dates have been whittled down significantly from several years ago, but they never had a significant impact on deer populations, Rudolph said.

The Independence Hunt, Oct. 17-20, is restricted to those hunters with disabilities meeting the same criteria as for the Liberty Hunt. Hunters may take a deer with or without antlers.

Hunters participating in the Liberty or Independence hunts may use a firearms license, combination license or antlerless license. Youths may also use a mentored youth license. Hunters may take one deer, with or without antlers. All antler-point restrictions apply except for youths with a mentored youth license.

The change most likely to affect the most hunters is the creation of new deer management units in southern Michigan. There are no antlerless permits for DMU 486, which includes most of southern Michigan, this year. DMUs were created based on consistency of deer numbers and other conditions such as the amount of agriculture damage, habitat conditions and urbanization, Rudolph said.

“Essentially, the idea behind the groupings was to provide the largest possible units to give hunters the most flexibility without having to buy multiple tags,” he said. “So we basically looked at how large we could go and still have consistent conditions within the DMU.

Last year the antlerless deer harvest in southern Michigan fell by about 15 percent. Accordingly, fewer antlerless permits will be available in southern Michigan this season.

Antlerless permit allocations were cut somewhat in the Upper Peninsula, too.

“The past winter lingered,” Rudolph said. “We had late heavy snowfalls, enough that we thought it might have impacted the herd – especially in the western U.P. – so we reduced antlerless permits.”

For additional details on regulations, DMUs, antler point restrictions and questions, see the 2013 Hunting and Trapping Digest.

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