With winter in full swing here in Michigan, it may seem like next deer season is a long way away, but it will be here before you know it. In the meantime, the Michigan Natural Resources Commission has approved the previously proposed changes to the deer hunting regulations for the 2021 season. The Natural Resources Commission (NRC) is a 7 member panel of governor-appointed folks who have the power to regulate hunting and fishing in Michigan, with the advice and consent of the senate. In other words, what they say goes when it comes to regulating our wildlife resources.
- The first significant change is that in the Lower Peninsula, you no longer have to apply for a draw to get an antlerless tag (or buy a leftover tag). Also, an antlerless tag is now valid for the entire lower peninsula on either public or private land. This dramatically simplifies the antlerless hunting system as previously you had to purchase an individual antlerless tag for each unit you wanted to hunt in, and also needed separate antlerless tags for public vs. private land. This change is not without controversy, as some feel it may make it more challenging to target the management of deer in certain areas that are overpopulated while protecting those in areas with fewer deer.
- An Antlerless tag can also be used in open units of the Upper Peninsula (those not closed to antlerless hunting). Certain areas in the Middle of the Upper Pennisula will only be open to the antlerless tag with an accompanying “deer permit” which must be applied for in a random drawing. The Northernmost part of the U.P. will remain closed to antlerless hunting. This will serve to protect the herd numbers in units where the deer are hit especially hard by rough winters.
- The late archery season in Macomb, Wayne, and Oakland counties that runs until February 1st is now permanent. The previous 4 years had seen a trial of the extended season in the “Urban Management Zone.”
- From January 1st to May 15th, people in the Upper Peninsula may give supplemental feed to deer without a permit. The feed is limited to 2 gallons per day. This will allow residents of the U.P. to more easily lend a helping hand to deer that are struggling to find food in the winter.
The changes are aimed at simplifying some of the more confusing regulations. The previous antlerless tag system has always been a mess. Folks who hunted in several different counties needed to purchase multiple antlerless permits. Time will tell if this decision is a positive one or if it will lead to lower herd numbers in some areas.