There was a lot of talk about changes to the Michigan deer hunting regulations for 2020. Now that the DNR has released the “Michigan Hunting Digest” for 2020, let’s take a look and see what has actually changed for this fall. You can find full hunting digest here.
Editorial Note: Perhaps we can pressure our DNR and legislators to ensure that for the 2021 season the guide is released more than 6 weeks before the hunting season starts. Many hunters make plans based on the regulations in the guide and it seems prudent to have the information out no later than spring of the year the guide will go into effect.
Deer Season Dates
The early antlerless firearm hunt, liberty hunt, and independence hunt have all had their start dates moved up by 2 days this year. The early antlerless firearm and youth hunt remain major sources of contention with hunters who meticulously avoid the woods during the month of September to avoid spooking deer. The idea of gun hunters going in for several days 2 weeks before bow hunting season starts does not sit well with many hunters.
Muzzleloading season dates have been simplified. Last year there were two different dates for different zones of the state. This year the date of the muzzleloading season is December 4th-13th statewide. There are some equipment changes to the muzzleloader season we will cover later.
Archery and regular firearm season both fall on the same dates as last year. Archery goes from 10/1/2020 to 1/1/2021 and gun season goes from 11/15/2020-11/30/2020.
Late Antlerless firearm season has had its start date moved up a week this year and goes from 12/14/2020-1/1/2021. Last year it was only one week long, falling in the last week of September.
The main and much talked about change to equipment regulations for deer this year, is that in zone 3 of the state (see picture to the right), during muzzleloader season, all legal firearms (in this limited firearm zone) may be used. So If you live below the zone 3 line, during gun or muzzleloader season you can hunt with a shotgun, bow, crossbow, muzzleloader, limited firearm legal rifle (450 bushmaster, 350 legend, 44 magnum, 357 magnum, among others), or pistol shooting a straight-walled cartridge of .35 caliber or higher. This change is highly controversial with many muzzleloader hunters upset that zone 3 will now have 2 separate deer-gun hunting seasons.
As of 2019, you were free to transport a deer carcass from one county to another in the state as long as it was not from a CWD Core area or CWD management zone area to a non CWD area unless it was deboned and contained no spinal column or brain material, or you dropped a head off at a check station within 24 hours. This year you may remove an intact deer carcass from a CWD zone if you take it directly to a processor or licensed taxidermist, or it is deboned with no brain or spine material and no muscle material left on the head, or you drop the head off within 24 hours at a designated head dropoff location.
If you purchase the deer combo tag (one buck tag and one restricted buck tag) you can now use either tag to take an antlerless deer anywhere in the lower peninsula. There are also some changes to the specific antler point restrictions for the restricted buck tag based on what county you are in. The full chart for the lower peninsula is below: