Hunters should expect big changes at deer check stations
LANSING — The Michigan Department of Natural Resources advises deer hunters to be prepared for big changes to DNR deer check stations this fall.
Staffing and financial shortages, due to both funding associated with long-term declines in the hunter base and the COVID-19 pandemic, will result in reductions in check station and drop-box locations, dates and hours operated, and the number of deer heads that will be accepted for chronic wasting disease testing (CWD).
Additionally, to protect hunters and DNR staff, some procedures will be changed to make deer check stations safer for all. Hunters are required to wear masks and follow social distancing guidelines, staying 6 feet away from other people, at DNR deer check stations. At many check stations, hunters will be required to stay in their vehicles while their deer is checked.
“It is an unprecedented time in our state’s history, with serious challenges that affect everyone. We ask for your patience and grace as we adapt to meet these challenges,” said acting DNR Wildlife Division Chief Dan Kennedy. “Michigan hunters have a long history of partnering with the DNR for the benefit and health of the state’s deer population. Let’s continue working together to protect public health, too.”
Deer check stations and drop boxes
Deer check station locations will be reduced this fall. Check station days and hours of operation also will be reduced across much of the state. Many check stations will be open only during parts of the firearm deer season in November. Wait times may be longer than usual, especially during the firearm deer season, due to staffing reductions. It’s important to note, too, that any changes in the state’s COVID-19 situation could result in changes to planned locations and hours of operation.
In parts of the state where CWD and bovine tuberculosis (TB) samples are needed, check stations and drop boxes will be available to hunters beginning Oct. 3 and continuing into December and January.
Deer cooperator patches will be available at DNR deer check stations, during their hours of operation, while supplies last.
Deer disease surveillance
The DNR still needs hunters’ help to learn more about the status of CWD in Michigan. Since the DNR no longer has the resources to test the same volume of deer heads as in the past, the department will prioritize gathering deer heads from in and around known CWD areas to gather more information about the extent of the disease in these locations. See 2020 CWD testing goals map.
In 2020, deer heads from southern Jackson, southern Isabella and western Gratiot counties and from the core CWD surveillance area in the Upper Peninsula (portions of Delta, Dickinson and Menominee counties) will be accepted for CWD testing from Oct. 3 to Jan. 4.
Deer heads from Clinton, Dickinson, Eaton, Gratiot, Ingham, Ionia, Jackson, Kent and Montcalm counties will be accepted for testing Nov. 15-18 only. USDA-approved lab testing is also available for hunters in these areas at any time.
Those who hunt in the remainder of the state and want their deer tested for CWD must submit their deer head to a USDA-approved lab for testing and will be charged a fee. Visit Michigan.gov/CWD for information about USDA-approved labs conducting CWD testing.
Carcasses from deer displaying symptoms of CWD will be tested throughout the deer season, regardless of where they were killed.
Deer will continue to be collected for annual TB surveillance in DMU 487 (Alcona, Alpena, Iosco, Montmorency, Oscoda and Presque Isle counties). TB tests also will be conducted in Cheboygan, Crawford, Ogemaw, Otsego and Roscommon counties, as well as parts of Allegan, Barry, Calhoun, Emmet, Kalamazoo, Ottawa and Saginaw counties as part of the state’s agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and continued commitment to conduct surveillance for potential TB expansion. See 2020 deer TB testing map. Although these are the DNR’s priority areas for TB surveillance, deer from anywhere in the state will be accepted for TB testing.
This fall, hunters coming in for disease testing are asked to bring only deer heads to check stations, removing them ahead of time, if possible. Those who would like to keep the antlers are asked to please remove those from the head but bring the antlers when they visit a check station so that antler measurements can be taken.
Information about the new check station procedures can be found in the 2020 Hunting Digest or at Michigan.gov/CWD. Hours and locations of deer check stations will be updated this week and will be available at Michigan.gov/DeerCheck.