15-23-41-68-83 days to deer season

ESCANABA — It must be fall as we are on the precipice of deer hunting season. There are actually five different seasons to pursue the wily whitetail.

The first open season on antlerless deer, tagged as “early season”, is set to start Sept. 22, 2018 exclusively for areas of the Lower Peninsula. Areas open have a high concentration of deer and/or are within the boundaries of the chronic wasting disease (CWD) management zones.

That same weekend (15 days from today) is also marked as a statewide two day season, the Liberty Hunt, open to youth 16 years of age or younger and eligible hunters with disabilities. This hunt is open on both public and private land. To qualify as a disabled hunter you must be a veteran who has been determined to have 100 percent disability, or is rated as individually unemployable by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Otherwise, as a general hunter, you must have been issued a permit issued by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to hunt from a standing vehicle, and/or be having a permit to hunt using a laser-sighting device. Being legally blind also qualifies for a permit. Any youth participating in the Liberty Hunt must be accompanied by a licensed adult and any deer hunt or deer hunt combo license may be used for an antlered or antlerless deer. Hunter orange clothing requirements remain in effect.

The next season to open (23 days from today) is for archery beginning Oct. 1. It runs continuously through Nov. 14. During this period hunters are not required to wear the blaze orange clothing set for firearm, however the can continue to hunt by “stick and string” during the 15 day firearm hunt but are then required to wear hunter orange. Only those who have a concealed pistol license (CPL) are permitted to carry during the archery season. Regular archery regulations again take effect starting Dec. 1 and will close for the season on Jan. 1, 2019.

The deer hunting season exclusively for veterans with disabilities, the Independence Hunt, opens Oct. 18-21, 2018 (41 days from today) and all the requirements to participate found during the Liberty Hunt also apply here.

An important point to bring into these special hunts is the the National Wild Turkey Federation / Wheelin’ Sportsmen (MWTF/WS) program that provides adaptations for hunters with disabilities. The state of the art technology of WS aids hunters in a way many who do not get a chance to hunt can now do. It may not assure a score, but it does get the hunter back outdoors and time to enjoy fair chase methods of hunting. Those who may have interest can contact NWTF/WS UP coordinator Ken Buchholz at (906)553-2268 to enroll.

The firearm season, considered as the most concentrated hunt for deer, is traditionally set to open Nov. 15 (68 days from today) and will run for 15 days. Hunters can use conventional to primitive firearms during this hunt. Most deer are taken depending on deer behavior relative to the mating (rut) season when does are bred and bucks are less aware of their surrounding in being pre-occupied with chasing does.

The last formal deer hunting season starts the first Saturday following the firearm season (83 days from now) for primitive guns known as “muzzleloaders”, and runs for 10 days. The muzzleloaders today are a mix of true primitive style to very contemporary design that some hunters question as being defeating the original intent of the season. Regardless of what model is used, if it is a single shot muzzleloading type, it qualifies.

Given the combined seasons, there is an immense opportunity to take a deer in Michigan’s U.P. The specialized (Liberty and Independence) hunts take a very small percentage of the total. Deer are also taken as part of agricultural needs when significant crop damage occurs during the growing season and Deer Management Assistance Permits (DMAPs) are utilized for population control measures on private land.

The U.P. has had historic low deer populations since the significant back-to-back winters beginning 2012. With 20 Deer Management Units (DMUs)in the U.P., only five will be open for antlerless hunting for the 2018 seasons. The newest of which has been added this year is No. 122 the Norway Unit.

DMU122 borders Wisconsin which is under increased surveillance along the entire western U.P. due to the potential for the spread of CWD. The quota for DMU122 will have 100 public land antlerless deer hunting permits available without application beginning Sept. 10 when all other available permits are up for sale. 122 will also have only 850 private land permits available this year.

Other DMUs open this year include Menominee 055, with 850 public land and 6,500 private land permits; Bay de Noc 121, with 300 public land and 600 private land permits; Gladstone 155, with 250 public land and 1,650 private land permits; and, 255 LaBranche, with 375 public land and 750 public land permits available.

Hunters are strongly encouraged to donate the heads of deer taken (especially from the western UP) for examination to see if CWD is present. There is no mandatory registration of deer requirement and continues as a volunteer program. Any conscientious conservationist hunter should take it upon themselves to help with monitoring by bringing their deer in for examination and head donation. It is also of personal benefit to assure the deer you take is not contaminated which is incentive enough to get it registered. All work is free of charge to those who participate.

The Michigan Natural Resources Commission (MNRC) will be meeting in the U.P. next week. While the primary seasons and quotas are set for the 2018 seasons, there may be some additional last minute regulation additions as part of CWD surveillance plan in the western U.P.


Tim Kobasic is the outdoors editor for KMB Broadcasting and host/producer for Tails & Trails Outdoor Radio, aired on six radio stations over three networks, Charter Communications cable and the Internet on Saturday mornings.