Deer hunting regulations for the 2021 season were approved last week by the Michigan Natural Resources Commission at its regular meeting.
The changes, aimed at further simplifying deer regulations and removing barriers to hunting participation, go into effect with the start of the 2021 deer hunting seasons in September.
The regulations will provide additional opportunity, flexibility and cost savings for hunters and – based on existing and projected data the DNR uses to gauge the impact of proposed regulations – are not expected to have a significant negative effect on the deer herd or the quality of deer hunting.
“Our goals with these regulations are twofold: to make hunting regulations easier to understand and follow in Michigan, and also to manage Michigan’s abundant deer herd,” said DNR deer program specialist Chad Stewart. “We feel that these changes move us in the right direction.”
A new package of deer regulations will be introduced to the Michigan Natural Resources Commission at its Nov. 12 meeting.
The NRC is expected to vote on the proposed regulations, for the 2021 fall deer hunting season, in December or January.
The proposed changes are meant to further simplify deer regulations and remove barriers to participation in deer hunting. If approved, the regulations will provide additional opportunity, cost savings and flexibility for deer hunters.
The DNR uses existing and projected data to gauge the impact of the proposed regulations. The data shows that the changes will not have a significant negative effect on the deer herd or the quality of deer hunting.
ìA team of wildlife biologists, law enforcement officers and other key DNR staff worked together to prepare these recommendations for consideration by the Natural Resources Commission. The goal is to create rules that are easier to follow and that offer hunters more flexibility in taking deer to help feed their families," said Chad Stewart, DNR deer, elk and moose program leader.
"It's important for hunters' voices to be part of the regulation-setting process, and we appreciate everyone who joined in the virtual open houses or completed surveys about the proposed 2021 regulations," he said. "Their thoughtful feedback has been critical."
The proposed 2021 regulation changes include:
Proposed changes to supplemental feeding, which include:
As you may have read, deer check station locations and hours and days of operation will be reduced in 2020 to prevent unnecessary risk to hunters and DNR staff during the COVID-19 pandemic.
CWD testing will continue free of charge for all deer harvested in southern Jackson, southern Isabella and western Gratiot counties, and from the core CWD surveillance area in the Upper Peninsula (portions of Dickinson, Menominee and Delta counties) from now until Jan. 4. In addition, deer heads from counties where CWD has been detected (Clinton, Dickinson, Eaton, Gratiot, Ingham, Ionia, Jackson, Kent and Montcalm) will be accepted for testing at no charge Nov. 15-18.
We understand CWD testing may be important to hunters and their families outside of these geographic areas and time frames. The DNR has partnered with USDA-approved labs to accept hunter-harvested deer from anywhere in Michigan for CWD testing. Please note this testing will come at a fee set by the receiving laboratory.
For the 2020 deer hunting seasons, the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Lab and the Michigan State University Veterinary Diagnostic Lab are both accepting CWD samples. If you plan to use these services, we recommend you look at the instructions now to save yourself time after your hunt.
Regardless of the route you take for testing, be sure to make a plan for how you will store your harvest until you receive your test results.
To lower the cost of testing and simplify shipping, hunters may wish to remove the needed lymph nodes from the head of their harvested deer. Watch this video for instructions. Due to potential safety concerns with bovine tuberculosis, hunters in DMU 487 should not attempt to remove lymph nodes themselves and should head to a DNR check station for assistance. Find a list of check stations, dates and hours at Michigan.gov/DeerCheck.
Information about CWD testing and deer check station safety procedures can be found at Michigan.gov/CWD.
By Louie Stout
Dan Linn decided to check his trail cameras and deer stands in northwest St. Joseph County two weeks ago.
What he found was disheartening to any deer hunter. “When I got back to my hunting area I smelled something awful,” said the EMT for the Southwestern Michigan Community Ambulance Service. “I know what death smells like and my suspicions were confirmed.”
He soon came upon a dead, velvet-antlered, 10-point buck that showed no apparent injuries.
“I called a guy who hunts the property adjacent to mine,” Linn said. “He told me he had found dead deer on his property as well.”
Linn thought the deer were dying from EHD (Epizootic hemorrhagic disease) and got confirmation when he found another 7 dead deer at the watering hole near his property.
EHD is transmitted when a virus-carrying midge bites the animal. It causes high fever, hence dead deer often are found around water.
Linn reported it to the Indiana DNR, collected a sample from one of the fresh carcasses, and sent it to the DNR lab.
Indiana deer biologist Joe Caudell said last week that the lab results weren’t back but he suspected EHD as the cause.
“We get reports every year, but from what we can tell, St. Joseph County has a bigger portion of EHD this year than it has had in recent years,” Caudell said.
His office not only monitors reports of potential EHD outbreaks, but provides maps on the DNR website indicating where it has received reports. As of mid-week last week, there were 55 suspected cases in St. Joseph, 11 in LaPorte and 2 in Elkhart counties. As of Wednesday, there had been no reports from Marshall County.
You can find info on EHD and maps of infected areas at www.in.gov/dnr/fishwild/8541.htm.
Ken Kesson, Michigan southwest Michigan district wildlife biologist, said he’s heard of a few reports from his region as well.
“I’m not overly concerned at this point but we have received some reports,” he said. “With the weather shifting cooler, it should diminish.”
However, he added, he encourages hunters to report any dead deer they find by calling the DNR Service Center in Plainwell, 269-685-6851.
Southwest Michigan, specifically Cass County, was hit hard 10 years ago. An estimated 250 deer died of the virus in the county that year.
Like this year, Michiana experienced a hot, dry summer a decade ago. Those conditions lead to falling water levels around water holes and created muddy banks where the virus laden midges lay their eggs and multiply.Ca
udell said Indiana manpower and financial resources don’t allow for testing of every deer that’s reported. The DNR tries to sample one or two samples from each county when possible.
“Once we get confirmation in an area and hunters report more deer in that area, we can pretty well know that EHD was the cause,” Caudell explained.
Outbreaks tend to be spotty and often don’t affect the herd outside the hotspot. The virus is spread by the midge and not from deer to deer.
Hunters who find dead deer are encouraged to report them online, www.in.gov/dnr/fishwild/10446.htm. You will be asked to leave your contact information along with the details of where and when you found the deer. If necessary, a DNR employee will contact you.
There is no evidence that humans can get EHD or are affected by eating a deer with the virus.
“We see deer that hunters have harvested that were carrying the virus,” he said.
One of the most common characteristic of an EHD infected deer is damaged or broken hooves. Other signs are swelling around the head and neck, excessive salivation, rosy or bluish color of the mouth and tongue, or loss of wariness and signs of physical weakness. Deer can appear ill for weeks and some will recover.
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.