All About Hunting In Michigan

Michigan has a vast lands which are publicly owned and are meant for the management of the wildlife habitat, wildlife watching and hunting.

There are more than ten million acres of land open to public hunting and 111 wildlife management areas state-wide. Some units have primitive camping, hiking and boat access.

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1. Species To Hunt In Michigan

1.1 White Tailed Deer

White tailed deer are the most nervous and shy species of a deer family. They are extremely fast and can run up to 30 miles per hour. Their home are generally small.

White tailed deer do not migrate to winter range but yard up in their own territories during heavy snow. White tailed deer are able to survive in a variety of terrestrial habitats, from a big woods of northern Maine to the deep saw grass and hammock swamps of Florida.

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1.2 Canada Goose

Canada geese usually nest in March and April. Adult Canada geese have very few predators, through raccoons, skunks, fox and crows sometimes prey on their eggs.

Geese feed on grass shoots, aquatic vegetation, seed heads and various grains. They are attracted to areas that provide food, water and protection. Large agriculture fields in fall and winter happen to be beneficial for geese.

1.3 Pheasant

Pheasants are found in southern lower Michigan and some areas of the upper Peninsula. South central- to mid-Michigan are best for hunting pheasants.

Their size are usually large and are characterized by strong sexual dimorphism with male birds being flashy with bright colors and adornments such as wattles and long tails.

1.4 Cottontail Rabbit

Cottontail rabbits are found in most of the areas of Michigan but are found less in the northern areas of the state. They prefer areas with ample of vegetation and hiding places such as brush piles and thickets.

In the winter, cottontail rabbits eat twigs, buds and bark of many shrubs. Rabbit hunting seasons are based on principles of wildlife management that allow for the harvest of animals from the population sustainability.

1.5 Sharp Tailed Grouse

Sharp tailed grouse usually belong to the regions that have open grassland with a mixture of groves of trees or shrubs. They are closely related to the prairie chickens, it is found mostly farther north.

Open prairie with a mixture of groves of deciduous trees or shrubs, such as aspen, birch and willow are their primary habitat. They even shift their habitat with season, they occupy more open grasslands in summer, groves of trees and shrubs in winter.

1.6 Wild Turkey

In Michigan, turkeys can be found in most counties in the Lower Peninsula and in some parts of the Upper Peninsula. A group of turkeys is called a “rafter.”

Wild turkeys are an important big game species in Michigan and can be hunted in spring and fall. They can run with a speeds of up to 55 mph. Flocks can range anywhere from 5 to 50 birds and usually consist of only males and females.

1.7 Ruffed Grouse

Ruffed grouse are fairly small grouse with a short, triangle crest and a long, fan shaped tail. They have short kegs and often look slimmer than other grouse species.

Ruffed grouse usually occupy mixed deciduous and coniferous forest interiors with scattered clearing. They also live along water streams which are densely forested and also in areas growing back from burning or logging.

1.8 Elk

Elk mainly belong to a deer family. They are the second largest species among deer family, first are the moose. They have long branching antlers. Michigan’s native elk disappeared around 1875.

In the early summer, elk migrate to high mountain grazing grounds where cows (females) give birth.

Learn to Hunt Michigan

2. Season

In Michigan, fall is considered to be the busiest season for hunting. This season allows the maximum benefit with the minimum impact on wildlife, as most of the animals give birth to the young ones during spring and summer.

In Michigan, many animals are available during fall. During fall, it is said that wild animals are in their best physical condition and hence provide the maximum nutrition and protein.

2.1 White Tailed Deer

In Michigan, white tailed deer are typically hunted in the early fall to late winter. Antlerless firearm season takes place during the last week of September, while traditional firearm season is always from November 15 to November 30 every year.

Archery hunting season takes place for a longer season, from October to mid November.

Liberty hunt and the independent hunt also takes place during the fall providing an opportunity for veterans, youths and disabled individuals to take deer.

2.2 Canada Goose

Canada goose season takes place in September every year which is September 1 and lasts till September 30. Hunters are allowed five Canada geese per day bag limit.

2.3 Pheasant

Pheasant seasons are divided with different zones. First season takes place during the month of October for zone 1. The zone is primarily Michigan’s upper Peninsula. The bag limit is two (make) daily, with four in possession. A base license is required to hunt pheasants.

  • October 10 to October 31 in the upper Peninsula in Menominee country and portions of iron, Marquette, Dickinson and Delta counties.
  • October 20 to November 14 in the Lower Peninsula.
  • December 1 to January 1 in selected areas of zone 3

2.4 Cottontail Rabbit

These small game animals have a long season, which begins in mid September and continues till the early spring which is from September 15 to March 31. Bag limit for cottontail rabbit is five per day and ten combined possession state wide.

Rabbits can be hunted with any gun, pistol, or bow. While hunting, hunters are required to wear light orange hat and gloves.

2.5 Sharp Tailed Grouse

Sharp tailed grouse can be hunted from mid to late October every year. Hunting season usually continues for three weeks. Bag limit for sharp tailed grouse is two daily with four in possession.

2.6 Wild Turkey

Wild turkey season takes place from mid September to mid November in Michigan that is from September 15 to November 14. Bag limit for wild turkey is one bearded turkey per licensed hunter.

Hunting turkeys which are not bearded, are offensive and are illegal. Turkeys may not be hunted while they are on a tree.

2.7 Ruffed Grouse

Ruffed grouse are considered as a fair game from mid September to mid November which is from September 15 to November 14 with a break at the beginning of deer hunting season and then resumes from December 1 to January 1.

Bag limit for ruffed grouse is five daily with ten in possession for zones 1 and 2. For zone 3, its three daily with six in possession.

2.8 Elk

For hunting elk, one should possess elk hunting license. These license are distributed annually by lottery, which also determines the dates, the hunters may take to the woods. Traditionally, elk hunting season in Michigan is divided into three hunting periods that is August, September, October. The first hunting period, which offers three hunt dates that takes place during fall.

3. Rules And Regulations

3.1 Time

One and half hour before sunrise to one and half after sunset (adjusted daylight saving time)

  • Hunting hours for woodcock and teal are sunrise to sunset.
  • For hunting turkey, the hunting hours are one and half hour before sunrise to one and half before sunset.
  • Waterfowl hunting hours are one and half hour before sunrise to sunset, except during the teal season.

3.2 Float Hunting

One has to secure permission from the landowner before float hunting or setting traps along those waterways that are protected by the recreational trespass law.

Float hunting and trapping can be done along water streams usually surrounded by public land which are legal for hunting.

3.3 Trespassing on Private Land

If you wound an animal or bird that runs or flies onto private property, you have no legal right to pursue it without permission of the landowner and would be subject to prosecution.

A person is not allowed to enter in the property of another person if he possess a firearm which is previously prohibited by the landowner.

3.4 Hunter Orange Clothing

The garments that are hunter orange shall be hunter’s outermost garment and shall be visible from all sides of the hunter.

EXCEPTION – This does not apply to a person engaged in the taking of deer with a bow or crossbow during archery deer season, a person hunting bear, with a bow or crossbow, a person engaged in the sport of falconry or a person who is stationary and in the act of hunting bobcat, coyote or fox.

3.5 Use Of Artificial Lights

Using an artificial light (including vehicle headlights) to locate wild animals at any time during the month of November and all other days of the year between 11pm and 6am is illegal.

Usage of such artificial lights on a highway or in a field wetland, woodland or forest while having possession of bow and arrow, firearm or other shooting device is illegal.

NOTE – If you are stopped by a uniformed officer or marked patrol vehicle while locating wildlife using artificial lights, you must stop immediately.

3.6 Crossbow Hunting

A crossbow hunting can be done during any season in which a firearm is allowed for both big game and small game.

3.7 Air bow Hunting

 Air bow hunting during any season for any species in Michigan is illegal.

3.8 Pneumatic Gun Hunting

Pneumatic guns, ‘air guns’, are considered firearms for hunting purposes. Pneumatic guns are allowed in one condition if it fulfills the requirement of firearm used for the season, species hunted and zone you are hunting in.

Michigan Hunting And Fishing Regulation Changes

4. Where To Hunt In Michigan

4.1 Public Lands

For hunting in public land, it is unlawful to:

  • Use a centre fire rifle or centre fire pistol to take an animal during night time hours in any State Park or State Recreation Area.
  • Trap within 50 feet of the mowed portions of developed areas within State Recreation Areas.
  • Target shoot in a State Park or Recreation Area.

4.1.1 County Land

When it comes to hunting, public hunting land owned by a Michigan county is a good place to start because it is not easy to locate and little known hunting grounds will tend to have less hunting pressure which means if there will be more hunters, the pressure will increase which eventually will lead to less number of deers.

4.1.2 State Land

Michigan Department of Natural Resources maintains a map of state owned hunting lands which helps hunters to know the places better.

Top 5 Michigan Public Hunting Areas

4.2 Private Lands

4.2.1 Commercial Forest Lands

Privately owned forest land enrolled CF program are accessible by the public for fishing, hunting and trapping. For hunting in private lands, hunters must have hunting license which are valid for private land hunting.

License are not required to hunt antlerless deer on CF land. To hunt antlerless deer on CF land, hunters must have valid public land antlerless hunting license.

  • Use of nails, bolts or tree steps are not allowed.
  • The cutting of shooting lanes or destruction of brush, trees or other vegetation is prohibited

5. License Requirements

Michigan residents and non residents who are 10 to 16 years old, must purchase the reduced fee Junior Base License.

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5.1 Types Of License

5.1.1 Michigan Resident

People living permanently in Michigan are the residents. Students who are non residents, living in Michigan and studying in an educational institution in Michigan and those who are active duty military members, are considered as residents.

All Michiganian must have the base license. This license allows hunters to hunt small game animals. For hunting other species, additional license are required.

5.1.2 Non-Resident

All non residents must have a base license. This license allows hunters to hunt small game animals. For hunting other species, additional license are required.

5.1.3 Youth Hunting License YOUTH HUNTING LICENSE

Michigan residents and non residents up to age 9 may hunt under the supervision of an adult licensed hunter who is at least 21 years old.

5.1.4 Senior Hunting License

Michigan residents who are 65 of age or older may purchase the reduced fee senior base license.

5.1.5 Disability License

Michigan doesn’t offer a hunting license specifically for people with disabilities.

5.1.6 Military License

Active duty military members who are stationed in Michigan may purchase a resident hunting license. In addition, active duty military members who are Michigan residents but stationed elsewhere are eligible to receive a free hunting license while on leave.

5.1.7 Veteran License

Resident veterans who have 100 percent service connected disability may obtain any hunting license for free as long as it doesn’t require a separate application.

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6. Hunters Education

Hunters education in Michigan provides hunters with the course in which they are trained with the first class skills of safety, first aid. It teaches them with the management of wildlife and its identification.

Hunters are taught handling of firearms and its safety. Hunting ethics, laws and regulations are covered in this course which makes people a responsible hunters.

This course is taught by the certified instructors and Michigan conservation officers.

About the class:

  • This course is minimum of ten hours over a minimum of two days.
  • There is no age requirement; however kids under the age of ten are required to be accompanied by an adult, legal guardian or parent.

6.1 Online Hunters Education

One can access this course online at hunter-ed. com/Michigan

After this online course completion, students are required to complete the field day in twelve months to complete this entire course.


Hunters coming to Michigan for hunting purpose must read all the information regarding what sorts of facilities it provides for hunting, about species, its season, availability, regulations, license etc.

Also one can refer to the online website of Michigan for hunting. The opportunity to hunt is abundant to all and with various seasons spanning throughout the year, the opportunity to get lost in a hunting paradise is always calling.

For more information, visit official Michigan Department of Natural Resources website:


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