Michigan offers a bounty of game and hunters can expect favorable outlook for bear, elk, deer, bobcat, coyote, fox and raccoon this fall

Michigan offers plentiful game opportunities for hunters this season. Young hunters will enjoy new opportunities this fall, with recent changes in licensing regulations. The Mentored Youth Hunting program has eliminated minimum age requirements. Now, youths younger than 10 years of age may hunt under the guidance of a licensed, adult hunter. And a new, low-cost license for mentored youth hunters offers youngsters an opportunity to take deer of either sex without purchasing additional antlerless-only licenses. Please visit www.michigan.gov/mentoredhunting for details.

As always, the DNR encourages hunters to introduce the pastime to friends and family members, especially youngsters.

This year, the youth deer hunt, early antlerless firearms hunt and 100-percent disabled veterans hunt will be held the same weekend, Sept. 22-23. For more details, see the 2012 Michigan Hunting and Trapping Digest, which can be found online at www.michigan.gov/hunting.


Season: Bear licenses are issued, by lottery, for specific time periods and geographical areas. Hunting on the mainland in the Upper Peninsula runs from Sept. 10-Oct. 26. On Drummond Island, the season is Sept. 10-Oct. 21. In the northern Lower Peninsula, the Red Oak Management Unit is open Sept. 21-29 and again — but this time for bow and arrow only – Oct. 5-11. The north area of the Baldwin unit opens Sept. 14; the remainder of the unit opens Sept. 19, and the season runs through Sept. 29. The Gladwin unit is open Sept. 21-29.

Outlook: Bear hunting has always been good in Michigan, though recent population estimates indicate there are fewer than originally thought. As a result, the number of available licenses this fall has been cut about 30 percent statewide, to 7,991, with a goal of stabilizing the populations. Biologists expect a harvest in the 1,400 range.


Season: Aug. 28-31, Sept 14-17 and Sept. 28-Oct.1 in designated elk management units outside of the core elk range; and Dec. 8-16 in all of the state’s elk range in Alpena, Antrim, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Crawford, Emmet, Montmorency, Oscoda, Otsego and Presque Isle counties. A special hunt may be held, though it is unlikely, Jan. 16-20 in agricultural areas if biologists determine the earlier hunts yielded an inadequate harvest to meet population goals. A total of 200 permits, which were issued by lottery, are available this year, half for the first hunt period, half for the December hunt.

Outlook: After several years of liberal permit numbers, permits have been fewer during the past few seasons. The DNR estimates the fall elk herd is slightly more than 1,000 animals, above the state management goal of 500 to 900 animals going into the season. Quotas were increased slightly compared to the 2011 season, the first hunt period was restructured and the December elk management units were modified to improve hunters’ chances of success. Based on the population and refined regulations, wildlife officials project an excellent season.

Deer Season: The early antlerless-only firearms season, which is open only on private land in selected areas within the Lower Peninsula, has been reduced to one weekend, Sept. 22-23. Archery season is Oct. 1-Nov. 14 and Dec. 1-Jan. 1. Firearms season is Nov. 15-30. A late antlerless-only firearms season on private land is slated for Dec. 17-Jan. 1 in the same areas open to the early antlerless season. Muzzleloader seasons are Dec. 7-16 in the Upper Peninsula, Dec. 14-23 in the northern Lower Peninsula and Dec. 7-23 in the southern Lower Peninsula.

A special firearms hunt for hunters with certain disabilities is on tap for Oct. 18-21. The season limit is no more than two bucks. Hunters may purchase up to 10 antlerless deer licenses for Deer Management Units 486 and 487. Otherwise the limit is five, though public-land licenses are available until DMU quotas are met. For more details and a map of areas open for the early and late antlerless firearm seasons, consult the 2012 Michigan Antlerless Deer Hunting Digest, available at www.michigan.gov/deer.

Outlook: An estimated 650,000 hunters will take to Michigan’s fields and forests this year, enjoying more than 9.6 million days of outdoor recreation. Last year hunters took an estimated 422,000 whitetails statewide. Roughly half of the deer harvest in recent years has come from the southern Lower Peninsula.

The deer population in the northern regions of the state is expected to be higher than last year. Deer numbers in most areas of the Upper Peninsula and northern Lower Peninsula continue to rebound on the heels of three mild winters in a row since the harsh winters of 2007 and 2008. The southern Michigan deer herd has been stable to decreasing for the past five to 10 years following multiple decades of steady growth. The DNR has worked to provide hunters and landowners with the necessary tools to regulate deer population growth and adjust buck-to-doe ratios where this is a priority.

Southern Michigan has experienced multiple outbreaks of epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) this year, as have many states across the country. EHD cannot be transmitted to humans or pets, and hunters are not at any health risk if they unknowingly consume deer that have been infected. However, deer deaths from EHD can considerably reduce deer numbers at a local scale, such as a township. Experience with EHD in neighboring states with a longer history of the disease indicates affected townships generally see deer numbers recover two to three years following these outbreaks. For more information on EHD, visit www.michigan.gov/wildlifedisease.


Season: Bobcat hunting in the Upper Peninsula is divided into two zones; the mainland (Unit A) and Drummond Island (Unit B), and both are open Jan. 1-March 1. In the northern Lower Peninsula, for Unit C (Alcona, Alpena, Antrim, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Emmet, Montmorency, Oscoda, Otsego and Presque Isle counties) the season is Jan. 1-March 1. In Unit D (Clare, Crawford, Gladwin, Iosco, Kalkaska, Missaukee, Ogemaw, Osceola, Roscommon and Wexford counties and part of Arenac County) the season is Jan. 1-Feb. 1. The bag limit is two with only one from Unit B and only one from Units C and D combined.

Outlook: Bobcats are primarily found in the northern two-thirds of the state. The population appears to be in somewhat of a decline in the Upper Peninsula, where harvests vary widely from year to year, based in part on snow conditions and road access. Last year hunters killed 295 bobcats statewide. Hunters must possess a valid fur harvester’s license and a bobcat kill tag, which is available free from DNR field offices. Immediately upon killing a bobcat, the hunter must apply the kill tag to the animal. Hunters are required to present the carcass to a DNR office within 10 days of the close of the season. DNR personnel will collect data, including the date, location and method of harvest and may collect the skull. The pelts will be sealed by the DNR.


Season: July 15-April 15 statewide. Coyotes may be taken year-round on private property when they are doing or about to do damage. Coyotes may not be pursued with dogs from April 15-July 14. There is no bag limit.

Outlook: Coyotes are widespread across Michigan, and although they are most common in the northern two-thirds of the state, their numbers are increasing dramatically in southern Michigan. Coyotes are highly adaptable, retiring and primarily nocturnal creatures and may be present in significant numbers without being highly visible. Coyote hunters are advised to be especially careful in the Upper Peninsula, where young wolves may be confused with coyotes. Coyotes may be hunted at night. Night hunters are restricted to .22 caliber or smaller rifles or handguns, bows and arrows, or shotguns with shells containing shot smaller than buck shot. Check the 2012 Michigan Hunting and Digest for additional restrictions.


Season: Oct.1-Jan. 31 statewide, though they may be taken year-round on private property if doing or about to do damage. There is no bag limit.

Outlook: Raccoons are abundant and widespread and may be found practically anywhere, though they are partial to hardwood forests, especially along waterways. Wood lots adjoining agricultural fields are particularly productive early in the season. Raccoons are typically hunted at night with hounds. Hunters took an estimated 59,000 raccoons in Michigan in 2010. Check the 2012 Michigan Hunting and Trapping Digest for firearms and equipment restrictions.


Season: Oct. 15-March 1. There is no bag limit.

Outlook: Both red fox and gray fox are found across all of Michigan. Red fox, which are more numerous, are found largely in agricultural areas and mixed habitat of fence rows, fallow fields and shrub coverage adjacent to wood lots or waterways. Gray fox are typically found in woodlands. Although both species are found in all counties, fox numbers may be locally abundant, but are down in some areas, perhaps because of increasing coyote populations. Although they are commonly hunted with dogs – often in conjunction with coyotes – the use of predator calls has become increasingly popular. Hunters killed about 750 gray fox and 2,000 red fox in Michigan in 2010.

For the latest information about statewide hunting opportunities for the 2012-2013 season, visit www.michigan.gov/hunting.