The Michigan Department of Natural Resources makes the rules for hunting but could these rule changes make deer hunting in the state better? I think so.

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Change Rules On Hunts Before Archery Season Begins

Grandpa and Grandson going Duck Hunting

First, I want to say I am all for getting more Michigan youths and those with disabilities into the woods. These are great ideas that are good for the people involved and for the state.

Closeup of a smoking traditional skeet shooting shotgun after shots fired

You older bow hunters probably remember what it was like to enter the woods on October 1 for archery season and see deer that had not already been shot at by guns in September. Yes, the good ol' days.  Doesn't the DNR recognize what happens on November 15 when firearm season begins and after the shots that the deer become even more nocturnal than they already are? Is it possible these early gun hunts are making it more difficult for hunters to see deer during firearm season now that there are three gun hunts before the season begins?

Picture of a loaded crossbow pistol. A very strong one. Has a 20 kg bow.

The Liberty Hunt is an opportunity for youth hunters and those with disabilities to get into the woods around the second week of September and hunt with a gun. Why can't this season be a crossbow and bow only?  Crossbows in particular have a trigger, and a scope and are just like shooting a gun minus the boom. This makes sense, allows the exact same opportunity for youth and those with disabilities to enjoy the sport, and will have less of an effect on archery and firearm deer seasons.

Hunter With Open Shotgun On Shoulder

Then the third week of September there is an early antlerless firearm season that happens on private land only. This hunt may help farmers who have too many deer on their property but the shots still affect archery hunters on nearby properties and these extra shots will have an effect on the upcoming firearm season. Why can't this be a special crossbow season, or if the DNR wants more antlerless deer to be taken, then offer more doe tags to the existing archery and firearm season combo license?

So, before bow hunters even get into the woods there are two gun seasons that now make it even more difficult to get close to deer in archery season. Getting closer to the deer is the whole point of archery season.

Change the Rules for the October Independence Hunt

Shotgun and Shells
Stefan Malloch/ThinkStock/GettyStock

There is an Independence firearm hunt that occurs the Thursday prior to the third Saturday in October of each year. This is a four-day hunt for those with disabilities on private and public lands.

Again, let me restate that giving people with disabilities the chance to experience hunting is a great thing and I am all for it, but again, what can't this be with a crossbow instead of a firearm? Crossbows have triggers, and scopes, and are easy to use but have no booms just before the sparring phase of male deer which is the beginning of what leads to the breeding cycle.

One Buck Rule

Large white-tailed deer buck in an open meadow in Smoky Mountain National Park

I know this idea is going to make a lot of hunters' butt hurt but I don't care because I witnessed the success of this rule when I lived in Indiana. When the state switched to the one buck rule better deer are harvested each season at the same time while more female deer were harvested because there are more doe tags given out for firearm hunters and not having all these extra firearm seasons that drive mature deer to be fully nocturnal.

The deer in the picture above is the perfect example of the 8-point or bigger outside the ears. This would give bucks a chance to develop and give a better buck-to-doe ratio. When you have a better buck-to-doe ratio you simply have better hunting opportunities in getting a buck. You could still allow smaller bucks to be taken during the Liberty and Independence hunts only but using a crossbow and not a firearm. Save the antlerless hunts for December late-season hunting.

Another thing regarding bucks that should be added to the annual hunting digest is some instructions on the difference between a button buck and a doe. Ask any experienced hunter what is the first deer that comes along in your stand or the field, it is almost always a button buck. From far away these can look like female deer and are mistaken all the time and are shot. The young male and female deer heads are different and they even walk differently but some instruction in the manual could educate new hunters on what to look out for thus giving more small bucks a chance to grow into big bucks.

Bring Back a Bounty on Coyotes

Coyote, Richmond, Britisah Columbia, Canada

I'm sure insurance companies love coyotes and what they are doing to the deer herd but it is messing with deer hunting and especially small game hunting.

Yes, we need coyotes, but we do not need the number that is out there in the state of Michigan. You almost never see a wild pheasant anymore, plus rabbit and grouse numbers are way down because the coyotes mow them down. If you want to get hunting numbers to rise, you have to have some game to hunt.

I have seen this every spring, a doe has a couple of fawns and by the time season starts the fawns are gone because coyotes caught them before they had a chance to grow up.

If the DNR doesn't do something about the rate the coyote numbers are rising in this state, you will start hearing stories about coyotes grabbing kids in Michigan like the stories that keep popping up out west.

Change the Dates for Firearm and Muzzleloader Deer Season


Most decisions made by governmental agencies are usually focused on bringing more money into the state. So, why wouldn't the DNR adjust the start and end dates for the Michigan firearm and muzzleloader deer seasons? Other states do it and it works great and gives hunters more opportunities to be in the woods, and go to hunting camps, hence spending more money in the state.

If you started the firearm deer season on the closest Saturday to November 15th each year, you would give hunters three weekends with two weekends in between to go deer hunting. Starting on a Saturday would have more hunters in the woods every year and more people spending money on the sport in the state. Not every hunter can take off Tuesday to go hunting and the way the days land, if 3 to five days of firearm deer hunting happens before a hunter can get in the woods can discourage hunters from going at all.

I would stick with the week off between firearm and muzzleloader seasons and start the latter on the following Saturday and extend it to 3 weekends with two weeks in between rather than the 10-day hunt. Many hunters use muzzleloader season to pile up some does for the freezer. Plus extending the muzzleloader season could offset getting rid of the antlerless deer season in September.

I have deer hunted a lifetime in Michigan and Indiana and believe the suggestions above would make the sport better in the state. I remember what it was like before there were all these extra seasons that keep auto insurance companies happy. How about the DNR taking a shot a keeping the hunters happy?

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