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2009 Fall Hunting Seasons Preview -- Part II
September 3, 2009
Prospects for the 2009-2010 hunting seasons are excellent, say Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologists. As usual, the seasons are long and bag limits for our most popular game species -- the white-tailed deer -- remain high.
As always, the DNR encourages hunters to introduce families and friends to hunting. And that is especially important for youngsters, who represent the future of wildlife management.
The most significant regulations change this year involves crossbows. Anyone who is 50 years or age or older may use a crossbow during any of the firearms seasons and during the Oct. 1 - Nov. 14 archery season. In southern Michigan, any hunter who is at least 12 years old can use a crossbow during any deer season. All hunters who plan to use a crossbow must obtain a crossbow "stamp," which is free of charge and available at any license dealer or on the DNR Web site at www.michigan.gov/dnr.
First-time hunters are reminded there are two ways to qualify to purchase a hunting license. Generally, anyone who was born after Jan. 1, 1960 must first complete hunter safety training and acquire a hunter education certificate to purchase a license.
However, the law was amended in 2006 to allow novice hunters to purchase an apprentice license to go afield with a mentor before they complete hunter education. Hunters may participate with an apprentice license for up to two seasons.
Youths may begin hunting at age 10, for small game with a firearm or deer with archery gear, age 12 to hunt deer or bear with a firearm or a crossbow. However, firearms deer and bear hunters who are younger than 14 are restricted to private land only.
Youths 10-16 and disabled veterans may participate in a special deer hunt Sept. 26-27. Disabled hunters may pursue deer with firearms Oct. 15-18. For details on both hunts, see the 2009 Michigan Hunting and Trapping Guide, available at license dealers and on the DNR Web site.
Season: Bear licenses are issued by lottery for specific time periods and geographic areas. Hunting on the mainland of 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 season is Sept. 18-26 in the Red Oak, Baldwin and Gladwin units with an additional week (beginning Sept. 11) in the north Baldwin unit and an archery-only season Oct. 2-8 in Red Oak. One major change was made in the Lower Peninsula regulations: The first day is bait only and the last two days (except for archery) are for hunting with dogs only.
Outlook: Bear hunting continues to be excellent in Michigan. With a population estimated to be in the 15,000 to 19,000 range, the DNR has made 11,473 licenses available and anticipates a harvest of about 2,000 bruins. Populations are at or near desired levels across most of their range -- the goal is stabilize the population in the western U.P.; increase the population in eastern U.P. and decrease the population in the Lower Peninsula, primarily in Red Oak. Hunters are reminded that the first five days of the season in the Upper Peninsula are for bait-hunting only. Dog training is not allowed for five days prior to the opener in either peninsula.
Season: Sept. 1-4 and 11-15; Oct. 13-21; Dec. 8-15; and Jan. 13-17 if needed.
Outlook: The elk population remains above the DNR's stated goal of a herd of 800 to 900 animals going into the winter, and elk are expanding their range into some places where they aren't wanted. As a result, the DNR has made a total of 380 licenses available. Licenses are issued by lottery. The September and October seasons are held largely outside the core elk range and hunter success rates typically are lower. More licenses may be available to those who already have applied for a January hunt if it is deemed necessary.
Season: An early antlerless-only hunt is Sept. 17-21, in selected counties. Check the 2009 Hunting and Trapping Guide for details. Archery season is Oct.1 - Nov. 14, and Dec. 1 - Jan. 1, statewide. Firearms season is Nov.15-30, statewide. Muzzleloading seasons are Dec. 4-13 in Zone 1 (Upper Peninsula); Dec. 11-20 in Zone 2; and Dec. 4-20 in Zone 3 (southern Michigan). A late antlerless hunt in selected counties is Dec. 21 - Jan. 1. The season limit is two bucks, one of which must have at least four antler points on one side. In the Upper Peninsula, hunters who take two bucks may only take one buck with at least three antler points on one side and one with at least four antler points on one side. Hunters may purchase up to five antlerless deer licenses, but no more than two may be for the northern two-thirds of the state, except in the tuberculosis zone.
Hunters are reminded it is illegal to bait or feed deer in the Lower Peninsula because of disease concerns.
Outlook: Overall, deer hunting should be similar to last year, which was very good. Last year 694,000 hunters spent 9.7 million days afield, harvesting roughly 490,000 deer. Some 47 percent of hunters successfully tagged at least one deer last year. The deer population is expected to be down somewhat in the Upper Peninsula from last year, because of a difficult winter. In the northern Lower Peninsula, biologists expect about the same number of deer as last year. In southern Michigan, deer populations are well above goal in most counties and the DNR encourages hunters to take antlerless deer. New multi-county Deer Management Units will provide increased flexibility to hunters pursuing antlerless deer. Hunters also are encouraged to bring their deer to check stations, though the number of check stations and their hours of operation will be reduced this year. Check the DNR Web site for details.
Season: Jan. 1 - March 1 in Unit A (Upper Peninsula except Drummond Island); Unit B (Drummond Island); and Unit C (Alcona, Alpena, Antrim, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Emmett, Montmorency, Oscoda, Otsego and Presque Isle counties). Jan. 1 - Feb 1 in Unit D (Clare, Crawford, Gladwin, Iosco, Kalkaska, Missaukee, Ogemaw, Osceola, Roscommon and Wexford counties and Arenac north of M-61 and west of I-75). The limit is two per season, but only one may be taken from Units C and D combined, and only one may be taken in Unit B.
Outlook: Bobcats are found primarily in the northern two-thirds of Michigan. The population seems to be in a slow decline in the Upper Peninsula, where harvests vary widely because of snow conditions and road access. The population is stable in the Lower Peninsula. Hunters are reminded that in addition to a fur harvester license, they must acquire a (free) bobcat kill tag in advance of hunting. Hunters must immediately apply the kill tag to the animal when they kill bobcats and the carcass must be presented to a DNR office within 10 days of the close of the season. DNR personnel will collect data including the date of kill, location, and method of harvest and they may collect the skull or a tooth sample. The bobcat will be sealed by the DNR.
Season: July 15 - April 15 except in the Upper Peninsula during the firearms deer season (Nov. 15-30). Coyotes may be taken year-round on private property if doing damage or about to do damage. Coyotes may not be taken April 1 - Sept. 14 on state parks and recreation lands and they may not be pursued with dogs from April 15 - July 14. There is no bag limit. Hunters may take coyotes on a small game or fur harvester license.
Outlook: Coyotes are widespread across the state and abundant in some areas. Although they are most common in the northern two-thirds, coyote populations have increased dramatically in southern Michigan. Retiring creatures, coyotes often are nocturnal and may be present in significant numbers without being visible. Coyote hunters in the Upper Peninsula are advised to be cautious not to confuse young wolves for coyotes. Coyotes may be hunted at night, but hunters are restricted to .22 caliber or smaller rifles or handguns, archery gear or crossbows, or shotguns containing shells with shot smaller than buck shot. Check the 2009 Michigan Hunting and Trapping Guide for additional information.
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, found in all habitats but are partial to hardwood stands, especially along waterways or near agricultural fields. Raccoons often are hunted at night with hounds and roughly 75,000 are taken by hunters each year. Check the 2009 Hunting and Trapping Guide for restrictions on firearms and equipment.
Season: Oct. 15 - March 1. There is no bag limit.
Outlook: Both red and gray fox are found across Michigan. The more numerous red fox are found largely in agricultural areas with mixed habitat, including fence rows, fallow fields and shrub land, especially adjacent to wood lots or waterways. Gray fox typically are found in woodlands. Although they are found in all counties, fox numbers vary widely from abundant to uncommon. Generally, fox do not compete well with coyotes so in areas with large coyote populations they may be hard to find. Although they are commonly hunted with hounds -- often in conjunction with coyotes -- hunting with predator calls has become increasingly popular in recent years. Hunters are reminded that they must have a fur harvester license to take fox.
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