The Michigan Natural Resources Commission (NRC) will meet Thursday to take up a slate of new rules for the 2021 deer hunting season, including revisions to antlerless deer licenses, crossbow use and antler point restrictions (APRs).
Deer regulations are normally brought before the NRC on a three-year cycle, however, they have come up annually for a number of years now. The proposed rules presented in Wildlife Conservation Order (WCO) Amendment No. 8 of 2020, are intended to clarify deer regulations and better meet the Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) management goals. The NRC will meet virtually using an online platform.
The rules that have been proposed for 2021 would impact deer hunters statewide and could include the creation of a universal antlerless license, legalization of crossbows during the late Upper Peninsula (U.P.) archery season and the removal of the U.P. “hunter’s choice” option. However, there are four proposed amendments which would strip different provisions out of the proposed WCO.
Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC) has weighed in on all of these rules and will continue to be actively involved with the DNR and NRC during this process, said MUCC Executive Director Amy Trotter.
“MUCC members are like most Michigan deer hunters: they tend to hold a wide variety of opinions regarding deer management in the state; however, we recognize that the department cannot manage deer in a way that will satisfy every individual hunter,” Trotter said. “That is why the public comment portion of the NRC meetings are so important. This body needs you to share your thoughts with those tasked with making these decisions. With these meetings being held virtually, the process could not be easier. It’s just like talking on the phone.”
MUCC encourages individuals to participate in the public comment portion of the NRC meetings. Due to the virtual format of the meetings, it has never been easier to share your opinion on a matter related to the commission. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, phone number and desired topic of comment to get on the agenda.
DNR Director Dan Eichinger is slated to give a report on the status of the online hunting license system, as well as introduce Jared Duquette as the new Wildlife Division chief. The decision to hire Duquette was announced at the last NRC meeting in November.
The only action items on the agenda for Thursday are a number of land transactions including actions in Charlevoix, Ontonagon and Kalkaska counties. A full list can be found on the NRC agenda.
Members of the NRC will also consider, and possibly vote on, a package of proposed deer regulations for the fall 2021 hunting seasons. These rules come after substantive regulation changes for the 2020 hunting seasons, some of which is currently underway. For current rules and regulations, please see the fall 2020 hunting digest.
The proposed rules for 2021 include:
- The creation of a universal antlerless deer license, with certain restrictions on areas of the U.P., rather than on a Deer Management Unit (DMU) level
- Permitting crossbow use during the late archery season in the U.P., consistent with the Lower Peninsula
- Removal of the “hunter’s choice” option in the U.P., which previously allowed hunters to choose between harvesting one antlered deer without APRs or two deer under a 3-point and a 4-point APR, respectively. This change would not apply to Drummond Island (DMU 117)
- Removal of the antlerless option during archery deer season in the U.P. (“Doe With A Bow”)
- Changing rules for recreational and supplemental feeding, including the removal of the permitting process for supplemental feeding.
- Renewing the urban deer management zone in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties, making these counties eligible for an extended archery season in January
- Creating a new DMU on North Manitou Island
- Expanding the method and manner of take for deer damage shooting permits
MUCC has a policy which supports the practice of supplemental feeding in the Upper Peninsula, especially where deer are stressed by severe winters. MUCC members have voted to oppose baiting by hunters generally, as well as in the context of transmissible diseases like CWD and Bovine Tuberculosis. MUCC has broad concerns with the proposed recommendations relating to supplemental feeding in the U.P. — supplemental feeding has a very different intent than recreational feeding (for viewing purposes), and these activities must have separate regulations and enforcement. If passed, the proposed regulation would effectively eliminate the permit program for supplemental feeding.
Three members of the NRC have also offered amendments to the proposed rules, which are linked in the NRC agenda. These include:
- An amendment from NRC Commissioner Creagh to terminate the APR study in DMUs 034, 054 and 059, if preliminary data from 2020 suggests a higher rate of disease in townships using APRs. These DMUs are currently host to DNR research regarding the impacts of APRs on Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) transmission
- An amendment from NRC Commissioner Nyberg to maintain the “hunter’s choice” option in the U.P.
- An amendment from NRC Commissioner Richardson to continue the ban on crossbows during the late archery season in the U.P.
- An amendment from NRC Commissioner Richardson to limit the “Doe with a Bow” provisions to ban archery harvest of antlerless deer in DMUs particularly susceptible to harsh winters.
It is possible that the NRC could vote on this whole package Thursday; however, it is equally likely that this body will not make any decision on the 2021 deer hunting regulations until after the new year when NRC Commissioners Tracy and Klarr’s seats on the commission will have expired.
This will be the final meeting for Commissioners Chris Tracy and Louise Klarr, unless they are reappointed by Gov. Whitmer. In advance of this meeting, we thank them both for their service on the NRC and to the state of Michigan.
It is important to note that changes to the license structure, and therefore the electronic licensing system, must be made by March.
Since 1937, MUCC has united citizens to conserve, protect and enhance Michigan’s natural resources and outdoor heritage – and we do so from Lansing to Washington D.C. Please join us today: http://bit.ly/JoinMUCC