NRC Reviews Deer Management, New Commissioners Seated at Upcoming Meeting

The Michigan Natural Resources Commission (NRC) will meet Thursday to make decisions on new rules for the 2021 deer hunting season, including new antlerless deer tags and changes to a slate of regulations impacting the Upper Peninsula (U.P.). 

The proposed deer regulations would impact deer hunters statewide and could include the legalization of crossbows during the late U.P. archery season, a removal of the U.P. “hunter’s choice” option and the creation of a universal antlerless license. However, there are four commissioner-proposed amendments which would strip different provisions out of the proposed wildlife conservation order. Given the ongoing issues relating to COVID-19, the NRC will meet virtually using an online platform to consider a full agenda

While it is possible that the NRC could vote on this whole package Thursday, it is likely that this body will not make any decision on the 2021 deer hunting regulations until February. It is important to note that any changes to the deer hunting license structure, and therefore the electronic licensing system, must be made by March. 

Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC) has worked with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and NRC to continue to make hunting and fishing regulations easy to understand for hunters and anglers, said MUCC Executive Director Amy Trotter. 

“Deer regulations take a great deal of time and effort to create, but also to understand,” Trotter said. “MUCC looks forward to continuing to work with the DNR to balance the needs of current and future hunters, with the health of Michigan’s wildlife.”

The DNR is slated to give a number of updates to the NRC, including a presentation on a fisheries order relating to disease control, the results of the 2020 elk seasons and an update on the forest road inventory. There will also be an update on the status of the state wolf management plan. 

Wolves were removed from the federal Endangered Species List in Oct. 2020 and, effective Jan. 4, 2021, are subject to state management. Further action will be guided by the state wolf management plan, which is subject to additional rulemaking and litigation. 

MUCC released a statement when the delisting occurred, detailing the involvement of the organization in returning wolves to state management, including multiple rounds of public comment in the last two decades. 

New Business

The NRC will consider Fisheries Order 245.21, which governs commercial bait dealers. This rule intends to help stem the spread of disease in fish populations throughout the state, especially through the transportation and use of live baits. 

DNR Director Dan Eichinger will also consider land sales in Crawford and Emmet counties, as well as a Director’s Order relating to the annual forest road inventory

Old Business

Members of the NRC will also gather testimony on a package of proposed deer regulations for the fall 2021 hunting season. These rules come after substantive regulation changes for the 2020 hunting seasons.

These changes can be viewed brief from MUCC

Three members of the NRC have offered four amendments to the proposed rules, which were linked in the December NRC agenda. These amendments deal with rescinding the proposed removal of the “hunter’s choice” program in the U.P., rescinding the proposed use of crossbows during the late U.P. archery season, archery hunting for antlerless deer, as well as regulations created as a part of a Michigan State University study to evaluate the impact of APRs on chronic wasting disease. The members of the NRC who proposed these amendments in November are likely to bring them up again this month, or at the February NRC meeting.

This meeting will be the first for new NRC Commissioners David Cozad, of Bay City, and Thomas Baird, of Elk Rapids. 

“MUCC welcomes NRC Commissioners Cozad and Baird and looks forward to working with both of them on issues important to Michigan’s hunters, anglers and trappers,” Trotter said. “We are excited to work with them to craft science-based fish and wildlife policy for the people of Michigan.”

MUCC encourages individuals to participate in the public comment portion of the NRC meetings. Due to the meetings being in a virtual format, it has never been easier to share your opinion on matters related to the commission: email with your name, phone number and desired topic of comment. 

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:



  1. Pete youngert on January 12, 2021 at 10:09 am

    How about more management fir rabbits?

  2. Derek DiLaura on January 12, 2021 at 10:56 am

    Cut back on Doe permits, I know there are fewer deer than in the past and no one needs that much venison.

  3. Timothy Rex on January 12, 2021 at 11:14 am

    I hope you will reinstate baiting of deer to teh agenda.


    Tim Rex

  4. Doug Herbruck on January 12, 2021 at 3:57 pm

    Concerning deer season, I think a one buck with no antler restrictions would be better. I have been trying to manage my property for bigger bucks with some of the neighbors but others are happy to kill smaller bucks. With the antler restrictions these hunters now have to wait until a bigger buck comes by, in many cases killing 2 1/2 and 3 1/2 year old bucks that we have been passing trying to get bigger bucks.
    I also think that Muzzle loader season should be just that. It’s destroying the experience.

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