NRC Tables Deer Regulations, Requests Revisions at June Meeting

The Natural Resources Commission (NRC) tabled 2020 deer regulations and is seeking a revision to proposed hunter orange requirements before their July meeting. 

The NRC met virtually on Thursday, June 11 to consider a number of agenda items. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) hosted the meeting, and a recording can be viewed using this link

While following the standard three-year deer regulation cycle, NRC members sought to receive more feedback on the proposed wildlife conservation order before making a decision – especially a revision removing the proposed hunter orange requirements for ground blinds. 

We are glad to see the NRC take sufficient time to consider regulations that will impact so many Michigan hunters, said Michigan United Conservation Clubs Executive Director Amy Trotter.

“I believe that this additional time will give the commissioners a chance to consider the relevant regulations before them,” Trotter said. “MUCC staff will continue advocating on behalf of our member-passed resolutions in preparation for the final rule.”

NRC members heard from DNR Deer Management Specialist Chad Stewart on a number of these regulations, as well as DNR Law Enforcement staff on potential hunter orange requirements.

This briefing included a review of the history of hunter safety requirements, especially highlighting the large decreases in hunting accidents after the implementation of hunter orange requirements and hunter safety programs. DNR staff believes that requiring hunter orange on ground blinds is a proactive approach to avoid future potential tragedies. 

Some of the proposed modifications align with MUCC member-passed resolutions, including requiring hunter orange on ground blinds and clarifying rules for harvest. Currently, proposed deer regulations would require hunters to have at least 144 square inches of hunter orange on the outside of their blinds visible from 360 degrees. The NRC has requested a revised version of this rule for their consideration in July, without the revised hunter orange requirements. A motion to do so passed unanimously. 

Commissioners also requested a number of additional regulations, including proposals to:  

  • Clarify combination license rules statewide to allow any legal buck to be harvested  with the first tag and a consistent antler point restriction (APR) on the second tag (Tracy); 
  • Allow baiting before the start of the Independence Hunt, consistent with the rules for the Liberty Hunt (Tracy) 
  • (if 1 doesn’t pass) Remove the APR on the first tag of the combination license in the Upper Peninsula (Tracy); 
  • Allow the use of crossbows in December in the UP (Tracy) 
  • Address carcass movement restrictions per recommendations from Erik Schnelle of QDMA (Tracy); 
  • (if 1 doesn’t pass) remove the four-point antler point restriction on the second tag of the combination license in the CWD management zone (Tracy); 
  • Suspend changes to APRs until the current APR study is complete (resolution; Tracy)
  • Clarify muzzleloader season restrictions to have a season in all areas of the state where hunters may exclusively use muzzleloaders (Creagh) 

Recommendations for changed rules going into this meeting may be found in full from the DNR here, or in brief from MUCC here. DNR staff will provide a revised order with language pursuant to the requests above prior to the July NRC meeting. 

DNR Director Dan Eichinger also provided NRC members with a brief overview of DNR budget concerns for the remainder of this fiscal year and the next budget cycle.

DNR Survey Specialist Brian Frawley updated NRC members on 2019 deer harvest data. According to Frawley’s report, Michigan has lost around 300,000 hunters since 2000 and the data suggest that another 100,000 hunters could be lost over the next decade.

For Information

Commissioners heard from DNR Deer Management Specialist Chad Stewart on a change to the mandatory elk hunt orientation. This change would give DNR staff the option to offer virtual training this year, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and possibly in the future. According to the wildlife conservation order, “this change provides a safeguard that allows hunters to pursue elk if social distancing is required at the time leading up to the elk season without violating WCO language.” Decisions on orientations beyond the 2020 season will be brought before the NRC at a later date. 

For Information – Director

Eichinger and DNR Parks & Recreation Division staff presented an order to regulate camping on state forest lands in Benzie County under the authority of a Land Use Order of the Director Amendment No. 04 of 2020. This order will limit the extent to which campers may utilize this piece of land, as DNR staff notes that “associated camping [in the area] results in enormous amounts of garbage and accumulations of human waste being left onsite.” The history of abuse on this particular parcel spurred this new management action. Eichinger will likely approve this order at the July NRC Meeting. 

For Action – Director

Eichinger signed a letter of authorization eliminating discounted private land antlerless deer licenses expiring the first Sunday in November in the CWD Management Zone. This change is intended to clarify rules for hunters in relevant regions of the state. As the letter notes: “there was a lot of confusion from hunters and retailers about where and when the license was valid.” Commissioners agreed that this revocation would help to clarify rules for hunters. 

There were also a number of land transactions before the director this month, including sales in Allegan, Chippewa and Delta counties. A full list of transactions can be found on the agenda here. The director approved all transactions listed on the agenda. 

Of the seven possible NRC members, only commissioners Keith Creagh, Louise Klarr, Chris Tracy and Dave Nyberg were present. Three seats on the NRC remain vacant

The next NRC meeting is currently scheduled for July 16, 2020 and will likely take place virtually. 


  1. Mark Steven Link on June 15, 2020 at 4:11 pm

    I am handicapped what are rules for bait for me . I live in Benzie County and I also have permit to hunt from standing auto witch I have to do.

  2. GeraldMacKenzie on June 15, 2020 at 4:55 pm

    No orange on ground blind, maybe some orange ribbon on the closest tree.

  3. R. J. Branham on June 15, 2020 at 7:04 pm

    We don’t need orange on our hunting blinds we are losing deer hunters every year and it seems to me our NRC and the DNR don’t really care. Just remember one thing as the hunting and fishing goes so do your jobs you need to go back to baiting and drop the APR most hunters don’t shoot the small bucks any way.

    • Greg Barnaby on June 16, 2020 at 9:31 am

      I see the nrc is willing to look at other states to compare changes such as Hunter orange on blinds. Sure wish they would look at other states for things such as shorter later gun/ muzzle loader seasons one buck or state wide aprs. Love the no baiting at least in zone 3!

      We are loosing a ton of hunters to other states that have much better age structure!

  4. Randy Bailey on June 15, 2020 at 7:47 pm

    How many hunting accidents occurred that would have been prevented by having orange on the blind..? Statistics?

  5. Jim Walker on June 16, 2020 at 1:53 am

    So if safety has been increased with current hunters orange rules and we are loosing hunters what is the greater problem? Seems like a waste of time and confusion of rules. Also, If someone elevates their blind off the ground at what height is it considered “elevated”? Is it one height for the entire state or does it differ from Zone1 to Zone 3? Does it apply for ground blinds during bow season as well or is it just Gun and Muzzleloading season? Please stop this confusion along with wasted time and invest resources and time in our new hunters!

  6. John Thelen on June 16, 2020 at 8:11 am

    It seems that commissioner Tracy is trying to reverse APRs in areas that already have them. THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE. Over 66 percent of the people in these areas favor APRs, have gone through endless red tape to get them, and have revalidated their preference.

  7. M. Snip on June 16, 2020 at 8:40 am

    I agree with R.J. Branham

  8. P. DeGrande on June 16, 2020 at 9:16 am

    For sure we don’t need orange on our ground blinds. Our dnr needs to look at some of our neighboring states DNR and see how they manage their deer herd. We should be a one buck state. We should not have an early doe season in September. The fawns still have spots on them and are being orphaned. They are not given the opportunity to learn the basic skills to survive they get from their mothers. Too many times I see babies crying because their mothers were killed in the un-needed early doe season. I am all for teaching our youth but they do not need a “special” season either. We didn’t have one. These kids, too many times their parents shoot the deer, are able to hunt early every year till they are 17. Every year big bucks are taken out of the breeding pool in September. It is ruining bow hunting. This is why so many hunters now leave Michigan to hunt in states that are properly managed. Later seasons, longer seasons, extra tags, special seasons. Our dnr will not be happy till we wipe out the herd in Michigan. They are ruining our state.

  9. David Lynema on June 25, 2020 at 5:03 pm

    I do not support the hunter orange on stands or blinds. I do support some baiting. I do support antler restrictions . And lastly I support the harvest of additional does ,even to the point of combo licences one doe and one buck with at least three on one side.

  10. michael knudsen on June 25, 2020 at 6:49 pm

    when hunting on private property I dont think the orange blind rule should apply

  11. Robert Zielinski on June 26, 2020 at 7:15 am

    I respectfully disagree with RJ’s first and last points. There have been far to many close calls involving Difficult to see ground blinds. Having 1 square foot of Hunter Orange visible from all directions will greatly improve safety without negatively impacting the hunting experience.
    Please continue the APR study to completion. I have seen a ridiculous percentage of obvious first year spikes and 4 points taken. Even in areas where QDM is heavily supported. I believe APR is necessary and the study if carried to completion will support that.

  12. James Magiera on June 27, 2020 at 7:11 pm

    I would surely like to see our state’s legal zone 3 firearms deer season to include cartridges such as the 45-70 and other similar cartridges as per Ohio’s regulations

  13. Matt Wheaton on July 12, 2020 at 2:45 pm

    The NRC & DNR are out of touch with the majority of Hunters in MI. Just like our Govenor, they’re over-micromanaging and following bias science to discourage hunting and creat Bans to prove such. Since the ban of feeding/baiting Deer, the road kill count has increased 50%+ all year around.

    REVERSE the BAIT BAN !!!

  14. Lori Munson on July 14, 2020 at 11:09 am

    The orange on the blinds sounds like it would be required even on private land, which is completely ridiculous! Vote this down!!!! Bring back baiting… ask any auto insurance company…so many accidents because so few deer were taken during hunting season.

    Also, no one should be able to be a part of any of the rule making who is not an avid hunter.

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