A slightly smaller Michigan Natural Resources Commission (NRC) will meet Thursday to vote on new rules for the 2021 deer hunting season, including changes to the archery seasons and antlerless deer tags. 

Recently, newly-appointed NRC Commissioners Thomas Baird and David Cozad were disapproved by the Michigan Senate, along with 11 other Whitmer appointees. This leaves the NRC with five members seated, until new members may be appointed. 

The proposed deer regulations could include the legalization of crossbows during the late Upper Peninsula (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 still four commissioner-proposed amendments which would strip different provisions out of the proposed wildlife conservation order amendment. 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, so the NRC must vote on these rules this week. 

Given the ongoing issues related to COVID-19, the NRC will meet virtually using an online platform to consider a full agenda. To attend, please call in using this phone number: 1 (415) 930-5321 and use access code 628-747-615. 

Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC) has worked with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and NRC to make the process of setting regulations more transparent, said MUCC Executive Director Amy Trotter. 

“Deer regulations are complicated, but they are infinitely more difficult to follow when they aren’t written down and publicly available,” Trotter said. “Since the last round of deer hunting regulation setting in 2020, MUCC has worked in collaboration with DNR staff and NRC members to ensure that meeting minutes and planned amendments are posted for the public to consider. More transparency is never a bad thing for this process.”

The DNR is slated to give a number of updates to the NRC, including a presentation on the possession and consumption of alcoholic beverages on certain state lands, hunting and trapping on state park properties, and proposed migratory bird hunting regulations. Staff from the DNR Wildlife Division will present their annual report and award the winners of the Pure Michigan Hunt.

New Business

The NRC will gather information on two wildlife conservation orders, one on migratory game bird hunting seasons and another regarding hunting and trapping in state parks and recreation areas

Migratory game bird hunting in 2021 will largely look the same as in 2020; however, there are a few minor changes that could be implemented. The proposed rule has incorporated hunter feedback to attempt to more closely align goose hunting seasons with duck hunting seasons. The 2021 season will also be the first season of a shift in the migratory game bird hunting zones, which should facilitate additional hunter opportunities. DNR staff have also recommended aligning the opening of woodcock season with the opening of grouse season. It should also be noted that all migratory game bird hunting regulation decisions made by the state are done within a framework provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 

The order pertaining to hunting and trapping in state parks and recreation areas will neither expand or decrease the boundary areas, but it will help to align language in the Wildlife Conservation Orders with rules on public-facing GIS maps. 

The NRC cannot take action on either of these orders Thursday. 

DNR Director Dan Eichinger will consider a land use order to clarify rules surrounding the possession and consumption of alcoholic beverages on certain pieces of public land managed by the DNR. Major changes include removing the prohibition of alcohol at three boating access sites to better align with other rules within the unit, as well as a consolidation of state parks and recreation area alcohol prohibitions to April 1 through Labor Day. This land use order will be considered at this meeting, but action on the item must wait until February to meet public notice requirements. 

Eichinger will also consider small land transactions in Charlevoix and Allegan counties. 

Old Business

Members of the NRC gathered testimony on a package of proposed deer regulations for the fall 2021 hunting season. These changes may be viewed in brief from MUCC

Three members of the NRC have offered four amendments to the proposed rules. 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 and 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 first proposed these amendments in November are likely to bring them up again at the February NRC meeting.

The NRC will also vote on Fisheries Order 245.21, an order governing commercial bait dealers. This proposed rule is aimed at helping stem the spread of diseases in fish populations throughout the state, especially through the use and transportation of live baits (minnows). DNR staff told members of the NRC in January that the goal of this order is to enhance biosecurity of bait supply, while also adjusting specific provisions of the law based on updated scientific information. If passed, this rule will expand baitfish testing requirements and recommendations for baitfish harvesters, wholesale retailers and anglers. 

Eichinger will make a decision on a land use order of the director pertaining to the annual forest road inventory

MUCC encourages individuals to register 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.

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

About Charlie Booher

Charlie Booher is a State Conservation Policy Fellow with Michigan United Conservation Clubs.

2 Comments

  1. Garth vandenbosch on February 10, 2021 at 12:01 pm

    Bring back the baiting two tags only buck doe can be used for archery as well

  2. David Cygan on February 10, 2021 at 9:35 pm

    How do we get baiting legal again?!

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