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Firearm, Crossbow and Bow and Arrow Rules

Centerfire or rimfire rifles may be used Dec. 1-Nov. 9 in the Shotgun Zone during the open season for all species except no rifles may be used for deer, turkeys and migratory game birds. See Nighttime Raccoon and Predator Hunting restrictions.

The rules listed below may not apply to those having a concealed pistol license or those specifically exempt by law from a concealed pistol license and who carry their handgun in accordance with their license or exemption.

Shell Capacity for Shotguns and Centerfire Rifles
It is unlawful to hunt with a semi-automatic shotgun or semi-automatic rifle that can hold more than six shells in the barrel and magazine combined unless it is a .22 caliber rimfire. Fully automatic firearms are illegal. All shotguns used for migratory game birds (including woodcock) must be plugged so the total capacity of the shotgun does not exceed three shells.

Crossbows
Any licensed hunter who has obtained a free crossbow stamp can hunt with a crossbow during any season in which a firearm is allowed, for both big and small game, except hunters in the Upper Peninsula may not use a crossbow or a modified bow during the Dec. 1 - Jan. 1 late archery deer season and Dec. 7-16 muzzleloader deer season, unless the hunter is disabled and has a crossbow permit or special permit to take game with a modified bow.
Any licensed hunter may use a crossbow throughout the archery deer season in the Lower Peninsula (Oct. 1 - Nov. 14 and Dec. 1 - Jan. 1) and during the early archery deer season in the Upper Peninsula (Oct. 1 - Nov. 14). Crossbow use is not allowed in the Red Oak Unit during the archery-only bear season (Oct. 5-11) except for certified hunters with a disability.
The DNR may issue a crossbow permit or a special permit to take game with a modified bow to a person with a valid hunting license to take a deer during an open deer season, if the person is certified as having permanent or temporary disability, as defined in Wildlife Conservation Order 5.95, which renders a person unable to use conventional archery equipment. Hunters may use a modified bow where crossbows are legal. A modified bow is a bow, other than a crossbow, that has been physically altered so that it may be held, aimed and shot with one arm. When hunting deer, bear, elk and turkey, crossbow hunters must use only arrows, bolts and quarrels with a broadhead hunting type of point not less than 7/8 of an inch wide with a minimum of 14 inches in length. See Hunter Orange Clothing Requirements.

Archery Deer Seasons
During the archery deer seasons, it is illegal to carry afield a pistol, revolver or other firearm while bow hunting for deer.

Exceptions: This prohibition does not apply to pistols carried under authority of a concealed pistol license or properly carried under authority of a specific exception from the requirement of a concealed pistol license. However, a concealed pistol license does not authorize the individual to use the pistol to take game except as provided by law.

Nov. 10-14
It is unlawful to carry afield or transport any rifle (including rimfire) or shotgun if you have buckshot, slug, ball loads or cut shells.

Exception: You may transport a firearm to your deer camp or to a target range during this period if the firearm is properly transported.(see Transporting - Carrying Firearms and Bows and Arrows).

A resident who holds a fur harvester license may carry a .22 caliber or smaller rimfire firearm while hunting furbearers or checking a trap line during the open season for hunting furbearers or trapping furbearing animals. You also may target shoot on your own property provided there is no attempt to take game.

Nov. 15-30 Firearm Deer Season
It is illegal for a person taking or attempting to take game to carry or possess afield a centerfire or muzzleloading rifle, a crossbow, a bow and arrow, a centerfire or black powder handgun, or a shotgun with buckshot, slug or ball loads or cut shells, unless you have in your possession a 2012 firearm deer, combination deer or antlerless deer license for the appropriate DMU, with an unused kill tag issued in your name, or a 2012 firearm deer, combination deer or antlerless deer license for the appropriate DMU issued in your name with an unused Deer Management Assistance (DMA) permit kill tag or an unused managed deer hunting permit.

Muzzleloading Deer Seasons
During the December muzzleloading seasons, muzzleloading deer hunters can carry afield and use only a crossbow (except in the Upper Peninsula) or a muzzleloading rifle, a muzzleloading shotgun, or a black powder handgun loaded with black powder or a commercially manufactured black powder substitute. Only certified hunters with a disability may use a crossbow or a modified bow during the muzzleloading season in the Upper Peninsula.

All Firearm Deer Seasons - Rifle Zone
In the rifle zone, deer may be taken with handguns, rifles, crossbows, bows and arrows, shotguns and muzzleloading firearms including black powder handguns. It is legal to hunt deer in the rifle zone with any caliber of firearm except a .22 caliber or smaller rimfire (rifle or handgun). During the firearm deer seasons, a firearm deer hunter may carry afield a bow and arrow, crossbow and firearm.

Exception: See Muzzleloading Deer Seasons above for restrictions during this season.

All Firearm Deer Seasons - Shotgun Zone
In the shotgun zone, all hunters afield from Nov. 15-30, and all deer hunters in this zone during other deer seasons, must abide by the following firearm restrictions or use a crossbow or a bow and arrow. Legal firearms are as follows:

  • A shotgun may have a smooth or rifled barrel and may be of any gauge.
  • A muzzleloading rifle or black powder handgun must be loaded with black powder or a commercially manufactured black powder substitute.
  • A conventional (smokeless powder) handgun must be .35 caliber or larger and loaded with straight-walled cartridges and may be single- or multiple-shot but cannot exceed a maximum capacity of nine rounds in the barrel and magazine combined.


During the firearm deer seasons, a firearm deer hunter may carry afield a bow and arrow, crossbow and firearm. Exceptions:

  • See Muzzleloading Deer Seasons above for restrictions during this season.
  • From Nov. 15-30, a .22 caliber or smaller rimfire rifle or handgun may be used to kill a raccoon while hunting raccoons with dogs between the hours of 7 p.m. and 6 a.m.
  • A .22 caliber or smaller rimfire may be used to dispatch coyote, fox, raccoon, bobcat and badger from Nov. 15-30 in the Shotgun Zone provided the firearm is loaded at the point of kill only.

License Requirement - Possession of Firearms and Bows and Arrows

Those taking or attempting to take game and in possession of a firearm, crossbow, slingshot or bow and arrow must have the appropriate hunting license with them and the identification used to purchase that license and exhibit both upon demand of a Michigan conservation officer, a tribal conservation officer or any other law enforcement officer. Those using a crossbow must obtain a free crossbow stamp annually.

A hunting license is not required when target practicing or sighting-in a firearm at an identifiable, artificially constructed target, and there is no attempt to take game.

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