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2011 Deer Season Articles

Following are five short articles about various aspects of the 2011 deer hunting season. Please feel free to use them as you deem appropriate.

Deer Baiting Regulations

The biggest change in deer regulations for the 2011 season is that outside of Deer Management Unit (DMU) 487, the six-county tuberculosis area in the northeast Lower Peninsula, baiting deer will once again be allowed in the Lower Peninsula. Within DMU 487 (which includes Alcona, Alpena, Iosco, Montmorency, Oscoda, and Presque Isle counties) a total ban on baiting remains in effect.

Hunters are reminded, however, that some baiting restrictions still apply wherever they hunt deer in Michigan. The regulations are intended to minimize the effects of concentrating deer together. Such concentration increases contact among animals, which is of concern because it can increase the chance that undetected diseases – such as bovine tuberculosis or chronic wasting disease – may quickly grow to a problematic level before any action is possible.

First of all, the quantity of bait is limited to no more than two gallons per hunting site. For those who have a difficult time imagining what two gallons looks like, well, grab a couple of gallon milk jugs, fill them up, empty them into a five gallon bucket and mark the level. That's two gallons – 40 percent of a five-gallon bucket.

Put another way, a gallon is .133 cubic feet. A cube of slightly more than 6 inches on a side is a gallon, and a cubic foot is almost 7.5 gallons.

A 50-pound sack of shelled corn contains approximately six gallons volume.

Remember the regulation is two gallons per hunting site - not two gallons a day as some have interpreted the rule. If you distribute two gallons of bait to a site that has already been baited and all the previous bait has not been consumed, you are over the limit. If you are hunting within view of two or more places where you've spread two gallons of bait, you are also over the limit, even if you're sharing a blind or tree stand with another hunter.

In addition to the restriction on quantity, the bait must be spread over a 100-square-foot area. The idea is to minimize nose-to-nose contact among animals. Dumping two gallons in a pile not only promotes nose-to-nose contact, it is against the regulation.

Hunters may use mineral blocks, but they count against the two-gallon limit. Mineral blocks are discouraged, however, because they promote numerous animals contacting the same surface or coming to the exact same place repeatedly. Remember, the idea is to reduce the amount of contact among animals.

Automatic spin-casting feeders are one way to distribute bait over a 100-square foot area, but care should be taken not to broadcast excessive bait. If the feeder is set to broadcast two gallons of bait once a day and the bait from the previous day is not consumed, you will be over the limit. Similarly, because automatic feeders are rarely moved, they continue to broadcast over the same area. Even if the bait is consumed before more is distributed, this can promote what biologists call indirect contact between deer. In this case, a sick deer may leave a disease agent at the site, and an uninfected deer may pick up the illness when it visits at a later time.

Because it is best to minimize both nose-to-nose (direct) contact and indirect among animals, the Department of Natural Resources recommends that you move bait locations around. You do not have to bait the same 100 square feet every time. Just as many hunters adjust their setup based on wind direction or anticipation of deer moving to or from bedding areas at different times of the day, you should adjust your setup to keep deer from repeatedly visiting the exact same bait location.

Finally, baiting may commence no sooner than Oct.1. Those hunting during the early antlerless season, youth seasons, or season for disabled veterans in September may not use bait. And though there is no restriction on the time of day that bait may be distributed, remember that bait may intensify nocturnal movements by deer. Though a lot of factors influence when deer will move, if they have a choice of visiting your bait site in the dark while you're not able to hunt, you can see why this might be more appealing. If you put bait out in the morning and pick it up before you leave for the night, or if you just use a small quantity that's likely to be consumed by any variety of animals in a short time, you can eliminate nocturnal feeding.

Most biologists discourage the use of bait as it causes unnatural concentration of animals and promotes greater rates of direct and indirect contact. If you want to use bait, please disperse it over the area, move it around to different locations and remember the two-gallon limit. The DNR reminds hunters it is their responsibility to know the regulations and follow them. If baiting is part of your hunting strategy, proper planning will keep you legal and help protect the health of Michigan's deer herd.

Click here for an image to accompany this article. Please credit this photo to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.


Hunting Heritage Program

Some of the biggest news about deer hunting in Michigan this year will not come into play until 2012, when the Mentored Youth Hunt, also known as the Hunter Heritage Program, comes into effect. The new program will create an opportunity for youths who are less than 10 years old to become deer hunters.

But there are some immediate changes, too. Currently, youths who are at least 10 years of age may hunt deer with a bow and arrow or crossbow if the youth is safety certified or in possession of an apprentice license and accompanied by a parent, guardian or adult 21 years of age or older. New this year, youths may hunt with a firearm is they are at least 10 years old, either hunter safety trained, in possession of a firearms license or junior combination license, and accompanied by an adult at least 18 years or age; or in possession of an apprentice license, accompanied by a parent, guardian or adult 21 years of age.

In either case, youngsters less than 14 years of age may hunt in private land only.

"Accompanied by" means the adult must be able to come to the immediate aid of the apprentice and stay within a distance that allows "uninterrupted, unaided visual and verbal contact."

The Hunter Heritage Program or Mentored Youth Hunt "is a great opportunity for Michigan's youth," said Department of Natural Resources Director Rodney Stokes. "Our youngsters can start hunting earlier with a safe program, which can have a lifelong impact on their interest in conservation and natural resources."

The Natural Resources Commission has been charged with developing the program. The NRC has appointed a six-member committee to make recommendations for specific rules for the new Mentored Youth Hunt program.

The law creates a mentored youth hunt license, which will enable youths to hunt, not just deer, but turkey and small game as well. The license will be $7.50, and will be available starting in the 2012 hunting season.

Under the law, a parent or guardian must apply for the license on behalf of the youngster. Once the youth reaches 10 years of age, the youth will be eligible for the apprentice license or must successfully complete hunter safety training.

Youngsters (and parents) are reminded that apprentice licenses may only be purchased for two years, at which time the new hunter must complete s hunter safety education course to continue hunting.

For more information on the Mentored Youth Hunt Program starting in 2012, go to www.michigan.gov/mentoredhunting.


Antlerless Deer Hunting

Michigan's basic deer hunting licenses - firearms, archery and the combination license - are good for a legal buck anywhere in the state, but when it comes to taking antlerless deer, the rules are a little more complicated.

Hunters may use the kill tags from an archery license to take an antlerless deer anytime archery during archery season, except they may not use a crossbow to take an antlerless deer during the late (Dec.1 – Jan. 1) archery season in the Upper Peninsula.

Antlerless licenses are available for all seasons in most areas of the state. Hunters may use these tags in appropriate deer management units (DMUs) during any open season. Antlerless licenses are not generally available in DMUs where the deer population is below goal, though hunters may use their archery license tags in those areas.

Antlerless licenses are issued for either private land or public land. Hunters must have a public-land antlerless license to hunt on lands enrolled in the Commercial Forest Act.

Generally speaking, hunters may purchase up to five antlerless licenses per day, for a total of up to five licenses per year, though there is no season limit in DMUs 486 and 487. And there some DMUs where the purchase limit is two per day; check the 2011 Antlerless Deer Hunting Digest for details.

There are quotas in each deer management unit limiting the total number of licenses available.

To see which DMUs have antlerless licenses available, go to www.michigan.gov/huntdrawings.

In addition, hunters with a firearms or combination license can use the kill tag from that license to tag an antlerless deer during the firearms and muzzleloading seasons in DMU 487, the six-county area (Presque Isle, Montmorency, Alpena, Oscoda, Alcona and Iosco) in the northeastern Lower Peninsula.

Hunters are reminded that the a late antlerless deer season is open Dec. 19 – Jan. 1 in DMU 486, 487, 005, 015, 064 and part of 006. Check the 2011 Michigan Antlerless Deer Hunting Digest for details.


Quality Venison Begins in the Field

The reasons why people hunt deer are probably as varied as the people who hunt them, but the vast majority share at least one common trait: They want to put venison on the table.

An excellent source of high-quality, low-fat protein, venison has become increasingly popular in the food world. And as the movement toward locally produced, sustainable food sources gains steam, venison fits perfectly; it comes directly into the food supply from the wild, absent the manipulations of the meat production industry.

But it's a lengthy path from woods to the table and how hunters process their game has a significant impact on its palatability. Proper field care of deer is the first step toward a rewarding experience in the kitchen.

The Department of Natural Resources reminds hunters that proper field dressing of deer is mostly a matter of paying attention to detail. The first detail is timing; generally, the sooner you can dress a deer - especially in warm weather - the better off you'll be. It's also a lot easier to field dress an animal while it's still warm.

The DNR recommends rubber or latex gloves when field dressing deer, as much for your own sake as for that of the meat. One of the keys to field dressing an animal is to avoid contacting the meat with contaminants, either internal (feces, stomach contents or urine) or external (hair or dirt).

The first step - after you've tagged the deer - is to roll it on its back. Make sure you have a sharp knife (dull knives lead to accidents). Locate the breast bone. Pull the hide away from the carcass (to avoid puncturing any internal organs) and make a small incision in the animal's chest just below the breast bone. Insert your middle and forefingers in the shape of a V and push up against the skin. Insert the knife, cutting surface up, between the fingers and cut through the abdominal wall and down toward the pelvis. By working from the chest toward the pelvis, you are cutting in the direction the hair grows, making it easier to avoid getting hair on the meat.

If the deer is a buck, cut around both sides of the reproductive organs. Cut between the hams carefully to free a buck's urethra. Cut around the anus. And, if it's a doe, cut around the vaginal tract, as well. You'll have to cut to a depth of about four inches. Do not sever the rectum or the urethra. If pellets or fecal material are present in the rectum, some hunters recommend tying it shut with a piece of string.

If it's a doe - or a buck and you do not plan to mount the trophy - you can cut up through the center of the breast bone, all the way up to the neck. If it's an old or large animal, a small saw will make it easier to get through the rib cage. If it's a buck that you want to mount, do not cut above the breast bone; reach up into the chest cavity to grasp the windpipe and esophagus. Cut the esophagus and wind pipe as high as you can reach. Pull them down and cut them free.

The DNR does not recommend splitting the pelvic bone, as many injuries occur while doing so. If you insist on splitting the pelvis, use a small saw instead of a knife. Instead, pull the rectum and urethra from under the pelvic bone into the body cavity. Pull the windpipe and esophagus down and away from the carcass.

Cut the diaphragm as close to the rib cage as possible on both sides, making sure you do not puncture the stomach, intestines or bladder. Roll the body on its side, allowing the entrails to begin falling out of the body cavity. You may have to free the organs from connective tissue with your knife. Keep the liver and heart for the table, if you're inclined.

Prop the body cavity open (a stick will help) to facilitate cooling and allow the blood to drain. Wipe out the body cavity. The carcass is now ready to be transported to where you want to hang it until you're ready to take it home or to the processor.


Sportsmen Against Hunger

Hunters who are willing to share the rewards of their deer-hunting efforts with the less fortunate should check out Sportsmen Against Hunger.

The program, which began in 1991, is designed to help hunters donate venison to those in need.

"The program's a win-win situation," explained Dean Hall, an officer with the Michigan Bow Hunters Association and chairman of Sportsmen Against Hunger. "We have a lot of people who out there - especially during times like these - who need help getting enough to eat. We can help the soup kitchens and shelters and food pantries with donations of venison."

Although the program is designed for deer hunting season, Hall said his crew has been active all summer, too, working with landowners who have crop-damage permits identify programs that can use the venison.

"Anyone who donates a whole deer does not have to pay any processing fees," Hall said. "We reimburse the processors for their efforts.

"And sportsmen who wish to donate as little as a pound or two of venison can donate, too."

Hall recommends interested hunters go the group's website (www.sportsmenagainsthunger.org) for a list of processors who are enrolled in the program. They can donate small amounts of venison to those processors, who will pass it along to appropriate recipients.

"It's a community effort," Hall said.

Last year, sportsmen donated 23,000 pounds - almost 100,000 servings - of venison to the effort.

In addition, a number of sports show organizers offer reduced admission to their events if visitors bring in a canned food item. Last year, more than 30,000 pounds of canned good were donated to the effort.

Sportsmen can also donate $1 when they purchase their hunting licenses. And additional tax-deductable donations to help defray the cost of processing are welcome, too.

"Sportsmen do a great job with this program and the people who need the protein benefit from it as well," Hall said. "It's a win-win situation."

For more information, visit the Sportsmen Against Hunger website or call (586) 552-6517.