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DNR reminds hunters of legal firearms for muzzleloader season

The 2023 muzzleloader season began today and ends at the close of shooting hours on Sunday, Dec. 10. When heading out to enjoy your season, remember that legal equipment and other regulations vary based on where you are hunting.

“As the goals of deer management have changed, so do regulations around muzzleloader season,” said Chad Stewart, Michigan Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist.“The Michigan Department of Natural Resources recognizes the abundant deer population in the southern part of the Lower Peninsula and is focusing on ways to increase antlerless harvest. The DNR wants hunters to have every opportunity to maximize success and help manage the deer population in southern Michigan.”

Due to low hunter success during muzzleloader season, the DNR extended the late antlerless season in 2020, while reducing the muzzleloader season in the southern Lower Peninsula.

Additionally, in the southern Lower Peninsula, any firearm legal during the traditional firearm season (Nov. 15-30) can be used during the muzzleloader season.

Zones 1 and 2

If you are hunting deer with a muzzleloading firearm during the muzzleloading deer season in Zones 1 and 2, you may only possess, carry afield or take a deer with a crossbow, muzzleloading rifle, muzzleloading shotgun or black-powder pistol, loaded with black powder or a commercially manufactured black-powder substitute.

In the Upper Peninsula, only certified hunters with a disability may use a crossbow or a modified bow during the muzzleloading season.

Zone 3 and portions of southern Zone 2

In Zone 3, and Bay, Isabella, Mecosta, Midland, Muskegon, Newaygo and Oceana counties, you can use all legal firearms. If you are hunting in the limited firearm deer zone, you must follow equipment requirements for that zone, which includes:

  • Shotguns 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.
  • Conventional (smokeless powder) handguns 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.
  • A .35-caliber or larger rifle must be loaded with straight-walled cartridges with a minimum case length of 1.16 inches and a maximum case length of 1.80 inches.
  • A .35-caliber or larger air rifle or pistol must be charged only from an external, high-compression power source.

Hunter orange requirements apply for anyone utilizing a muzzleloader or firearm during the muzzleloader season. Hunter orange does not apply for individuals using a crossbow or archery equipment to take deer during the muzzleloader season.

Hunters should also report their deer within 72 hours of harvest.

Current regulations and harvest reporting are available through the DNR’s Hunt Fish app.

An accompanying photo is available below for download. Caption information follows.

Map: In Zone 3, including Bay, Isabella, Mecosta, Midland, Muskegon, Newaygo and Oceana counties, you can use all legal firearms. If you are hunting in the limited firearm deer zone, you must follow equipment requirements for that zone (see pages 49-50 of the Hunting Regulations Summary).