Deer Hunting in Michigan

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  • C
  • Unknown

    Est. Whitetail Population

  • 1,300,000 (tags sold)

    No. Licenses Sold Annually

  • $31

    A base license is $11. A deer permit is $20.

    Resident hunting license and deer permit

  • $171

    A base license is $151. A deer permit is $20.

    Non-resident hunting license and deer permit

  • 198"

    Taken by Troy Stephens in Jackson County in 1996 and ranks 39th all time.

    Record B&C Typical Stat

  • 203

    Total B&C Typical Entries

  • 246 2/8"

    The state’s nontypical record wasn’t taken by a hunter. It was picked up alongside a road in 2010 by Ronald Waldron in Lenawee County.

    Record B&C Non-Typical Stat

  • 109

    Record B&C Non-Typical Entries

Kristin Stump and her massive Michigan buck. Image courtesy of Kristin Stump

Season Dates (2021):

Youth season is September 11-12. The early antlerless season is September 18-19. The independence hunt runs October 14-17. Bow season spans October 1 to November 14 and December 1 to January 1. Gun season is November 15-30. Muzzleloading varies depending on the zone, but opens on December 3. The late antlerless season is December 13 to January 1. Dates are subject to change. Check the Michigan DNR website to confirm season dates.

The Grade: C

This a state that’s ripe with pretty landscapes and scenic drives. Sits in a treestand are more … lackluster. It receives incredible amounts of pressure. Due to a high hunter density, the buck age structure isn’t as good as in surrounding states. Furthermore, chronic wasting disease (CWD) is established in the central and southern portions of the Lower Peninsula (LP).

While the DNR cites reduced hunter numbers and the discovery of CWD as the cause, another downfall is the fact that the DNR recently liberalized hunting regulations (again). It’s highly likely the antlerless harvest could increase this year. All factors in the balance, we still can’t give it better than a C.

There are silver linings, though. Michigan offers plenty of diversity: Big woods to the north. Rolling ag lands with intermittent woodlots in the south. A healthy mix in between. It also has a good bit of public land. According to the DNR, it has more acres of public land than any other state east of the mighty Mississippi, albeit mostly in the Upper Peninsula (UP). Furthermore, DNR officials report it ranks No. 1 in the country for total archery harvest and fluctuates between No. 2 and 4 in terms of total deer harvest. Again, while there are a lot of deer here, a huge population of hunters drives those achievements.

Antler Nation Knowledge:

The Wolverine State offers several public lands programs. State and federal hunting grounds are abundant. County lands open to hunters are more difficult to find, but these tracts often go overlooked because of that. Also, remember the Hunting Access Program (HAP), which was established in 1977 to increase hunting opportunities in southern Michigan. It’s since expanded to other areas and provides a long list of access points.

Michigan isn’t a popular destination for giant bucks. But if a big Michigan whitetail is your goal, look to southern counties. Looking at combined Boone and Crockett and Pope and Young entries, the highest concentration of record deer come from the southwestern corner of the state. Focus on areas between Ottawa, Lapeer, Berrien, and Lenawee counties. Unfortunately, private landownership dominates the region, and public opportunities are limited.

The northern half of the LP and UP are filled with public land that’s often overlooked. While the deer hunting isn’t as good, pockets of opportunity exist.

Michigan Harvests

  • Scott Firavich

    Hillsdale, Michigan

  • Samuel Spencer

    St. Clair , Michigan

From the Realtree Trophy Den