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BIG GAME Furbearers offer good opportunities



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October 01, 2011
Prospects for the 2011 big-game hunting and furbearer seasons are very good, say Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologists. Michigan offers a diversity of species and a wide variety of seasons to maximize recreational opportunity.

First-time hunters are reminded there are two ways to qualify to purchase a hunting license. Generally, anyone who was born after Jan. 1, 1960 must first complete hunter safety training and acquire a hunter education certificate to purchase a license. State law was amended in 2006 to allow novice hunters to purchase an apprentice license to go afield with a mentor before they complete hunter education. Hunters may participate with an apprentice license for up to two seasons, but must be accompanied by an adult mentor with a license for the same activity.

Youths may begin hunting at age 10, for small game with a firearm or deer with archery gear; age 12 to hunt deer or bear with a firearm or a crossbow. However, firearms deer and bear hunters who are younger than 14 are restricted to private land only.

Licenses are available at all retail license dealers and at the DNR E-License website at www.mdnr-elicense.com.

The biggest change in deer hunting regulations this year is that hunters in the Lower Peninsula outside of Deer Management Unit 487, where tuberculosis is an issue may use bait. Hunters are limited to a maximum of two gallons of bait that must be spread over a minimum of 100 square feet.

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Rob Gould, of Eaton Rapids, carries a coyote to his four-wheeler. David Kenyon, Michigan DNR photo

Bear

Season: Bear licenses are issued by a preference-point system for specific time periods and geographic areas. Hunting on the mainland of the Upper Peninsula runs from Sept. 10 - Oct. 26. On Drummond Island, the season is Sept. 10 - Oct. 21. In the northern Lower Peninsula, the season is Sept. 16-24 in the Red Oak, Baldwin and Gladwin units with an additional week (beginning Sept. 9) in the north Baldwin unit and an archery-only season Oct. 7-13 in Red Oak. In the Upper Peninsula, the first five days are for bait hunting only. In the Lower Peninsula the first day of the season is bait only and the last two days (except for archery) are for hunting with dogs only.

Outlook: Bear hunting continues to be excellent in Michigan. With a population estimated to be in the 10,000 to 12,000 range, the DNR has made 11,742 licenses available and anticipates a harvest of about 2,000 bruins. Populations are at or near desired levels across most of their range.

Elk

Season: Aug. 30 Sept. 2 and Sept. 23-26; Dec. 3-11; and Jan. 18-22, if needed.

Outlook: Michigan's elk population, which was above goal for a number of years, has been reduced to a level more in line with management goals. As a result, fewer licenses are available than in some recent seasons. A total of 155 licenses were made available for the 2011 season. Licenses are issued by lottery. The early season is held largely outside the core elk range. In December, hunters are issued licenses for specific units within the core elk range, but hunters may opt to hunt outside the core area as well. If wildlife managers determine the harvest was insufficient to meet management goals, a January hunt will be held with additional licenses available to hunters who have already applied.

Deer

Season: An early antlerless-only hunt is Sept. 15-19, in selected counties on private land. Check the 2011 Hunting and Trapping Digest for details. Youth early antlerless season is Sept. 20-23 in DMU 486, the multi-county unit in southern Michigan. A youth and 100 percent disabled veterans hunt is Sept. 24-25, statewide.

A special hunt for disabled persons is Oct. 13-16, statewide.

Archery season is Oct.1 - Nov. 14, and Dec. 1 - Jan. 1, statewide. Firearms season is Nov.15-30, statewide.

Muzzleloading seasons are Dec. 2-11 in Zone 1 (Upper Peninsula); Dec. 9-18 in Zone 2 (Northern Lower Peninsula); and Dec. 2-18 in Zone 3 (southern Michigan). A late antlerless hunt in selected Lower Peninsula counties on private land is Dec. 19 - Jan. 1. The season limit is two bucks, one of which must have at least four antler points on one side. In the Upper Peninsula and DMU 487 (the six-county tuberculosis zone), hunters who take two bucks may only take one buck with at least three antler points on one side and one with at least four antler points on one side.

Hunters who wish to take two bucks in the Upper Peninsula or DMU 487 must purchase a combination deer license; hunters who purchase a firearms and/or archery license are restricted to one buck, all seasons combined. Hunters may purchase up to five antlerless deer licenses statewide, except in DMUs 486 and 487, where they may purchase up to five licenses per day. Hunters may take an antlerless deer on a firearms deer license or with a buck tag from a combination license in DMU 487.

Outlook: Overall, deer hunting should be similar to last year, perhaps a little better. Last year roughly 656,500 hunters spent 9.6 million days afield, harvesting roughly 418,000 deer. Some 44 percent of hunters successfully tagged at least one deer last year. The deer population is expected to be up somewhat in the Upper Peninsula and northern Lower Peninsula. In southern Michigan, deer populations are well above goal in most counties and the DNR encourages hunters to take antlerless deer. Hunters are reminded that the progress of the corn harvest has an affect on early season hunting results, but the corn harvest is almost always complete by the end of the regular firearms season and good opportunities remain during muzzleloader, late-archery and late-antlerless seasons. Hunters also are encouraged to bring their deer to check stations. Check the DNR website (www.michigan.gov/deer) for details.

Bobcat

Season: Jan. 1 - March 1 in Unit A (Upper Peninsula except Drummond Island); Unit B (Drummond Island); and Unit C (Alcona, Alpena, Antrim, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Emmett, Montmorency, Oscoda, Otsego and Presque Isle counties). Jan. 1 - Feb 1 in Unit D (Clare, Crawford, Gladwin, Iosco, Kalkaska, Missaukee, Ogemaw, Osceola, Roscommon and Wexford counties and Arenac north of M-61 and west of I-75). The limit is two per season, but only one may be taken from Units C and D combined, and only one may be taken in Unit B.

Outlook: Bobcats are found primarily in the northern two-thirds of Michigan. The population is recovering from a slow decline in the Upper Peninsula, where harvests vary widely because of snow conditions and road access. The population is stable in the Lower Peninsula. Hunters are reminded that in addition to a fur harvester license, they must acquire a (free) bobcat kill tag in advance of hunting. Hunters must immediately apply the kill tag to the animal when they kill a bobcat and the carcass must be presented to a DNR office within 10 days of the close of the season. DNR personnel will collect data including the date of kill, location, and method of harvest; and the skull or a tooth sample. The bobcat pelt will be sealed by the DNR.

Coyote

Season: July 15 April 15 statewide. Coyotes may be taken year-round on private property if doing damage or about to do damage. Coyotes may not be pursued with dogs from April 15 - July 14. There is no bag limit. Hunters may take coyotes on a small game or fur harvester license.

Outlook: Coyotes are widespread across the state and abundant in some areas. Retiring creatures, coyotes often are nocturnal and may be present in significant numbers without being visible. Coyote hunters in the Upper Peninsula are advised to be cautious not to confuse young wolves for coyotes. Coyotes may be hunted at night, but hunters are restricted to .22 caliber or smaller rifles or handguns, archery gear or crossbows, or shotguns containing shells with shot smaller than buck shot. Check the 2011 Michigan Hunting and Trapping Digest for additional information.

Raccoon

Season: Oct. 1 - Jan. 31 statewide, though they may be taken year-round on private property if doing or about to do damage. There is no bag limit.

Outlook: Raccoons are abundant and widespread, found in all habitats. but are partial to hardwood stands, especially along waterways or near agricultural fields. Raccoons often are hunted at night with hounds. Roughly 75,000 are taken by hunters each year. Check the 2011 Michigan Hunting and Trapping Digest for restrictions on firearms and equipment.

Fox

Season: Oct. 15 - March 1. There is no bag limit.

Outlook: Both red and gray fox are found across Michigan. The more numerous red fox are found largely in agricultural areas with mixed habitat, including fence rows, fallow fields and shrub land, especially adjacent to wood lots or waterways. Gray fox typically are found in woodlands. Although they are found in all counties, fox numbers vary widely from abundant to uncommon. Generally, fox do not compete well with coyotes. so in areas with large coyote populations they may be hard to find. Although they are commonly hunted with hounds -- often in conjunction with coyotes -- hunting with predator calls has become increasingly popular. Hunters are reminded that they must have a fur harvester license to take fox.

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