Deer Hunting Regulations
A general hunting license is required to hunt in any season.
One antlered deer per license year can be taken with a general hunting license.
An unused, antlered deer harvest tag from a general hunting license can be used to take an antlerless deer during the after-Christmas flintlock muzzleloader season.
This is the only season in which the antlered tag can be used for antlerless deer, and each participant in the flintlock muzzleloader season must have a muzzleloader license in addition to a general license.
A muzzleloader license also is needed to participate in the October muzzleloader season for antlerless deer.
With the lone exception of the flintlock muzzleloader season, each hunter must possess an antlerless deer license or DMAP permit in order to hunt or harvest antlerless deer. One antlerless deer may be taken with each valid license or permit.
Statewide, each hunter is limited to holding a maximum of six unfilled antlerless deer licenses. Hunters who obtain six antlerless licenses may apply for and obtain additional licenses as they harvest antlerless deer and report them, so long as licenses remain available. For any WMU, sales of antlerless licenses end when the total number of licenses allocated for that WMU is expended.
The Special Firearms season for antlerless deer is open to junior and senior license holders, mentored youth, active-duty military and certain disabled persons. Resident and nonresident hunters who hold a valid hunting license or qualify for fee exemptions, and who are 65 or will reach their 65th birthday in the year of the license application, are eligible to hunt in the season.
Participants in any archery deer season must possess an archery license in addition to a general license.
After harvesting a deer, a hunter must detach the deer harvest tag from his or her license, fill it out using a ballpoint pen and securely attach it to the ear of the animal. The new green harvest tags have boxes with months and date numbers on the back of them, and a hunter must cut them with the correct month and day of harvest.
Be sure to use the correct tag and be careful not to attach the actual hunting license. The harvest tags have animal icons on them.
There are two holes in the center of the tag that can be punched to insert a string, twist tie or safety pin.
Deer must be tagged before the carcass is moved.
The tag must remain attached to the ear until the animal is processed for consumption or prepared for mounting. The bar code on the right edge of the tag should be positioned near the ear tip, unobstructed, so Game Commission personnel can scan it if the deer is documented as part of work to calculate the annual statewide deer harvest.
Hunters sometimes ask why a harvest tag must be attached to a deer’s ear rather than an antler or some other part of the animal. Requiring that deer be tagged in the ear ensures that the tag stays with the head and valuable scientific information can be collected.
If tagging on the antler were allowed, harvest-tag information for bucks largely would be unavailable to Game Commission researchers, since antlers typically leave the butcher shop with the hunter.
Arms & Ammunition
Archery Deer Seasons
- Long, recurve, compound bows (minimum draw weight of 35 pounds), and crossbows with broadheads of cutting-edge design. An arrow and crossbow bolt must be equipped with a broadhead.
- Magnifying scopes and red-dot sights can be used on crossbows.
- A broadhead is a fixed or mechanical tip affixed to the fore end of an arrow or bolt having sharpened cutting edges consisting of metal or naturally occurring stone. The broad-head must have an outside diameter or width of at least 7/8 of an inch, and the length may not exceed 3.25 inches.
- Persons hunting deer in the archery seasons may not possess a firearm, except those individuals who have a License to Carry Firearms permit, and then only those firearms authorized by the permit (most sporting arms are not authorized). Muzzleloading firearms also can be carried by bowhunters during any muzzleloading season, including muzzleloader bear season with a bear license, providing the hunter has an archery license and a muzzleloader license and meets the fluorescent orange requirements of the muzzleloader season.
Firearms Deer Seasons
- Manually operated centerfire rifles, handguns and shotguns with all-lead bullet or ball, or a bullet designed to expand on impact.
- Semiautomatic centerfire shotguns that propel single-projectile ammunition.
- Muzzleloading long guns of any type, 44 caliber or larger, or a muzzleloading handgun 50 caliber or larger; and Long, recurve or compound bows and crossbows with broadheads of cutting-edge design. See Special Regulations Areas section for restrictions that apply there.
October Antlerless Muzzleloader Season
- Any single-barrel muzzleloader long gun with flintlock, percussion or in-line ignition, 44 caliber or larger, or 50 caliber or larger handgun. Scope sights permitted.
Special Antlerless Deer Only Firearms
- Arms and ammunition permitted during the Regular Firearms Deer Seasons can be used in this season.
Flintlock Muzzleloader Season Flintlock ignition, single-barrel long gun, 44 caliber or larger, or 50 caliber or larger handgun, using single- projectile ammunition. It is unlawful to use telescopic sights. Peep sights are permitted.
Fluorescent Orange Requirements
Antlered & Antlerless
- During the regular and special deer seasons, and any extensions of these seasons, all hunters must wear at least 250 square inches of fluorescent orange on the head, chest and back combined (example: orange cap and coat/vest visible 360 degrees). Camouflage fluorescent orange may satisfy this regulation if the total orange content is at least 250 square inches.
- Fluorescent orange is not required while hunting for deer during archery seasons. Orange is required, however, by hunters using archery equipment during regular firearms deer seasons. The requirement to wear fluorescent orange during all overlap periods when archery hunters were required to wear varying amounts of orange while moving or post orange while in a fixed position has been eliminated. The use of fluorescent orange, though, is highly recommended for all seasons, whether required or not.
- During the late flintlock deer season, muzzleloader hunters are not required to wear or display fluorescent orange. However, during the October antlerless muzzleloader deer season, hunters are required to wear the same 250 square inches of fluorescent orange required of all big-game season hunters. See the Special Regulation Areas section for more details.
Tips for a safe and successful big-game drive
- Plan your drives – Be organized. Everyone must know their role. Decide how many drivers are needed and where standers wil be located.
- Communicate – Stay in constant communication with other drivers so that you know the location of those around you.
- Know your zone – Be aware of your zone of fire. Identify thhe areas in front of you where you can safely atttempt a shot, knowing that those areas are changing as you move across the landscape.
- When in doubt, don’t shoot – If forced to make a split-second decision about whether it is safe to take a shot, err on the side of caution and don’t shoot.