For many in Michigan, the opening day of deer season is an unofficial holiday filled with family traditions, personal superstition, and lots of competition to tag the biggest deer. With bow season already underway and firearm season fast approaching, it’s important to remember Michigan’s laws for deer hunting season—and the criminal consequences for violating these laws. Many violations are misdemeanors, and violators may face jail time, a fine, or both.
Last season, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) listed the 10 most common hunting violations that conservation officers regularly encounter each fall. Here’s what the conservation officers are noticing each season, and the criminal consequences if cited for a violation.
- Incorrect or Improperly Completed Kill Tag
The DNR provides that conservation officers often see the wrong kill tag on a deer, or an incorrectly filled out kill tag attached to the deer. Possessing or transporting a deer without a validated kill tag is a 90-day misdemeanor, with a fine between $50.00 to $500.00. The court also has the discretion to revoke hunting privileges.
- Not Wearing Orange
Wearing hunter orange is key to keeping yourself and others safe while in the woods this fall. MCL 324.40116 requires hunters to wear a “cap, hat, jacket, or rain gear of hunter orange.” If you’re using camouflage that includes hunter orange, make sure that at least 50% of the garment is orange. While this requirement does not apply to bow season, criminal offenses for failing to wear orange will apply to firearm season. This is a 90-day misdemeanor, with a fine between $50.00 to $500.00. The court also has the discretion to revoke hunting privileges.
- Being Unfamiliar with a Firearm
While there is no specific statute regarding being unfamiliar with using a firearm, it’s always an important safety consideration to know the laws behind using a firearm, and which firearm to use. For example, a hunter cannot use a semi-automatic shotgun or semi-automatic rifle that can hold more than a total of 6 shells in the barrel and magazine.
Additionally, a person cannot transport or possess a firearm in a vehicle unless the firearm is either:
- Unloaded and enclosed in a case
- Unloaded and carried in the trunk of the vehicle
The above-listed crimes are misdemeanors, punishable with a maximum of 90 days in jail, a fine between $50 to $500, or both. The court also has the discretion to revoke hunting privileges.
- Safety Zone Violations
MCL 324.40111 outlines certain safety zones that a hunter must abide by, including:
- Hunting with a firearm within 150 yards (450 feet) of an occupied building, such as a house, residence, or cabin
- Hunting with a firearm within 150 yards (450 feet) of a barn or other building used on a farm
A hunter may obtain written permission from the owner or occupant of the land to hunt within these outlined safety zones. Importantly, these safety zones do not apply to shooting ranges, target shooting, or non-hunting purposes.
An important rule for all hunters to know is where you are hunting and the property boundaries for your hunting location. Always make sure to get the property owner’s permission before entering private property, preferably in writing. Under certain circumstances, trespassing while hunting can lead to both criminal and civil penalties.
- Blinds on Public Land
While hunting on public land, a person cannot permanently construct or affix a platform, ladder, steps, or other device that assists with climbing a tree. This prohibition also applies to a person that uses an existing permanently constructed device. While hunters can use temporary scaffolds or platforms, the device must be clearly labeled with the hunter’s name, address, driver’s license number, and DNR sport card number. Violation of these provisions when hunting on public land is a 90-day misdemeanor, with a fine between $50.00 to $500.00. The court also has the discretion to revoke hunting privileges.
Leaving behind food wrappers, hand warmers, bottles, and other trash is a problem for other hunters, animals, and the environment. Littering on land can lead to a civil infraction ticket or a misdemeanor criminal conviction with possible jail time, a fine, or both.
- Baiting and Attracting Deer
Baiting and feeding are banned in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, as well as certain areas in the Upper Peninsula. Certain scents and urine-based product may be used under certain circumstances.
Unlawful baiting or feeding of deer is a 90-day misdemeanor, with a fine between $50 to $100. The court also has the discretion to revoke hunting privileges. However, if a hunter takes a deer over unlawful baiting, the fine increase to $200 to $1,000. Moreover, the hunter will have to pay court costs, state fees, and restitution for the deer. Additionally, a hunter will lose hunting privileges for the remainder of the season, plus 3 additional calendar years.
- Hunting Outside of Season or Approved Hours
While deer season dates change depending on age, disability status, and the type of weapon, the time for hunting remains from half an hour before sunrise to half an hour after sunset. The exact times are published in the Michigan Hunting Digest.
Hunting outside of legal hours is a 90-day misdemeanor, with a fine between $50.00 to $500.00. Again, the court has the discretion to revoke hunting privileges.
- Harassing Hunters
Lastly, Michigan law prohibits an individual from obstructing or interfering in the lawful taking of a deer. Interfering and obstructing is broadly defined under the statute to include most scenarios in which a person intends to disrupt someone that is engaged in the process of lawfully hunting and taking a deer.
Interfering with or obstructing a lawful hunt is a 90-day misdemeanor for a first-year offense. This is increased to a maximum sentence of 1 year for any subsequent conviction. A misdemeanor for harassing hunters also comes with a fine of $500 to 1,000, plus court costs and state fees. Any deer hunting license or permit is also subject to revocation.
Failing to comply with Michigan’s laws surrounding deer hunting brings serious criminal and financial implications, as well as the threat of being unable to hunt for the rest of the season or for subsequent years. These laws are designed to ensure the safety of yourself and others, while preserving Michigan’s wonderful natural resources.
Grewal Law PLLC wishes the best of luck to all hunters for a safe and successful hunting season. If you find yourself with any hunting-related consequences, call our Michigan attorneys at (888) 211-5798 to schedule a free consultation.