Sept. 15 has traditionally marked the beginning of fall hunting seasons for a lot of Michigan hunters. Sure elk season opened late last month for a select few who won the elk lottery. Bear hunting season started on Sept. 10 for several thousand hunters who were successful in that lottery and the early goose seasons have pretty much come and gone. But opening day of small game season, Sept. 15, is what a large majority of hunters circle on their calendars as the official start of the fall hunting bonanza.
The hunting seasons statewide for cottontail rabbits, snowshoe hare, fox and gray squirrels (the black phase, too), and ruffed grouse have opened on Sept. 15 for as long as I can remember and in recent years the DNR has thrown the fall wild turkey hunting season into the mix.
From here on out a multitude of hunting opportunities await anxious sportsmen and sportswomen who cherish their time afield.
Duck hunters get three openers this year: Sept. 22 in the North Zone; Sept. 29 in the Middle Zone; and Oct. 6 in the South Zone.
Woodcock become legal game statewide on Sept. 22; pheasant season opens Oct. 10 in the south-central Upper Peninsula and Oct. 20 below the bridge. Sharp-tailed grouse season opens Oct. 10 in a small portion of the eastern U.P. and quail season opens Oct. 20 in a handful of counties in southern Michigan.
Sept. 22-23, marks the official start of the deer hunting seasons. The youth deer hunt, the early antlerless season, and 100-percent disabled veteran hunt will all take place over this weekend. This is a bit of a change from past years when all of these hunts were held on their own special days.
Last year for instance, the early antlerless season was Sept. 15-19, the youth early antlerless season was Sept. 20-23, the regular youth season and the disabled veteran hunts were Sept. 24-25.
Apparently the DNR received a lot of letters, emails and phone calls from hunters concerned about the safety issues of putting deer slug guns, muzzleloaders and rifles in the field at the same time as small game hunters. Some also lamented that 10 straight days of gun hunting prior to the archery deer season put an unusual amount of pressure on whitetails prior to the Oct. 1 archery season opener. Many bowhunters saw deer in their areas already responding to that pressure and staying out of sight during daylight hours. State officials decided to group all of the special early hunts together this year.
The openers wrap up with the granddaddy of them all, firearms deer season on Nov. 15.
The bottom line is that fall hunting seasons have arrived and we’re blessed with a multitude of healthy game species we can hunt, and an even larger numbers of hunters who participate in the shooting sports. Sometimes we take it all for granted and don’t appreciate how good we have it here in Michigan.
I recently returned from an amazing trip to Alaska with the Outdoor Writers Association of America (OWAA) and was surprised to learn that the entire population of that state – which is twice the size of Texas – hovers around 700,000.
“Heck, we have close to that many deer hunters (648,000 according to the DNR’s 2011 deer harvest report) in Michigan,” I mentioned to Wayne Regelin, the former director of the Alaska Game and Fish Department, in a casual conversation one day. “You have more game than us, too,” he said. “We just have a different variety.”