The spring meeting of the civilian Natural Resource Commission is generally the most important of the year. Reason being, the fall hunting regulations package is approved so the pamphlets can be printed and available around July 1. Here’s a rundown of the major changes.
Before delving into them, be advised that the deer and bear regulations though simplified a bit are still quite complex. Always pick up a copy and review the details on your quarry, hunting implement and area before heading afield.
The earlier archery deer season that was implemented last year has been retained. This year’s version will kickoff Sept. 29. Per a unanimous motion passed by the Commission, you can now add earlier archery bear (but not boar) to that date. Archery wild boar will retain the mid-October opening. Archery bear hunters also get to hunt until Dec. 31 less the gun buck season, a change passed by the Commission in the same motion. In the past, archery bear closed the Saturday prior to the November gun buck season.
The early September archery deer season has been scrapped altogether. The Commission did likewise for the early September muzzleloader season on a five-to-two vote. Participation and harvest levels were declining and it is a rather hot time of year to be deer hunting. However, other deer hunting opportunities have been added.
This year’s first ever holders of the new senior license will be able to join in on the Youth antlerless deer hunts of Oct. 20 and again at Christmas time (Dec. 26-27). Another notable deer change is the moving up of a three-day segment of the December antlerless gun deer season to (Oct. 25-27) for private lands only in selected counties.
The muzzleloader season has been moved up a week to Dec. 3-8 to immediately following the two-week gun buck season. The remaining three days of antlerless gun deer hunting will be held the following week Dec. 13-15, which was the former week of muzzleloader deer season. All other deer, bear and boar seasons are fairly similar to last year with folks again needing to check on their county and wildlife management areas for particulars.
The fall turkey venue has been jockeyed a bit to make way for the new October antlerless deer hunting but is still fairly simple with the Commission retaining Saturday openings for all three fall turkey zones over the Mondays initially considered by DNR.
In other matters of importance, the Commission directed DNR to evaluate some earlier future opening date scenarios for spring gobbler season with complaints running particularly high at present. That is, per this year’s brutally early green-up; though they have been running high for years, especially in the southern counties.
The Commission also seems to be taking heed to the concern over chronically low numbers of ruffed grouse which could ultimately lead to shorter seasons and/or reduced bag limits. Who knows, maybe one of these days, someone will even take on the task of active elk restoration.