With millions of old (and cheap) retired military rifles out there, it is easy to see why owners of these hardy and nearly indestructible veterans would want to take them in the woods in search of a harvest. The good news is, there are still a good many out there that fit the bill.
Keep in line with the regs
While the state is very strict in the southern (shotgun) zone for deer, their regulations on other areas leave open the possibility of any number of milsurp rifles. The primary caveat is that “It is unlawful to hunt with a semi-automatic shotgun or semi-automatic rifle that can hold more than six shells in the barrel and magazine combined, unless it is a .22 caliber rimfire, ” and “It is legal to hunt deer north of the limited firearm deer zone with any caliber of firearm except a .22 caliber or smaller rimfire (rifle or handgun).”
While this would seem to eliminate a good many models, it only seems that way.
Forum members have successfully used inexpensive SKS variants for years. These rifles have ten round magazines that you have to swap out for five rounders to be within the law, but there are a good many loads these days for the 7.62x39mm round that are ideal for hunting– and it mimics the .30-30 ballistically, which is a known solid performer.
Then there are the Short Magazine Lee-Enfield rifle in .303, the standard arm of Britain, Canada, and other Commonwealth countries in both World Wars. Like the SKS, these guns, although bolt-action, have a ten round mag. There are a few 5-round magazines out there for these old soldiers, but they are hard to find and have been out of production for years. If you are dead set on using your Enfield for hunting in Michigan, you can always make your own nickel mag from a surplus one. I have heard of an old boy who plugged his magwell with Styrofoam and just used it like a single-shot as well while others argued to him that the limit applies to semi-autos only. To each their own.
The M1 Garand, of which over 8 million were made, is loaded through an 8-shot enbloc clip but, like the SKS, there are 5-rounders out there for a nominal fee. Using this battle rifle, loved by GIs for its hardiness in the worst jungles of the Pacific and frozen forests of Western Europe, brings the beloved 30.06 to the table which is more than enough for deer, elk and bear in the state. However, be aware that when shooting commercial hunting ammo out of this WWII-era gun, you may need to adjust or otherwise replace the gas screw.
Another milsurp 30.06 includes the old standby M1903 Springfield, which was based on the German Mauser 98 rifle and the less common M1917 Enfield, which was made in the states for the World War One U.S. Army and used the same standard caliber used by the military until the 1950s.
Since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War, the states have been awash in surplus Mosin-Nagant M.91 rifles, running as low as $150. These bolt-action five shot guns have been made in higher quantities that just about any other gun in modern history with estimates ranging as high as 40 million Mosins made in over 300 variants in the past century. In fact, these guns are still in production in Europe and China. The 7.62x54R round they shoot is cheap in bulk and some quality soft-point hunting rounds are coming on the market that mimic the .308 in performance.
Back in the 1950s, one of the most inexpensive rifles on the books was the German-designed Mauser. Over the years, these guns have climbed in price to where they too, much like the Garands and 1903s have gotten more expensive than new commercial hunting rifles from Remington and Browning. However, there are still a few guns, notably Turkish and Yugoslav made variants, in hard-hitting 8mm Mauser, which can be had for the $200 ballpark.
In the end, these rifles were made to be used and abused under conditions that make the average weekend hunt in Michigan look like a vacation and this over-engineering will not only keep you functioning, but also likely allow you to pass your veteran down for future generations.