This weekend has marked the beginning of the deer season excitement in Michigan. Though there are many other portions of deer season yet to open, things got underway on the 19th with two separate deer season events. With the first deer season weekend behind us, there is plenty more to come, making enthusiasm at getting into the field contagious throughout the state.

The first of the two season opening evenings that took place this weekend was the early antlerless hunt on private land which ran from September 19th through 20th. Also occurring was the Liberty Hunt which is an opportunity for youths and qualified hunters with disabilities to hunt for deer which took place on the same days. Another similar event on the radar is another hunt for qualified hunters with disabilities known as the Independence Hunt. It will be running from October 15th-18th.

Next on the itinerary for deer season is archery season. The statewide archery seasons will be from October 1st through November 14th followed by December 1st through January 1st. Intermingling with those dates is firearms with a statewide season of November 15th-30th. Muzzleloading season is broken up into two slightly varied timeframes with Zone 1 (Upper Peninsula) and Zone 2 (Northern Lower Peninsula) running from December 4th-13th. Zone 3 (southern Michigan), on the other hand, will be from December 4th-20th. Additionally there will be a later antlerless season in certain areas on the Lower Peninsula occurring from December 21st through January 1st.

There will be a two buck limit for which hunters are required to have a combo license. When harvesting bucks, take note that one of the two allotted is required to have at least four points on one side of his antlers. Regular deer licensing will allow the taking of one buck with an antler that is a minimum of three inches long provided the hunting area in which that deer is harvested does not have an antler restriction in effect. Antlerless deer are limited to one and specific licenses will be sold for these deer in numbers that correspond with deer management unit (DMU) quotas which vary between 5-10 licenses in most DMU's. The exception is DMU 333 which is the Core Chronic Wasting Disease Area in which there are no antlerless licensing restrictions.

Deer season this year is expected to be good with initial reports indicating plentiful numbers and a healthy population. The Upper Peninsula, however, has been plagued by several hard winters which have impacted deer populations and therefore numbers there are low. Deer have been slow to bounce back from these challenges as well as predation, so steps are being taken to limit antlerless deer hunting in this area. This has been done via archery season and combo licenses in which the antlerless option is no longer present.

Congratulations to anyone who was able to bag a deer this weekend! May there be many more congratulations on the horizon as Michigan deer hunters see a successful season with plentiful harvest for all. The deer are out there waiting; good luck in finding yours!