Michigan deer hunters will notice significant changes this season — all due to COVID-19.
And Thursday marks the first day of archery season.
Due to staffing shortages and budget cuts, the DNR says there will be fewer check stations for hunters and that can mean longer lines, but some restrictions have also been loosened a bit this year.
Michigan hunters are expected to be out in larger numbers this year.
Chad Stewart with the DNR says normally the department sees a two to four percent decline in hunters every year, but this year is expected to be an exception.
“As of the beginning of September our deer license sales were up about 20 percent from this time last year," said Stewart.
The DNR saw more participants in fishing and the spring turkey season too.
But it seems no aspect of life is immune from changes due to the pandemic, even deer hunting.
Hunters will notice far fewer check stations, where the DNR looks for diseases and gathers information about the deer.
“We’re going to have a lot fewer locations and reduced hours as well across much of the state," said Stewart. "If you want to get your deer tested for CWD you’re pretty much confined to counties where we’ve currently identified CWD.”
This does not include the tri-county area.
Deer hunters this year though won’t need to purchase a separate license to take antlerless deer.
“Now if you’re hunting with a deer or a combination license, you can take an antlerness deer during the firearms or muzzleloader season," Stewart said. "That’s a change that is a new one and quite frankly is going to potentially save hunters a little bit of money.”
This comes as the muzzleloader season is shortened from 17 days to 10 days this year in the southern part of the state.
“That has been replaced with late antlerless season opportunities.”
If you’re going to a check station, DNR staff is asking that you wait in your car while in line and have your mask on.
A list of where you can do to have you deer checked is on the DNR's website.
If you’re in this neck of the woods and want your deer checked for CWD, you can contact a private a lab. Instructions can also be found on the DNR's website.