Deer Hunting in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

Posted on November 10th, 2021

The U.P.’s 16-day holiday — Regular Firearm Deer Hunting Season — starts Nov. 15

Ask anyone in the Upper Peninsula to name a November holiday and without hesitation, they will bring up Opening Day of Regular Firearm Season. Sure, Veterans Day and Thanksgiving will get a mention, but deer hunting in Michigan is always top of mind this time of year.

Nov. 15-30 is an unofficial, 16-day holiday celebrated by hundreds of hunters from the U.P., Michigan’s Lower Peninsula and nearby states. The competition for scoring vacation days this time of year is often so intense among employees, Michigan-based offices, stores and factories hang “Closed. Gone Hunting” signs on their doors. In rural school districts, student absenteeism on Nov. 15 is so high, administrators just give everyone the day off and go hunting themselves! 

When it comes to family traditions, rituals and customs, only Christmas might edge out Opening Day. Stories are passed down for generations, touting how to or how not to bag a buck. There’s talk of wearing lucky wool socks or a flannel shirt, what woodsy scent to rub on your clothing and the annual bets on who will be bragging after dragging their trophy deer to the truck. 

New to deer hunting in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula? Below are some key state hunting regulations plus tips and safety advice from a Michigan hunter to ensure you have the best experience possible.

Upper Peninsula regular firearm deer hunting regulations

upper peninsula hunter posing in front of dead deer
Photo Credit: @loobyoxlip
  • Take a hunter safety course. To purchase a Michigan hunter’s license, an individual born after January 1, 1960, must successfully complete an approved hunter safety course. You can complete the course in one of three ways:
    – Online + register for a separate  in-person field day
    – Home study course + register for a separate in-person field day
    – Traditional classroom course — includes a minimum of 10 hours of in-person classroom time and practice in the field. This course is held over a minimum of two days.
    The in-person field day covers outdoor shooting, blood trailing, tree stand safety demonstrations and survival skills.
    Non-Michigan residents can buy a Michigan hunting license with a valid hunter education safety certificate from another state. 
  • Purchase a Michigan hunting license from an approved retailer. Hunters will need a Michigan Base Hunting License PLUS at least one Deer Hunting License. Hunters typically purchase a deer combo license, but other license options are listed in the link above.
    Base License: Junior (10-16 years) – $6; Resident – $11; Non-Resident – $151; or  Senior (65+ years, Michigan residents only) – $5
    Deer Combo License: Resident – $40 (two deer licenses: $20 regular, $20 restricted); Nonresident – $190 (two deer licenses: $20 regular, $170 restricted); or Senior (65+, Michigan residents only) – $28 (two deer licenses: $8 regular, $20 restricted)
  • Know Michigan’s deer hunting rules and hunt only in designated areas. The U.P. has thousands of acres of public land and private land open to public hunting.
    For tips and rules on when and where to hunt, refer to this downloadable 2021 Michigan Hunting Digest. Or use the interactive MI-Hunt map.
  • Only bait deer in the U.P. outside of the Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) surveillance areas. Details of what you can use for bait and how you can distribute it are explained on pages 61-62 in the Hunting Digest.
  • Immediately tag your deer before moving or field dressing it. Validate your kill tag and fasten it to the animal’s antler, lower jaw or lower leg in such a manner that the tag remains securely attached. Suggestions for the best ways to affix the tag are on page 32 of the Hunting Digest.
  • For a deer check station near you, visit Michigan.gov/DeerCheck. Here is a directory of Wild Game Processors, too. 

Upper Peninsula deer hunting tips

We asked hunter Ben Holt to share some tips to enhance your hunting getaway.

five upper peninsula hunters posing in front of deer
Photo Credit: @bodethekid
  • This year, many hunters will experience success throughout the U.P. In addition to the MI-Hunt map link above, hunters like to download the Onyx Hunt app. Made by hunters for hunters, it gives accurate boundaries for public and private land. 
  • Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources lists two counties with the highest deer numbers in the U.P. — Menominee and Dickinson.
  • Look for areas with oak trees that are producing acorns; that’s a natural deer attractor. 
  • Seek areas where there is running water such as rivers and streams. Deer are less likely to hear you. However, it is illegal to shoot a deer in the water.  
  • Relax and enjoy the quiet and natural beauty all around. You can see things in the U.P. wilderness that you won’t necessarily see back home. Owls hunting for rabbits, martens, wild turkeys strutting their stuff and more. 
  • When you successfully shoot a deer, take your time before tracking it. Wait for a half-hour before going to the spot where the deer was hit. If the injured deer hears you moving, the deer may push farther away and become more challenging to find. Follow the blood trail to the downed animal. Be aware, if the deer dies on private property, you will need permission from the owner to claim it.  
  • To make it easier to transport your deer back to your vehicle, use a cart.
  • Can’t eat a whole deer? The Michigan Sportsmen Against Hunger Program is a great way for you to share a part of your harvest or donate a whole deer to those who have limited food resources. Call 586-552-6517 or visit SportsmenAgainstHunger.org for more information.

Stay safe while hunting in the Upper Peninsula

two hunters posing in their deer stand
Photo Credit: @aloha_adam

Practicing safety while hunting in the Upper Peninsula is mandatory. To do so, Holt advises that you:

  • Go to your nearby shooting range and practice firing your gun before traveling to the U.P.
  • Scout the area where you plan to hunt. Look for signs of other hunters such as ground blinds or tree stands. This will prevent surprises at sunrise when you arrive at your spot and discover it is already occupied by other hunters. 
  • Never hunt by yourself in a place you have never been to before. If it is a familiar hunting area, tell someone the specific time, duration and location that you will be hunting. Schedule check-in times and update your contact if your plans change. No one plans to have a medical emergency, so keeping in communication with someone could save your life. 
  • Always keep the safety of your firearm on until you are ready to take your shot. Unload the firearm before you cross obstacles or climb down from trees.
  • Carry a phone or two-way communication device that has reception in remote areas.
  • Wear as much hunter orange as possible to increase your visibility in the woods. The amount of orange you wear will not affect deer behavior. Dress, too, for the weather. It gets cold in the U.P. in November. Stay at your hotel or deer camp if heavy snow is predicted.
  • When you see another hunter, whistle to alert that you are nearby.
  • Always know what is behind the target you are shooting at.
  • Carry a physical compass and know how to use it. Phone batteries wear down and reception can be spotty in the most remote areas of the U.P. You may not be able to use your GPS or compass app. 
  • Bring a flashlight. You will need it to navigate trails in the dark and to signal to other hunters.
  • Carry a basic first-aid kit; injuries, especially when field dressing, can occur.
  • Wear to-the-shoulder, rubber field dressing gloves. If you have allergies to deer blood or fur, they can help protect you from rash outbreaks. They also can prevent disease-carrying ticks and parasites as well as harmful bacteria from making you sick. Gloves also provide a layer of protection when using a knife.
  • Always carry water. If you will be out for a while, bring snacks, too.
  • Do not drink alcohol or use any mind-altering substances when hunting – including marijuana and/or medications.

Happy hunting! There are lots of places to stay and restaurants ready to dish up a hearty meal throughout the U.P. And whether or not you are successful in bagging that big-rack buck, please upload your deer hunting photos to our Fall Photo Crowdriff Collector below. They will be considered for our social media, website or marketing materials.