By Mike Kruzman /

Firearms season for deer hunting opens this weekend with new rules and an optimistic forecast from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Opening day is Sunday. DNR Deer, Elk, and Moose Management Specialist Chad Stewart said this year they’ve made a change worth noting, especially for hunters in the Lower Peninsula. Hunters now have the option to take an antlered or antlerless deer on their deer or deer combo licenses. This had been an option for a few select counties in the past, but because of the overall decline in hunter numbers has now been made available across the mainland Lower Peninsula.

Stewart, however, said that he thinks this year will be great for participation, with 10-to-11-percent more licenses having been issued going into the season. He forecasts that the harvest will be strong, thanks in part to corn coming off in southern Michigan above the 5-year average, giving deer fewer places to hide. Less deer also seem affected with Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD), with the DNR seeing no localized depression in numbers.

As for getting deer checked for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), hunters will notice a difference this year. Stewart said they aren’t going to have check stations as widespread as in the past, and will be limited to places they’ve found CWD previously. Because of cutbacks and hiring limitations, they aren’t able to operate at the capacity that they have in the past, and will also only be testing for the first 4 days of the season in some areas. This includes Ingham, Kent, Clinton, Jackson, Dickinson, Ionia, Gratiot and Eaton counties. Deer heads from southern Jackson, southern Isabella, western Gratiot, and the Upper Peninsula can be tested through January 4th. For a list of outside labs that can test for a fee, check out the “For Hunters” section at

For more information on everything else hunting season, visit