Jessica Mathews /

As hunters across Livingston County prepare to take to the woods and fields for deer hunting seasons, they’ll need to be aware of new online harvest reporting being required by the state.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources advises that starting with the fall 2022 deer seasons, online harvest reporting is required for all hunters who successfully take a deer. Last year, nearly 7,000 deer hunters voluntarily reported their harvest online to help test the new reporting system.

Chad Stewart, the DNR’s deer, elk and moose management specialist, said there are several reasons the department is moving to online harvest reporting, but one of the most important is more precise data. Stewart said the decline in response rates to their post-season mail surveys increased the amount of uncertainty in their harvest estimates - which can lead to incorrect regulation recommendations in some locations.

Hunters will have up to 72 hours after taking a deer to report their harvest. The DNR estimates it should take about three to five minutes to complete the report, and there are two ways to do it; either online or via the DNR’s new mobile app.

Hunters who can’t report their harvest due to a lack of internet access or smart device are able to get help from a family member or friend with access by providing them with their kill tag license number, date of birth and harvest location to report on the hunter’s behalf. The DNR says reporting by phone is not possible because of the need for accurate harvest location data, which is provided by selecting the location on a digital map.

Some hunters have expressed concern about sharing their harvest location, but Stewart stressed the confidentiality and value of that accurate data and how it helps the DNR and, ultimately, hunters. “While we will have near real-time harvest data available for hunters throughout the season on our website, that data is at the county level. Only the DNR will have access to the GPS coordinates of the actual harvest location, which is needed for two very important reasons: more effective disease surveillance, and the ability to build a network of harvest locations over time so we can adapt management guidelines to better align with harvest numbers. That means better overall management recommendations for Michigan’s deer population.”

The DNR says the move to required online harvest reporting, like any change, will take some time for people to embrace as part of the Michigan hunting experience, but it’s confident the ease of reporting and the benefits of better data will outweigh any initial concerns some may have.

There are penalties involved with non-reporting but the DNR says this first year will be all about familiarizing hunters with the new reporting requirement. Stewart said “Above all, we know Michigan’s deer hunters care about quality hunting opportunities and healthy deer herds. Each online harvest report takes just a few minutes but provides critical information about hunting experiences and deer abundance all over the state”.

“Harvest reporting falls under the following portion in the Wildlife Conservation Order: 3.103 Issuance of deer or elk kill tags; validation of deer or elk kill tag; unlawful acts. The potential penalty for failure to comply with harvest reporting is a 90-day misdemeanor. The fines and costs for such a violation can range from $50-$500. While the regulation is written in our Wildlife Conservation Order, which is where all of our deer regulations reside and allows conservation officers to enforce violations, this first year we will emphasize an educational approach to hunters rather than enforcement in most circumstances”.

Stewart commented further "While the regulation is written in our Wildlife Conservation Order, which is where all of our deer regulations reside and allows conservation officers to enforce violations, this first year will emphasize educating hunters about the change rather than enforcement for those who have not reported their deer within the stated guidelines".

One local lawmaker is none too happy with the new reporting requirements – calling them "absolutely unacceptable".

Republican State Representative Ann Bollin of Brighton Township voted in favor of legislation to eliminate the mandate put in place by the Natural Resources Commission. House Bill 6354 was approved by the House on Wednesday and would prohibit the NRC from requiring hunters to report harvested deer.

Bollin said “This new mandate is just not feasible. Half of the reason people go Up North to deer camp is to disconnect and get away from civilization. You don’t have internet service to hop online and notify the NRC as soon as you shoot a deer – and you certainly shouldn’t face jail time as a result. I have heard from many of my local hunters who are troubled by this new mandate – and it greatly concerns me, too. In addition to the obvious overreach by an unelected commission, I have a serious problem with a rule that makes a criminal out of a grandpa who doesn’t own a smart phone or a computer or a family at deer camp up north without internet or phone reception”.

House Bill 6354 now advances to the Michigan Senate for further consideration.

The DNR says answers to frequently asked questions are available for people related to deer harvest reporting. The reporting process is also outlined in a video. The DNR says assistance for those experiencing technical difficulties will be available at a variety of locations around the state or by calling 517-284-9453 during normal business hours.

Complete information is available in the provided link.