When Does Bow Season Start in Michigan?

By Hillary Jackson

Make sure you're prepared to hunt some serious game

When Does Bow Season Start in Michigan?

Every year, archery hunters look forward to the start of bow season in Michigan. The time-honored tradition of hunting through archery instead of firearms celebrates skill, quieter hunting and a more even playing field among hunters. No matter if it's deer, elk, bear, turkey, waterfowl or other wildlife, there's a time in bow season to hunt for it.

Q: When does bow season start in Michigan?

A: Bow season start dates vary depending on the kind of animal you set out to hunt. According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, bow season for deer begins in early fall before stopping to resume in December. Bear hunting season dates depend on the specific zone, or Bear Management Unit, with dates usually ranging from the beginning of September through the end of October. Other kinds of game have similar start dates, but hunters should be sure to confirm them with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Q: What licenses are required to bow hunt in Michigan?

A: All hunters in Michigan must maintain an annual base license that allows hunters to hunt small game. The base license also opens up the opportunity to purchase additional, game-specific licenses. Once a hunter has secured a base license in Michigan, he or she then needs to purchase licenses for the specific game. Licenses for bears, antlerless deer, deer, elk, turkey and waterfowl are available. Once bow hunters secure all required licenses, it is important they follow the guidelines set out by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources as to when and where they can hunt.

Q: What are important rules or regulations to keep in mind?

A: Bow hunters must adhere to many of the same rules and regulations as other hunters. For example, a bow hunter cannot transport or possess a bow in his vehicle, unless the bow is unstrung or kept in a case or the vehicle's trunk. Bow hunters cannot use their bows to propel tranquilizers to take an animal. Bow hunters cannot use artificial light in taking game or in an area frequented by animals.

Q: What game can be hunted during bow season in Michigan?

A: Bears, antlerless deer, deer, elk, turkey, waterfowl and small game can be hunted during Michigan's bow season. Hunters must make sure they purchase the proper license or licenses first.

Q: Who can hunt with a crossbow?

A: Hunters over the age of 10 can hunt with a crossbow during any Michigan hunting season that a firearm is allowed, with some exceptions. Children ages nine and under who have received a license through the Mentored Youth Hunting Program can also hunt with crossbows.

During the late archery and muzzleloader seasons, hunters in the Upper Peninsula cannot use a crossbow unless they are disabled. During the archery deer season in the Lower Peninsula and during the early archery deer season in the Upper Peninsula, crossbows are not allowed. During archery-only bear season, crossbows cannot be used in the Red Oak Unit.

Q: Do I have to wear orange during bow season?

A: Depending on the kind of game you're after, you may or may not have to wear orange. Archery or crossbow deer hunters who are hunting deer in the archery deer season do not have to wear orange. Hunters hunting waterfowl, crow and wild turkey also don't have to wear orange. Archery or crossbow bear hunters and those who are stationary while hunting bobcat, coyote or fox do not have to wear orange. However, crossbow hunters are required to wear orange while hunting deer during the early antlerless season, youth firearm and November firearm deer seasons. Crossbow hunters also have to wear orange if they are hunting small game.

Q: Where can I hunt during bow season?

A: During bow season, the kind of game you are hunting determines where you can hunt in Michigan. With the exception of small game – to which the base hunting license gives you access statewide – the access you'll have to hunt a specific animal is determined by the license. For example, bear licenses are issued for specific zones within Michigan. With the license, you are able to hunt within the zone you've been issued.