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Top 10 hunting violations during firearm deer season

As Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officers gear up for the 2020 firearm deer season, they are expecting that this year’s higher hunting license sales will mean more new and experienced hunters in the woods. Here’s a list of the 10 most common hunting violations that conservation officers encounter every firearm season — most of which easily can be avoided with a little research and planning.

1. Using the wrong tag or improperly filling out a tag. Conservation officers often see the wrong kill tag on game — such as fish or turkey licenses on a deer. Often, this is a simple mistake made in the dark and can easily be corrected by re-tagging the deer as soon as you notice the error. Solution: Before field-dressing or moving the deer, kill tags should be filled out (including the month and date the deer was taken and the deer’s gender and number of antler points) and properly placed on the deer.

2. Not wearing orange. Some hunters remove their orange clothing once they get into deer stands or blinds. In the excitement of getting a deer, hunters may forget to put their orange clothing back on. Solution: Hunters are required by law to wear hunter orange as the outermost layer of clothing at all times. The DNR recommends wearing as much hunter orange as possible to increase visibility to other hunters. Orange and other bright colors do not affect a deer’s behavior. Hunter orange garments, including camouflage, must be at least 50 percent hunter orange and be visible from all directions. Clothing options include a cap, hat, vest, jacket or raincoat.

3. Being unfamiliar with a firearm and how it functions. Semi-automatic, lever, bolt and pump-action firearms are common choices among hunters, but each firearm functions very differently. Solution: Take the time to become familiar with the firearm and make sure it is properly sighted and functioning before going hunting.

4. Committing safety zone violations. Each year, conservation officers investigate property damage caused by firearms. Solution: Rifle rounds travel long distances — hunters are responsible for where their bullets end up. Know the area you’ll be hunting, including nearby buildings and properties. No one may hunt with a firearm within 450 feet of an occupied structure — including buildings, dwellings, homes, residences, cabins, barns or structures used for farm operations — unless they have permission from the landowner.

5. Trespassing. If a deer runs onto private property, the hunter cannot retrieve it without the landowner’s permission. Conservation officers usually are contacted when trespass disagreements escalate and a resolution cannot be reached. Solution: Respect landowner rights and posted trespassing signs. If hunting near someone else’s property, contact the landowner ahead of time. In most cases, a friendly call or visit will remedy the situation.

6. Staking claims to public land hunting blinds. Confrontations over hunting spots, or the illegal posting of trespassing or hunting signs on state-managed public land, happen every year. Conservation officers are asked to help resolve such disputes, and say the main reason for these situations usually is last-minute hunters who randomly pick a spot. Solution: Hunters should research and scout the land they plan to hunt before hunting day. Brush, constructed blinds and tree stands on public land are just that — public. Regardless of who constructed, purchased or tends to these blinds, when they’re on state-managed public land, they are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Public land cannot be posted or reserved. Tree stands used on public land must be portable and have the hunter’s name, address and Michigan driver’s license number or DNR sportcard number affixed in legible English that can easily be read from the ground. Hunting platforms cannot be affixed or attached to any tree by nails, screws or bolts. Refer to page 24 of the Hunting Digest for more information about hunting from tree stands on public property.

7. Littering. Leaving propane bottles, hand warmer wrappers, food wrappers, bottles and other trash causes problems for animals and people. Solution: Practice the “leave no trace” ethic. Whatever is brought into the woods should be taken back out.

8. Baiting/attracting deer. Conservation officers stay busy responding to calls about illegal baiting in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula and portions of the Upper Peninsula. Solution: Know the law. Baiting and feeding are banned in the entire Lower Peninsula and portions of the Upper Peninsula — except for hunters with disabilities who meet specific requirements. In approved Upper Peninsula baiting areas, 2 gallons of bait can be spread in an area that measures 10-by-10-feet. On commercial forest land, bait must be brought in each night, unless the landowner has given permission. Use bait sparingly to help curb the spread of deer diseases.

9. Hunting out of hours or off-season. One of the most common complaints to the DNR’s Report All Poaching Hotline is about shots fired after dark. Often, these complaints are reported days later. Solution: A hunter may legally shoot game 30 minutes before sunrise or until 30 minutes after sunset. Anyone who witnesses or suspects hunting outside of legal hours should immediately call or text the DNR’s Report All Poaching hotline at 800-292-7800.

10. Harassing hunters. Conservation officers investigate acts of hunter harassment — which is when a person or organization intentionally sabotages another hunter’s quality opportunity to take game. Examples include spraying repellent around a hunter’s blind, creating loud noises and/or barriers that prevent or deter a hunter or game from accessing an area, or destroying other hunters’ equipment such as trail cameras and blinds. Solution: Michigan law prohibits anyone obstructing or interfering with the lawful taking of animals. Hunter harassment is a misdemeanor offense.

Anyone who feels targeted by hunter harassment or who witnesses a natural resource violation should immediately call or text the Report All Poaching Hotline line at 800-292-7800. Information can be left anonymously; monetary rewards may be offered for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of violators.

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