DNR News: Independence Hunt opener, interactive trails map, grouse/pheasant updates

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News Digest - Week of Oct. 12, 2020

pheasant header

Many hunters are eager to take part in the state's pheasant seasons.

Some of the items in this week's news digest reflect the impact of COVID-19 and how the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is adapting to meet customers' needs. Public health and safety are our biggest priorities, and we will continue to share news and information about the safest, and sometimes new, ways to enjoy our state's natural and cultural resources.

Follow our COVID-19 response page for FAQs and updates on facilities and reopening dates. For the latest public health guidelines and news, visit Michigan.gov/Coronavirus and CDC.gov/Coronavirus.

Here's a look at some of this week's stories from the Department of Natural Resources:

See other news releases, Showcasing the DNR stories, photos and other resources at Michigan.gov/DNRPressRoom.

PHOTO FOLDER: Larger, higher-res versions of the images used below, and additional ones, are available in this folder.

Independence Hunt opens Thursday


Michigan's Independence Hunt, which offers firearm deer hunting for people with disabilities, is an excellent opportunity to get out and enjoy the sport. It's open statewide on private lands Oct. 15-18. Some public lands, requiring an access permit, also are open to the hunt.

This year, the Independence Hunt is open to hunters who are deaf, a qualification that was added at the request of the DNR Accessibility Advisory Council. A list of qualifying criteria for the hunt is available in the 2020 Hunting Digest or at Michigan.gov/DNRAccessibility.

Valid licenses for this hunt include a deer, deer combo, or antlerless deer license or a deer management assistance permit. Antler point restrictions do not apply. This hunt’s bag limit is one deer. Hunters with disabilities may bait through Oct. 18. All bait must be removed from the bait site by the final day of the season.

Additional regulations for all seasons can be found in the 2020 Hunting Digest or at Michigan.gov/Deer.

Michigan Operation Freedom Outdoors is a proud partner of the Independence Hunt. Learn more about the organization at MiOFO.org or by calling 734-612-6677.

All hunters participating in the Independence Hunt are required to wear hunter orange. Hunters of all ages and experience levels are urged to put safety first. Find hunting safety tips and resources at Michigan.gov/HuntingSafety.

Some locations offer track chairs, elevated hunting blinds or hunting blinds equipped with adaptive gear. Learn about additional outdoor recreation opportunities at Michigan.gov/DNRAccessibility.

Questions? Contact DNR-Wildlife@Michigan.gov.

MPHI releases paused; sharp-tailed grouse, pheasant seasons open


Last year, the Michigan Legislature passed Public Act 618, which appropriated $260,000 from the General Fund to the DNR for a pheasant release program during fall 2019 and 2020. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and associated budget reductions for fiscal year 2020, no Michigan Pheasant Hunting Initiative releases of pheasants are taking place this fall.

Plenty of hunting is underway, though, starting with sharp-tailed grouse season, open now through Oct. 31 in Zone 1 (parts of Chippewa and Mackinac counties). The bag limit for sharp-tailed grouse is two birds daily and six per season. See the Hunting Digest for more info on the sharp-tailed grouse management unit and hunting regulations

Additionally, the Upper Peninsula pheasant season is open through Oct. 31. The Zone 1 pheasant management unit includes all of Menominee County and portions of Delta, Dickinson, Iron and Marquette counties. To find additional season dates and bag limits, visit Michigan.gov/Hunting.

Before heading into the woods, hunters need a base license and a free pheasant/sharp-tailed grouse endorsement. Anyone hunting pheasants or sharp-tailed grouse will need this endorsement, except those hunting only on hunting preserves. Get licenses and endorsements online through eLicense or anywhere licenses are sold.

Need more information? Visit Michigan.gov/Hunting or email DNR Wildlife Division.

Use interactive map to find nearby nonmotorized trails


Sometimes you just need to hit the trails – for a run, a ride or a mental or physical reset. No matter how Michigan’s trails call to you, the DNR wants to make it easy to find perfect trail escapes all over the state.  

The department manages more than 4,600 miles of nonmotorized trails, offering plenty of opportunities for horseback riding, mountain biking, hiking, cross-country skiing, paddling and other exploring. Next time you’re looking for a place to lace up your shoes, drop in a kayak or saddle up your horse, check out the DNR’s interactive map of nonmotorized trails. With the map you can: 

  • Search for a trail by name or location. 
  • Find maps, trailheads, campgrounds and other amenities. 
  • Turn layers (fat-tire biking, water trails, linear trails, etc.) on and off to find specific resources. 
  • See satellite imagery, roads and topography. 

Learn more about this map and all DNR-managed trail resources at Michigan.gov/DNRTrails.

Questions? Contact Dakota Hewlett at 517-331-0280. 


The new Holly Oaks ORV Park in southeast Michigan opened last month. Are you ready to check out the new trails and terrain? Make sure you have an ORV license and trail permit before you go. 


Last year, nearly 83,000 pounds of venison were distributed to families in need thanks to hunters! You can help, too, by donating to Michigan Sportsmen Against Hunger when buying your hunting license.


Love spending time in Michigan’s forests? Here’s your chance to have a say in how we keep them thriving! Take this survey (available until Oct. 23) to help guide our 10-year state forest management plan.

DNR COVID-19 RESPONSE: For details on affected DNR facilities and services, visit this webpage. Follow state actions and guidelines at Michigan.gov/Coronavirus.

Census 2020 - Be Counted