DNR News: Late antlerless deer opener, Outdoor Skills Academy, Big Tree Hunt and more!

Share or view as webpage  |  Update preferences

News Digest - Week of Dec. 14, 2020


The Big Tree Hunt is on! Time to head out to the woods to find the next forest giant.

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.

Late antlerless firearm season begins today


Michigan’s late antlerless firearm deer season in the Lower Peninsula starts today! The season is open on private lands only through Jan. 1 and hunters may take only antlerless deer (see exception below) — regardless of the type of license you are using. 

Valid licenses include:

  • A private land antlerless license valid for the deer management unit in which you are hunting.
  • A deer management assistance permit valid for that DMU. 
  • A deer license or deer combo license (valid for antlerless deer only during the antlerless-only seasons).
  • A deer kill tag issued under the mentored youth license (valid for antlerless deer only during the antlerless-only seasons).

An additional opportunity is available for deer hunters in Zone 3 (see page 11 of the Hunting Digest for hunting zone maps and descriptions) who want to hunt with a muzzleloader on public land during the late antlerless season. If you’re hunting with a muzzleloader on public land in Zone 3 only, you may take any deer (antlerless or antlered) with a mentored youth hunting license, a deer license or a deer combo license. Hunters hunting with a muzzleloader on public land in Zone 3 may also hunt with their public land antlerless deer license valid for the DMU in which they are hunting, but an antlerless deer license is valid for an antlerless deer only.  

Archery deer season also continues through Jan. 1 statewide.

DNR deer check stations are still available on a limited basis. Check station locations and hours of operation are available at Michigan.gov/DeerCheck. The DNR especially needs deer heads from Alcona, Alpena, Cheboygan, Crawford, Iosco, Montmorency, Ogemaw, Oscoda, Otsego, Presque Isle and Roscommon counties. If you hunt in these areas, please bring your deer to a DNR check station! 

Find CWD testing options (depending on harvest location) at Michigan.gov/CWD under “For Hunters.”

For a map of open DMUs and antlerless firearm deer season information, see page 40 of the 2020 Hunting Digest, available at Michigan.gov/Deer and Michigan.gov/DNRDigests.

Questions? Contact the DNR Wildlife Division at DNR-Wildlife@michigan.gov or 517-284-9453.

Give – or get – the gift of outdoor recreation skills

outdoor skills

Looking for the perfect gift for the outdoor enthusiast on your holiday shopping list, or maybe for yourself? The DNR Outdoor Skills Academy can help.

Offering in-depth, expert instruction, gear and hands-on learning for a range of activities – from fishing and hunting to finding wild mushrooms – 2021 Outdoor Skills Academy classes are now available for purchase online.

“Wondering what to get the hunter, angler or nature lover who has everything? Send them to an Outdoor Skills Academy class!” said Ed Shaw, interpreter at the Carl T. Johnson Hunting and Fishing Center and originator of the OSA program. “Our classes offer more than just a brief taste of outdoor activities – we spend a full day or more teaching the needed skills to get out and confidently try them.”

Classes in the new year include:

  • Bear Hunting Clinic
  • Fly Fishing Clinic for Beginners
  • Hard Water School (ice fishing class) and Advanced Hard Water School
  • Steelhead Clinic
  • Trapping Clinic
  • Walleye Clinic
  • Whitetail Food Plot Clinic
  • Wild Turkey Hunting Clinic
  • Wild Mushroom Clinic

Cost for most of the classes is $25-40. All of them will take place at the Carl T. Johnson Center, located inside Mitchell State Park in Cadillac. Classes at other locations around the state may be added to the calendar throughout the year.

For class dates, detailed descriptions and registration information, visit Michigan.gov/OutdoorSkills.

Participants, along with DNR employees and volunteers, are required to wear face coverings and make every effort to maintain at least 6 feet of separation throughout the class. See class descriptions for more details about COVID-19 safety measures that will be followed.

Questions? Contact Ed Shaw at 231-779-1321.

Learn about inland lakes in award-winning online course

inland lakes

Registration for the Introduction to Lakes online course is now open! The six-week, self-paced online course runs Jan. 19 - March 26 and is designed for anyone interested in better understanding inland lakes, including lakefront property owners and lake managers.

Through video lectures, interactive activities, discussion forums and other resources, you’ll learn about lake ecology, watershed management, shoreline protection, Michigan water law, aquatic plants and community engagement. Live Ask-an-Expert webinars will feature staff from the DNR, the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, Michigan State University Extension and other organizations.

A participant from a past year’s program described the course takeaways this way: “I am a lake property owner and never thought about the plants, erosion or habitat … because of this class, I will definitely take a different approach down at the lake. I intend to leave most of my shoreline intact and will try to disrupt the lake as little as possible now.”

Registration is open through Jan. 14. The course is $115 per person (or register by Dec. 28 for an early-bird price of $95). To learn more and to register, visit the Introduction to Lakes website at CANR.MSU.edu/LakesOnline.

Questions? Contact Joe Nohner, 517-284-6236 or Paige Filice, 517-676-7291.

Head to the forest – the Big Tree Hunt is on!

big tree

DNR partner ReLeaf Michigan is asking Michiganders to go on a hunt in the forest, and for this adventure, you won’t need camouflage, a license or even a rifle. This is a hunt for forest giants – giant trees, that is. 

The 15th biennial Big Tree Hunt is a great opportunity for family fun as searchers explore the outdoors. The Big Tree Hunt, started in 1993 to showcase Michigan’s natural beauty, invites people to find the biggest examples of each tree species, whether they’re growing deep in the state forest or down the street at a local park. The search could reveal new county records, or even a towering new state champion tree.

“The Big Tree Hunt encourages people to dive into nature and learn more about Michigan’s fabulous forest resources,” said DNR Urban and Community Forestry Program coordinator Kevin Sayers. 

Searchers have until Aug. 15, 2021, to find the biggest and best trees and submit entries to BigTreeHunt.com. Pictures and a database of previous winners, including a gigantic red oak more than 32 feet around in Osceola County, are available online. 

Tree-planting and education nonprofit ReLeaf Michigan and the DNR Urban and Community Forestry Program partner to increase the amount of healthy trees growing in Michigan communities.

Questions? Contact Kevin Sayers at 517-284-5898.

Gift a happy little holiday to a runner in your life


The second run of our Happy Little Virtual 5K is set for April, but you can gift this opportunity to a runner in your life for the holidays! The event, done in partnership with Bob Ross Inc. and the U.S. Forest Service Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, aids the DNR's Happy Little Trees program that supports tree-planting and preservation efforts at Michigan state parks – especially those sites hardest hit by invasive forest pests and diseases like emerald ash borer and oak wilt that damage or kill trees.

Participants can run their own race from anywhere, as long as it’s completed between April 22-30 (appropriately bookended by Earth Day and Arbor Day).

Gifting registration for this event doesn’t just enroll your favorite runner in the race; for just $34, which includes shipping, they’ll get a Happy Little T-shirt, commemorative race bib and finisher's medal featuring a real Bob Ross painting!

The race swag will be shipped in March in time for the event. Registration is capped at 20,000 participants, so don’t hesitate to reserve your spot.

Learn more about the Happy Little Trees partnership and register for the event at Michigan.gov/DNRHappyLittleTrees.

Questions? Contact Michelle Coss at 517-881-5884.


Winter is coming, so start planning your ice fishing adventures now! Make sure you have your fishing license and visit our ice fishing page for safety, how-to videos and places to fish.  


Still searching for the right holiday gift? A state park and harbor eGift card is the perfect choice for the camper or boater in your life – give them an experience they'll remember for a lifetime.


If you missed out on #GivingTuesday, worry not – you can support state parks or help Michigan's wildlife by purchasing a wildlife habitat license plate year-round.

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