Special deer hunts expand opportunities for hunters with disabilities/Inside the DNR

It’s that time of year again when hunting plans start to firm up and red X’s begin to fill calendar pages as the various season openers are nearly upon us.

For some deer hunters, this year’s calendar may look a bit different than those of past years. In short: Don’t panic when you don’t see the youth deer hunt or disabled veteran hunts on the list when reviewing this year’s hunting season dates. Those opportunities still exist, but have been revamped and renamed for 2013.

The September deer hunt previously known as the “Youth and 100 percent disabled veterans hunt” has been renamed the Liberty Hunt. This special two-day season, which takes place the weekend of Sept. 21-22, is open to youth hunters 16 years of age or younger, as well as hunters with disabilities who meet one of the following criteria:

Is a veteran who has been determined to be 100 percent disabled or rated as unemployable by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Has been issued a permit by the DNR to hunt from a standing vehicle;

Has been issued a permit by the DNR to hunt using a laser-sighting device;

Is legally blind as defined by law

These criteria were recently modified by the Natural Resources Commission to include more hunters with disabilities and provide additional hunting opportunities for those hunters. Youth participation in the Liberty Hunt is subject to the same guidelines as in the past.

The special October hunt formerly known as the 100 percent disabled firearm hunt also has a new name: The Independence Hunt. The eligibility criteria for this hunt on Oct. 17-20 are the same as for the Liberty Hunt, which will allow more hunters with disabilities to qualify for participation in this early firearm hunt.

For complete details on the Liberty and Independence hunts, check pages 26 and 30 in the 2013 Hunting and Trapping Digest.

Additional items of interest for September:

The Otter Lake Boating Access Site will be temporarily closed from Monday through Friday next week while DNR Parks and Recreation staff work on repairs and updates. The closure is concurrent with Houghton County’s drawdown of Otter Lake in order to inspect and repair the dam.

Deer hunters no longer have to wait until Nov. 5 to place their ground blinds on public land. Ground blinds may now be placed on public land from Sept. 1 until the day after the deer hunting season closes, which is consistent with the rules that were already in place for hunting platforms/tree stands.

The sale of wolf hunting licenses has been delayed until Sept. 28, allowing DNR licensing staff additional time to test the licensing system and make any changes necessary to ensure the system can handle the anticipated sales volume. A total of 1,200 licenses will be available on a first-come, first-served basis starting at noon on Sept. 28; purchases can be made over-the-counter or online through the DNR’s e-license system.

The Weekly Fishing Report is now available by phone at a toll-free number: 855-777-0908. The report is updated each Thursday and is also available by email subscription or on the DNR’s website at www.michigan.gov/fishingreport.

The new Ottawa Eastern Connector (EC) ORV Route opened at the end of August. The 70-mile ORV route runs north-south through Ontonagon, Houghton and Iron counties, connecting riders with the existing Bill Nicholls, Iron River to Marenisco, and central Bergland to Sidnaw routes, while also providing access to local communities and business establishments along the way.

Antlerless license drawing results are now available online at www.michigan.gov/huntdrawings, along with a list of remaining public and private land licenses in each Deer Management Unit. Leftover licenses will go on sale over-the-counter beginning Tuesday, Sept. 10 at 10 a.m.

Debbie Munson Badini is the DNR’s Deputy Public Information Officer. Have suggestions for future column topics or questions about natural resource management in the UP? Contact her by phone at 906-226-1352, via email at munsonbadinid@michigan.gov, or on Twitter @MichiganDNR_UP.