Skip to main content

8 Tricky Deer Hunting Regulations

8 Tricky Deer Hunting Regulations

Across the nation, every state has its own department of government to oversee the wildlife. In my home state of Michigan, we have the Department of Natural Resources, or DNR. Even though many of us "armchair deer managers" think that some of the DNR's decisions are questionable, they really do have what is best for the land and animals in mind. That being said, there are some crazy rules out there that at first glance will raise a few eyebrows.

Define 'antlerless '

In an effort to obtain a well-balanced deer herd, most states offer antlerless tags and encourage hunters to shoot does. The problems start when states try to define 'antlerless '. Virginia for instance, defines an antler as any visible horn above the hairline. Many other states also expect hunters to closely examine a 'doe ' before pulling the trigger and consider the hairline rule their standard. In states such as Michigan, Minnesota and Ohio, an antlerless tag can be used for any doe or buck with antlers 3 ' or less in length. Therefore, the smallest and youngest bucks are considered fair game with a doe tag. This rule is obviously created for the occasion where a hunter shoots a 'doe ' only to recover it and realize it was a very young buck. Many other states also face similar challenges with their definition of 'antlerless '. Encouraging hunters to harvest does for a better balanced herd, while allowing them to shoot the youngest bucks at the same time seems to be self-defeating.

No Sunday Hunting

Several states do not allow hunting on Sunday. With the economy in shambles, many hard working Americans are finding themselves working six or seven days a week just to make ends meet. Work really gets in the way of hunting, and some of these hard working people can only find time to hunt on Sunday. This combined with the fact that many of those same people depend on venison to feed their families, means that the Sunday hunting ban in several states hurts those who need it most. Sunday hunting is banned for religious reasons, and to allow landowners and community members a bit of 'peace and quiet ' before the workweek begins again. This is a controversial issue, and the outcomes seem to be in favor of the most vocal.

Protecting Albino Deer

In many states, albino and piebald are protected. The ironic thing is that albinism and piebald patterns are both genetic flaws. Some feel that seeing one of these rare deer is special, and they need to be protected in the same fashion as a rare or endangered species. Albino and piebald deer are in fact rare, because the chances of them being born in a healthy heard are small. They're also easily seen and killed by predators at a young age. Others feel that emotion and sentiment have no place in wildlife management. In Minnesota, if a hunter shoots an albino deer they would make the newspaper for such a rare feat. In most of Wisconsin, the hunter would also make the paper for shooting a white deer, but it would be in the court report section because doing so is illegal. Shooting albino deer in Wisconsin's CWD zone is allowed.

To Swim or Not to Swim?

Many states have rules about shooting at a deer while it's swimming. These rules are created to provide the deer a sporting chance and to help foster a quick recovery. This makes sense to most hunters. Where these rules get crazy is how 'swimming ' is defined. Some states specify the body of water and actions of the animal. A few states simply won't allow a deer to be shot while it's standing in any depth of water. In these states it's entirely possible for a flooded timber, with only an inch or two of water, to become illegal to hunt. Georgia seems to have taken flooding into account and only states that it is illegal to take a deer while it is in a lake, stream, or pond. The Peach State's laws mention nothing about creeks or flooded areas. Another variation is how Mississippi allows hunters to shoot deer in the water, but not from a boat. All across the Southern portion of the United States, these 'swimming ' rules are issues of contention.

Wear a Watch

The exact time a person can hunt seems to vary in a few states. Most deer hunters are allowed to shoot from 1/2 hour before sunrise till 1/2 hour after sunset. That is true in Ohio during archery season, but Buckeye gun hunters must stop hunting at sunset. In North Dakota, it has been a state law since 1949 that hunting cannot begin until noon on the opening day of deer season. I bet the North Dakota coffee shop owners are thankful for this age-old tradition.

Choice of Weapons

Colorado has some interesting expectations on how their muzzleloader seasons will be run. During their specific muzzleloading seasons, in-line rifles are legal, but scopes and sabots are not. Shotgun primers are allowed, but breech loading rifles and pre-measured powder pellets are not. Other states are receiving criticism for when their muzzleloader seasons are held. Some hunters feel that Kansas early muzzleloading season is hurting their herd. Others who have tagged B&C bucks, are all for it.

Other states are receiving praise and criticism for their crossbow hunting rules. Some states do not allow crossbow hunting, some do to elderly and handicapped hunters, and some don't care who uses them. Once again, this is an issue of perspective.

No Mandatory Deer Checks

This isn't so much a crazy rule, as a lack of any rule at all. Several of the 'big buck ' states have one thing in common; they require hunters to record data from their kill with the state's wildlife agency. This precious data helps people making decisions about the deer herd to be better informed. Many of these states issue validation codes to give proof that the hunter did their part and finalize the process of a legal kill. Validation codes also help to keep people honest, ensuring that each tag is only used once by the license holder. In my home state of Michigan, we do not have mandatory deer checks. Our DNR has several locations throughout the state where people can have their deer checked by the DNR if they choose. In return, the cooperator will receive a souvenir patch to proudly display.

Odds and Ends

There are a few more loose ends to tie up in regard to crazy deer hunting rules. For instance, most states will allow a licensed gun hunter to use a bow during their gun season, but Illinois won't. In many states, several laws regarding deer hunting vary from county to county. In portions of some southern states, deer hunting with dogs is perfectly acceptable. Understandably, the dog loving deer hunters, and the stand sitting deer hunters don't see eye-to-eye.

Read Ahead

Before embarking on any out of state hunting trip, be sure to do some research. Get online, request a hunting guide, and become a student of that state's deer hunting rules and regulations. Do not be afraid to call the local DNR office and ask for clarification on any questions. We hunter's are only as strong as our weakest link, and it's our responsibility to abide by each state's rules and expectations.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Deer Dog: Replicating Realistic Tracks

Deer Dog: Replicating Realistic Tracks

On this edition of "Deer Dog," Jeremy Moore discusses the role scent plays when it comes to tracking and how to incorporate it into your training.

How to Build the Ultimate Arrow for Whitetail

How to Build the Ultimate Arrow for Whitetail

Jace Bauserman shows how to build the ultimate arrow for hunting whitetail.

How to Plant Food Plots on a Budget with Small Equipment

How to Plant Food Plots on a Budget with Small Equipment

Haynes Shelton debunks the common belief that you must have big, fancy equipment to plant food plots. That's simply not the case; he's how to plan and plant food plots on a budget with small equipment.

Creating Warm-Season Food Plots

Creating Warm-Season Food Plots

On this edition of "Deer Factory," Dr. James Kroll and Pat Hogan discuss tactics for establishing warm-season food plots.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Making an extreme move to another state to chase public-land bucks worked out for Jake Bush.Would You Relocate Just to Hunt Big Deer? Whitetail

Would You Relocate Just to Hunt Big Deer?

Josh Honeycutt

Making an extreme move to another state to chase public-land bucks worked out for Jake Bush.

Answers to the most popular decoying questions to bring bucks your way!What You Need to Know About Decoying Bucks Hunting Strategies

What You Need to Know About Decoying Bucks

Greg Miller

Answers to the most popular decoying questions to bring bucks your way!

Whether you cook it around a smoldering campfire or over a charcoal grill, this Braai'ed Deer Heart Recipe is a good one to add to your after-the-hunt rituals.Braai'ed (Grilled) Deer Heart Recipe Venison Recipes

Braai'ed (Grilled) Deer Heart Recipe

Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley

Whether you cook it around a smoldering campfire or over a charcoal grill, this Braai'ed Deer...

You can generally take as many does as bucks in a healthy heard, how many is too many?Balancing The Deer Herd Deer Behavior & Facts

Balancing The Deer Herd

Dr. James C. Kroll

You can generally take as many does as bucks in a healthy heard, how many is too many?

See More Trending Articles

More How-To

Physical issue are bound to happen. These tips will return you to the field as quickly as possible. How to Bounce Back From Injury How-To

How to Bounce Back From Injury

Greg Miller

Physical issue are bound to happen. These tips will return you to the field as quickly as...

To enjoy your venison year-round, don't take shortcuts after you bring the animal home. Read on to learn how to store and freeze venison.DIY: Venison Storage Tips How-To

DIY: Venison Storage Tips

Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley - December 10, 2020

To enjoy your venison year-round, don't take shortcuts after you bring the animal home. Read...

We review five important steps you can take to make the woods safer this fall. There isn't a buck in the world worth risking a human life over.5 Ways to Stay Safe in the Deer Woods This Fall How-To

5 Ways to Stay Safe in the Deer Woods This Fall

Darron McDougal - August 15, 2018

We review five important steps you can take to make the woods safer this fall. There isn't a...

Sometimes a gun hunter really needs to put a deer straight down. Do you know how to make it happen?How to Drop a Deer in its Tracks How-To

How to Drop a Deer in its Tracks

Gordon Whittington

Sometimes a gun hunter really needs to put a deer straight down. Do you know how to make it...

See More How-To

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the North American Whitetail App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All North American Whitetail subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now