Hunting on TNC Lands in Michigan
Hunting is a part of Michigan’s history and culture, and it can also play an important role in conservation.
At some of our nature preserves, in both the Upper and Lower Peninsulas, white-tailed deer populations have grown well beyond the ability of plant communities to withstand their browsing. We use hunting as a tool to control deer populations and reduce the damage they are causing, allowing plant communities to recover their full vigor and diversity. Allowing hunting also prevents our preserves from becoming a refuge for deer in places where there is high hunting pressure on surrounding properties.
In addition, some of our lands are enrolled in the Commercial Forest Program, which requires that they remain open to public foot traffic for hunting, trapping and fishing. On these lands, we allow all legal hunting with access on foot only. Blinds and motorized access are not allowed.
Why We Allow Hunting
Natural ecosystems are not adapted to the high population levels of white-tailed deer and are being degraded through the over-browsing of the shrub and ground cover layers. Some shrubs, such as the Canada yew, are in severe decline throughout most of the state due to this browsing pressure. Several tree species (such as northern white-cedar, sugar maple, eastern hemlock and several oaks) that are preferred as browse are failing to regenerate where deer numbers are high. If the pressure continues, the composition of Michigan’s forests will be changed, perhaps irreversibly.
Deer also prefer some herbaceous plants over others, and the decline or disappearance of some species has been attributed to deer browsing activity. These changes in vegetation that result from deer browsing have been shown to affect birds. In heavily browsed areas, the shrub layer is virtually absent or is populated almost entirely by species (such as balsam fir or leatherwood) that deer tend not to eat. Animals that nest or forage in the shrub layer are not, in some cases, able to adapt to such dramatic changes in forest structure and must find suitable habitats elsewhere or persist at low numbers.
Michigan wildflowers are also impacted by deer browse. Houghton's goldenrod and the dwarf lake iris are two federally and state-threatened wildflowers that can be found at our northern lower preserves. Hunting helps protect these flowers and allows them to continue to grow.
Where We Allow Hunting
Hunting opportunities are available in both the Upper and Lower Peninsulas. Currently, there are five properties enrolled as Commercial Forest Lands and 15 preserves that have hunting programs.
Commercial Forest Lands
- Lon Matthews Reserve at Mulligan Creek Highlands
- Raptor’s Roost Reserve
- Two Hearted River Forest Reserve
- Wilderness Lakes Reserve
- Slate River Forest Reserve
Hunting on TNC Reserves
The Nature Conservancy (TNC) has five Upper Peninsula properties enrolled as Commercial Forest Lands in the State of Michigan. On these properties, TNC employs a conservation strategy that includes sustainable timber harvesting to demonstrate managing forests in a way that promotes ecological values and reaps direct economic benefits. The Commercial Forest Act provides public access for hunting and fishing, but does not allow motor vehicle access, camping, tree cutting, structures or other related activities. TNC's hunting guidelines also apply to these properties.
Hunting on TNC Preserves
Hunting is allowed at seven nature preserves in the Lower Peninsula and eight nature preserves in the Upper Peninsula. Hunting at these preserves is limited to white-tailed deer only and a permit is required. All Lower Peninsula preserves are at capacity; however, we do maintain a waiting list for each.
Applying for a Permit
The deadline for applying for a hunting permit is on or around June 15. If you are interested in hunting white-tailed deer on TNC preserves, please call 517-316-0300 ext. 8 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
TNC Hunting Permits
A TNC permit is required to hunt white-tailed deer at any of our nature preserves (not on Commercial Forest Lands). There is a fee to hunt at our Lower Peninsula preserves, excluding Grass Bay Preserve. Currently, there is no fee to hunt at our Upper Peninsula preserves. All Lower Peninsula permit fees are per person at the following rates:
- Archery Season Only—Adult: $100.00; Minor: $80.00
- Firearm Season Only—Adult: $100.00; Minor: $80.00
- Combined Seasons—Adult: $200.00; Minor: $160.00
Permits are renewed annually if the hunter has complied with the program guidelines and at the discretion of TNC. Removed hunters are replaced with interested hunters from the waiting list in the order they were added. Spots are available on a first-come, first-served basis at preserves with openings.
Michigan DNR Permits
Hunting in Michigan
Review the latest guidelines for hunting on TNC preserves and reserves in Michigan.
Requirements for Hunting at TNC Preserves
- Hunters must comply with all local, state and federal laws and ordinances governing hunting activities, including obtaining all required government licenses or permits.
- Hunters are responsible for staying within preserve boundaries. Trespassing on adjacent private lands is expressly prohibited. TNC land may not be accessed from adjacent private land without the expressed permission of that landowner.
- Parking of vehicles is only allowed in designated parking areas. Access to the property must be from the designated parking areas or along the existing road. No off-road vehicle use is allowed, except on public roads and designated ORV trails.
- To prevent unintended harm to other preserve users, no long-range shooting is allowed across open fields, marshes or roads. Unnecessary shooting or shooting at targets is prohibited.
- No hunting is allowed within a 200-yard radius of any inhabited dwelling.
- Alcohol is not allowed on TNC properties or in TNC parking lots.
- No fires, smoking, camping, littering (including the use of plastic flagging) or dumping of ashes, trash, garbage, chemical waste or other unsightly or offensive materials on TNC property.
- No cutting, breaking or clearing of vegetation. Planting of food plots or other vegetation is not allowed.
- One (1) temporary trail camera is permitted. All cameras must be removed prior to the expiration of the required permit. The hunter shall place their name and contact information on the trail camera. Any cameras not removed by the expiration date shall become the property of TNC.
- TNC is not responsible for any lost or stolen items.
Regarding white-tailed deer hunting:
- Deer hunting is permitted only on TNC property identified as open to deer hunting.
- All hunters must carry a TNC-issued permit while hunting on TNC property.
- Only white-tailed deer may be hunted. The hunter must report how many deer were taken upon expiration of the permit.
- Permits are personal to the hunter and may not be used by or assigned to any other individual.
- All persons, including minors, accompanying the hunter must have a TNC-issued permit. Hunters may request a Permit to allow one minor child to accompany the hunter on the Property. The child must be at least 10 years of age and less than 17 years of age, have all licenses or permits required to hunt under Michigan law and must have completed a course in hunting safety approved by the MDNR.
- Only two (2) temporary, non-damaging deer stands are permitted. No tree spikes, steps or any implement that will damage trees are allowed. All stands must be removed prior to the expiration of the permit. The hunter shall place their name and contact information on the stand. Any stands not removed by the expiration date shall become the property of TNC.
At some of our preserves white-tailed deer populations have grown well beyond the ability of plant communities to withstand their browsing. We use hunting as a tool to control deer populations and reduce the damage they are causing, allowing plant communities to recover their full vigor and diversity. The Nature Conservancy allows hunting for white-tailed deer on preserves to reduce the threats too many deer pose to our conservation targets and to ensure that the preserve does not become a “refuge” for deer during the hunting season.
TNC’s nature preserves offer an opportunity for people to connect with nature in various ways, in all seasons. Throughout the year, we post notice that hunting is allowed at the entry points to our preserves so that non-hunters are aware that hunting could be taking place. We recommend that visitors wear blaze orange or neon pink for visibility and safety on the preserve during these hunting seasons.
We allow hunting, by permit only, of white-tailed deer. At this time, other species do not cause the ecological damage that deer do, so management of them by hunting is not necessary. In addition, some of our lands are enrolled in the Commercial Forest Program, which requires that they remain open to public foot traffic for hunting, trapping and fishing. On these lands, we allow all legal hunting with access on foot only. Permanent blinds and motorized access are not allowed.
We use hunting as a tool to control deer populations and reduce the damage they are causing. Planting corn or food plots, especially any non-native species can be detrimental to the natural ecosystem we are protecting and restoring at any given site and the purpose of the hunting program is to control deer populations on the preserves at non-damaging levels. Attracting additional deer is counter to our management objective.
Some properties TNC now owns had pre-existing recreational leases that allowed hunting. On those properties, allowable hunting is based upon the terms of the lease. Leaseholders are still required to obtain all necessary state and federal licenses and permits for the species they will be hunting and must follow all applicable laws and regulations. Hunting on leased property is the exclusive right of the leaseholder and their invited guests.
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