NRC approves changes for disabled hunters

The Natural Resources Commission (NRC) has renamed two special deer hunts for hunters with disabilities and modified the rules for eligibility and the use of ground blinds. These actions were taken at the NRC’s regular monthly meeting yesterday in Lansing.

The Youth and 100 Percent Disabled Veteran Firearm Deer Hunting Days, scheduled for Sept. 21-22, has been renamed the Liberty Hunt. The Special Firearm Disabled Hunter Deer Hunting Days, scheduled for Oct. 17-20, is now called the Independence Hunt.

Participants in the Liberty Hunt were previously limited to veterans with 100-percent disability and youth younger than 17 years of age. The NRC has expanded the eligibility to include hunters who are legally blind or have been issued a permit to use a laser-sighting device or to hunt from a standing vehicle. The Department of Natural Resources estimates that fewer than 1,000 hunters have been issued these permits.

The NRC also simplified the application process for permits to hunt from a standing vehicle. Previously, a conservation officer met with the applicant to determine eligibility. Now, the DNR will accept forms that have been completed by a licensed physician, physical therapist or occupational therapist. Permits will have no expiration date.

Hunters participating in the Liberty Hunt with a firearm or combination license have been allowed to take a deer of either sex, while those in the Independence Hunt were limited to antlered bucks only. The NRC amended the rules so the either-sex provision applies to the Independence Hunt as well. Antler point restrictions for bucks continue to apply to both hunts except youth participating in the Mentored Youth Hunting program.

Hunters with disabilities are allowed to place ground blinds 10 days previous to the season they are to hunt. In the past, hunters must have possessed a standing vehicle permit or a disabled-parking permit issued by the Secretary of State, or have met the disability standards in the Michigan Off-Road Vehicle Law, to place the blind. The NRC expanded eligibility to include hunters who have crossbow disability permits.

Additionally, the NRC waived the requirement that ground blinds be removed daily, as was previously required prior to Nov. 6. Hunters with appropriate permits will now be allowed to leave the blinds up overnight until the season has concluded.

The changes are designed to allow hunters with disabilities to have a better chance of successfully harvesting a deer.

For more information about hunting seasons and opportunities throughout the state, visit the DNR website at [ ].