Michigan's Elk Management Success Story

Michigan's elk herd represents a triumph in wildlife management, rebounding from near extinction in the state to a thriving population today.

Historical Context

  • Disappearance: Originally prevalent in southern Michigan, elk were virtually eliminated by the late 1800s due to unregulated harvest and market hunting.
  • Reintroduction: In 1918, seven elk from the western United States were relocated to Wolverine, Michigan, laying the foundation for today's herd.

Management and Hunting

  • Initial Hunts: The first controlled hunts in 1964 and 1965 aimed to manage the growing population. After a brief pause, hunting resumed as a primary management tool.
  • Management Plans: The elk management plan, first established in 1975 and later updated in 1984 and 2012, emphasizes controlled hunting as a method for managing numbers and distribution, while also recognizing the value of elk viewing.

Learning More

To delve deeper into the history, current status, and management strategies of Michigan's elk population, visit Michigan.gov/Elk. This resource provides comprehensive information on elk management, biology, and population data, contributing to the continued appreciation and responsible stewardship of this majestic species.

Purchasing Your Elk Receipt in Michigan

Availability and Purchase

  • Availability: The elk receipt becomes available for purchase when the drawing results are announced on June 26.
  • How to Purchase: You can buy the $100 elk receipt at a license agent, online at Michigan.gov/DNRLicenses, or through the Michigan DNR Hunt Fish app. Ensure you purchase the receipt before attending the mandatory in-person elk hunt orientation.

Requirements and Orientation

  • Base License Requirement: To purchase the elk receipt, you need a base license for the year you plan to hunt. This base license is a prerequisite for all hunting activities in Michigan.
  • Elk Hunting License: After purchasing your elk receipt and completing the mandatory in-person orientation, you will receive your elk hunting license, allowing you to participate in the elk hunt.

Michigan Elk Hunting License Information and Regulations

License Costs by Age and Type for Residents

  • Mentored Youth License: $7.50 for children up to 9 years of age.
  • Application for License Drawing: $5 for all age groups.
  • Base License: Varies by age group - not applicable for youth up to 9, $6 for juniors (10-16), $11 for adults (17-64), and $5 for seniors (65+).
  • Elk Receipt: $100 for all age groups selected in the draw.

License Assignment and Changes

  • Hunt Period Assignment: If selected for a specific hunt period, such as hunt period 1, you cannot switch to another period like hunt period 2. Hunt assignments are final.
  • License Type: If drawn for a specific license type, such as antlerless-only, you cannot switch to another type like any-elk. License types are fixed upon drawing.
  • Unit Assignment: If selected for a specific Unit, like Unit I, switching to another unit, such as Unit H, is not permitted. Unit assignments are final.

License Carrying and Presentation

  • Carrying License: You must carry your elk license and the identification used to purchase it whenever you are hunting. This is required to be presented upon demand of any Michigan conservation officer, tribal conservation officer, or other law enforcement officers.

Mandatory Elk Hunt Orientation in Michigan

Purpose and Content

The mandatory elk hunt orientation is a critical preparatory session for all hunters selected to participate in the elk hunt. It ensures that hunters are well-informed and prepared for a safe, ethical, and successful hunting experience.

Requirements and Coverage

  • Attendance: All hunters must attend this half-day training meeting prior to their scheduled hunt.
  • Scheduling: The orientation is conducted near the elk hunting area on the day before the scheduled hunt begins.
  • Completion and Licensing: Hunters must complete the orientation and purchase their elk hunting receipt before they are issued their elk hunting license.

Topics Covered

  • Hunter Safety: Essential safety practices to ensure a safe hunt for everyone involved.
  • Elk Biology: Understanding of elk habits, habitat, and biology to enhance hunting strategy.
  • Tuberculosis Surveillance: Information on health measures and surveillance pertaining to elk.
  • Carcass Handling: Instructions on how to properly handle and process the carcass post-harvest.
  • Hunting Rules and Regulations: Review of legal requirements, ethical considerations, and specific rules for elk hunting.
  • Elk Unit Map Reading: Guidance on how to interpret and utilize elk unit maps effectively for hunting.


  • License Issuance: After completing the orientation, hunters will receive their elk licenses along with additional materials and information to aid their hunting efforts.
  • Notification: Hunters will be sent detailed information regarding the location and time of the orientation well in advance.

Elk Hunting Hours in Michigan

Legal Hunting Times for Zones A and B

In Michigan's elk hunting zones A and B, the legal hunting hours are as follows:

  • Start Time: Hunting can begin one-half hour before sunrise each day.
  • End Time: Hunting must conclude one-half hour after sunset each day.
  • Daylight Saving Time Adjustment: The times are adjusted for daylight saving time, ensuring consistency throughout the hunting season.

Post-License Application Eligibility and Opportunities for Elk Hunting in Michigan

Ineligibility Period after Receiving an Antlerless-Only Elk License

  • Duration: If you were issued an antlerless-only elk license, you are ineligible to apply for, obtain, or purchase any elk license for a 10-year period. For instance, if you received this license in 2023, you would be ineligible from 2024 through 2033.

Ineligibility Period after Receiving an Any-Elk License

  • Lifetime Ineligibility: Those issued an any-elk license become ineligible to apply for, obtain, or purchase any future elk licenses for the remainder of their life, marking a significant difference from the antlerless-only license terms.

Pure Michigan Hunt Exception

  • Opportunity for All: Even if you've received an elk license and are within your ineligibility period, you can still apply for the Pure Michigan Hunt. If selected, you will be awarded an any-elk license, bypassing the standard ineligibility terms.
  • Nonresident Note: Nonresident winners of the Pure Michigan Hunt are not awarded an elk license.

Elk Hunt Transfer Program in Michigan

Transferring Your Elk License

  • Transfer or Donation: If you cannot participate in the elk hunt for which you were selected, you have the option to transfer your drawing success to a known eligible person or donate it anonymously to individuals on the DNR transfer waiting list.

Eligibility for Receiving a Transferred Hunt

  1. Youth Hunters: Those aged 16 and younger who applied for an elk license and were not successful in the current-year drawing.
  2. Individuals with Advanced Illness: Persons with a medically certified advanced illness are eligible for transfers. They need to complete the "Physician Certification of Advanced Illness" form available at Michigan.gov/HuntTransfers.

DNR Transfer Waiting List

  • Registration and Availability: Eligible individuals can register for the waiting list from March 1 to July 10. However, receiving a donated license is not guaranteed. For more details and to register, visit Michigan.gov/HuntTransfers.

Process for Transferring Drawing Success

  • Transfer Request: To transfer your drawing success, complete and submit the transfer request form available at Michigan.gov/HuntTransfers. If no specific recipient is named, the hunt will be offered to someone on the DNR waiting list.

Impact of Transferring on Future Chances

  • Resetting Chances: Transferring your drawing success resets your chances to zero, whether you use the license yourself or transfer it.

Legal Considerations

  • Prohibition on Selling Drawing Success: It is illegal to sell your drawing success or to receive any form of compensation for transferring it to another person or assisting in the transferred hunt.

Mentored Youth and Apprentice Hunting Programs in Michigan

Mentored Youth Hunting Program

  • Eligibility: Youth 9 years old and younger can hunt with a mentor who is at least 21 years old, experienced in hunting, and holds a valid Michigan hunting license (other than an apprentice license).
  • License Coverage: The mentored youth license is a package license allowing hunting of small game, waterfowl, turkey (spring and fall), deer, trapping furbearers, and fishing for all species. It also enables the purchase or application for additional licenses like antlerless deer, bear, elk, and fall turkey, subject to additional restrictions.
  • Further Information: For complete program details and restrictions, visit Michigan.gov/MentoredHunting.

Apprentice Hunting License

  • Eligibility and Duration: Those 10 years old or older without a hunter safety certificate can purchase a base apprentice hunting license for two license years before needing to complete a hunter safety course.
  • Accompaniment Requirement: Apprentice hunters must be accompanied by a hunter who is at least 21 years old and holds a regular, current-year hunting license for the same game. For elk hunting, the accompanying hunter should have a 2023 elk hunting license, but matching units or season dates are not required.
  • Proximity During Hunt: The accompanying hunter must be close enough to provide immediate aid and maintain uninterrupted visual and verbal contact.
  • Supervision Capacity: An accompanying hunter can supervise no more than two apprentice hunters, ensuring safety and guidance during the hunt.

Equipment and Regulations for Elk Hunting in Michigan

Permissible Equipment for Taking Elk

  • Legal Equipment: Firearms, crossbows, and bows legal for deer hunting are also legal for elk, excluding the use of buckshot. For specific equipment specifications, refer to the current year's hunting regulations at Michigan.gov/DNRRegs.

Hunter Safety and Visibility

  • Hunter Orange Requirement: All elk hunters must wear hunter orange as the outermost layer, visible from all sides. This includes caps, hats, vests, jackets, or rain gear, with at least 50% of the material being hunter orange.

Firearms and Other Weapons

  • Concealed Pistol License: Hunters with a concealed pistol license are permitted to carry their pistols while hunting, adhering to the specific regulations that apply to concealed weapons.

Elevated Hunting Platforms

  • Legality and Location: Hunting elk from elevated platforms, tree stands, or ground blinds is legal on both public and private lands within the designated elk management unit.
  • Placement Period: These can be placed from August 15 until five days after the elk season ends or five days after a successful harvest on public lands.
  • Identification Tags: Your ground blind or tree stand on public land must be tagged with your name and address, or your Michigan driver’s license number or DNR Sportcard number, in legible English.
  • Attachment Restrictions: No parts of the platform may penetrate the tree bark on public lands. Use only manufacturer-supplied devices for attachment, like "T" bolts. Screw-in tree steps are prohibited on public lands.

Hunting with Tribal Members

  • Accompaniment Rules: While you can accompany a tribal member who is engaged in treaty-authorized hunting, you may not harvest game unless you are also legally licensed as either a treaty-authorized hunter or a state-licensed hunter for the specific species and season.

Health Concerns for Elk in Michigan: Bovine Tuberculosis and Chronic Wasting Disease

Bovine Tuberculosis in Elk

  • Susceptibility: Elk can contract bovine tuberculosis (TB), a disease primarily affecting cattle but also capable of infecting other species.
  • Occurrence in Michigan: TB has been found in Michigan elk populations.
  • Mandatory Testing: Hunters must submit heads from harvested elk for mandatory TB testing to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
  • Further Information: For more details on bovine tuberculosis, its effects, and the mandatory testing process, visit Michigan.gov/BovineTB.

Chronic Wasting Disease in Elk

  • Susceptibility and Description: Elk are susceptible to Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), a contagious neurological disease affecting deer, elk, and moose.
  • Status in Michigan Elk: As of the latest updates, CWD has not been detected in Michigan's elk. However, vigilance is important.
  • Reporting Abnormal Behavior: If you observe an elk exhibiting abnormal behavior, it's important to report it to the Michigan DNR for investigation and potential action.
  • Further Information: For more detailed information about CWD, its implications, and preventive measures, visit Michigan.gov/CWD.

Concerns About Lead in Hunting

Lead in Ammunition and Its Effects

  • Presence in Game Meat: When elk are shot with lead-based ammunition like copper-jacketed or hollow-point bullets, particles of lead can remain in the meat, some of which might be too small to detect by sight or touch.
  • Risks: Lead is toxic to humans and wildlife, even in small quantities. It can cause serious health problems, particularly affecting the nervous system, brain, and other vital organs.

Recommendations and Resources

  • Ammunition Choice: Consider using non-lead alternatives for hunting to minimize the risk of lead contamination. Non-lead bullets and shot are available and provide effective, safer options.
  • Handling and Processing Game: Be cautious when processing game shot with lead ammunition. Trim around the wound channel generously to remove potentially contaminated tissue.
  • Information and Assistance: If you have concerns or questions about the health effects of lead exposure from game meat:
    • DNR Wildlife Disease Lab: Contact at 517-336-5030 for specific inquiries about wildlife diseases and lead exposure risks.
    • Michigan DNR Website: Visit Michigan.gov/WDM for general information and guidelines regarding wildlife diseases and management.
    • Michigan Department of Health and Human Services: Call 1-800-648-6942 or visit Michigan.gov/MDHHS for health-related questions and resources.

Guidelines for Guiding Elk Hunters on State and National Lands in Michigan

Guiding on State-Owned Lands

  • Requirement for Authorization: To guide elk hunters on state-owned lands, you must obtain written authorization and comply with all conditions set in the authorization.
  • Obtaining Authorization: Interested guides should visit Michigan.gov/WildlifePermits or contact the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) at DNR-PermitSpecialist@Michigan.gov for more information on the application process and conditions.

Guiding on National Forest Lands

  • Special Use Permit: Commercial guiding on national forest lands requires a federal special use permit.
  • Application Process: You can obtain an application through any national forest office. For specific regions in Michigan:
    • Hiawatha National Forest: Call 906-428-5800
    • Huron-Manistee National Forest: Call 231-775-2421
    • Ottawa National Forest: Call 906-932-1330

Supporting Sportsmen Against Hunger and Reporting Poaching in Michigan

Donating Game Meat to Local Families

How to Donate:

  1. Cash Donations: When purchasing your hunting license, you can make a cash donation directly through your license agent, or add a donation online or through the Michigan DNR Hunt Fish app.
  2. Game Donations: Consider donating a portion of your processed game. Note that game donations are accepted only if the processing is done by a licensed processor.

For More Information:

  • Contact 517-853-3663 or visit SportsmenAgainstHunger.org to learn more about how your contributions support local families in need through the provision of wild game meat.

Reporting Poaching Activities

How to Report:

  • Immediate Action: If you witness a natural resource violation or have information about illegal elk or moose killing, you can report it by texting or calling the 24/7 hotline at 800-292-7800.
  • Anonymity: You may choose to remain anonymous when reporting suspected poaching activities.
  • Incentive: The Safari Club International-Michigan Involvement Committee offers a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of individuals involved in the illegal killing of elk or moose in Michigan.

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The legal advice provided on Wild Advisor Pro is intended as a summary of the hunting, camping, hiking, and fishing laws and regulations and does not constitute legal language or professional advice. We make every effort to ensure the information is accurate and up to date, but it should not be relied upon as legal authority. For the most current and comprehensive explanation of the laws and regulations, please consult the official government websites or a qualified legal professional. Wild Advisor Pro is not responsible for any misunderstandings or misinterpretations of the information presented and shall not be held liable for any losses, damages, or legal disputes arising from the use of this summary information. Always check with the appropriate governmental authorities for the latest information regarding outdoor regulations and compliance.