Become a hunter in Michigan (legally)

So a groundhog ate your garden and left you with nothing? When you are a hunter, you can eat your garden and the groundhog too! Here’s how to do it legally and ethically.

Some people come from the hunting culture and pocketed their first dollar as teenagers with their uncle in Da Yoop. Some people have been forced to hunt, all unexpected, after a groundhog ate their pumpkin plants early one June morning. They’re gardeners, not hunters, but they have to do something with these vermin, and you can’t legally catch them alive and release them miles away on some country farm. Not only is it illegal in Michigan, but the farmer doesn’t want your pesky groundhog destroying his land and eating his crops more than you do. Some would just shoot the ‘chuck’, but legally, that makes you a poacher. So what can you do to save your yard and stay on the right side of the law?

The first option may well be a landscape adjustment. Putting up a garden fence over three feet (with another foot buried, to hinder such a professional tunneler) could be an option. However, many pests, such as groundhogs, opossums, and raccoons, can climb a fence with no problem. (They also climb fruit trees.) Fence electrification might work better, but that’s an investment in infrastructure that a beginning or occasional gardener may not be ready for yet.

Repellents are another option, but some work better than others. Most also need to be reapplied after every rain shower (and presumably every heavy dew).

A brown, furry rodent in the grass.
A groundhog. Public domain photo from Shenandoah National Park, via Flickr. CC0

Legally, if hunting is allowed in an area, smaller animals such as woodchucks (woodchucks), raccoons, skunks, and even coyotes can be killed if they are causing or about to cause damage to property or to pets, livestock, or animals. people. (The deer must be just scared.) However, how often do you come across a night-feeding opossum climbing the trees in your orchard to pick those nearly ripe peaches, or find a groundhog eating your tomatoes and they don’t run away right away? It’s hard to keep an eye on your garden 24/7 when you have to work, sleep, and do everything else.

However, there is one more option for the beleaguered Michigan gardener: become a hunter!

Getting a hunting license is surprisingly easy in the Mitten state. There are two requirements that an aspiring hunter must meet. First, there is an online course to take, such as the one available at It is designed to be completed in about six hours (at your own pace) and teaches basic hunter safety, how to aim and operate a firearm and bow, and some history and ethics, with a quiz at the end of each unit.

Once the course is passed, there is also a required field day. Expect the in-person Field Day to last at least four hours and cover some of the same material as the online course, with additional information from athletes, Department of Natural Resources volunteers, and law enforcement officials. There will likely be an opportunity to become familiar with and shoot a firearm at a shooting range and a required written exam.

Alternatively, there are more traditional, fully in-person hunter safety courses that must be a minimum of 10 hours over two days, covering the same material as the online course and Field Day. In Michigan, these hunter safety courses are intentionally inexpensive, so anyone can become a hunter. The online course was $29.95 and Field Day charged a nominal fee of $2, while the full face-to-face course has a maximum fee of $10.

With a certificate in hand showing you’ve completed a hunter safety course, you can purchase your base hunting license. Currently, the fee for Michigan residents is $11, while non-residents who wish to hunt in Michigan must pay $151. This license allows hunting of small game (such as groundhogs), but additional licenses must be purchased to hunt deer ($20), turkey ($15), waterfowl ($12) and other popular seasonal game. A fur trapping permit costs an additional $15, which is what you’ll need to trap your groundhog if you don’t live somewhere rural enough that you can legally hunt in your yard.

Hunting, like other generally rural activities, has taken on political overtones in recent years as American politics polarizes into a rural “red” versus urban “blue” dichotomy. However, one of the surprising aspects of the hunters’ education was the foundation in conservation. States issue permits to greatly limit the number of certain prey animals that can be taken in total and to ensure that the animals have safe seasons to breed, nest, raise young, and maintain their populations. Revenue from hunting and fishing licenses and fees goes toward maintaining and improving the habitat of wild creatures.

Part of hunter training involves learning about the North American Wildlife Conservation Model, which has aspects that may surprise people on both sides of the aisle, if taken seriously and applied to other political and political situations. economic. Let us consider the principles of conservation as presented by, namely:

  1. Fish and wildlife are public property. They are held in trust by the government for the benefit of all people. (This sounds a lot like the popular definition of socialism.)
  2. Wildlife may not be slaughtered for commercial use. This policy eliminates the traffic in dead game animals. (This is anti-capitalist and anti-“free market”, isn’t it?)
  3. Wildlife is assigned by law. Regulations determine how wildlife resources are managed, including hunting seasons and bag limits. (If it were any other commodity, pro-capitalists would call this a Soviet-style “planned economy”).
  4. The reasons for killing wildlife must be valid. Wildlife will be taken by legal and ethical means, in the spirit of “fair hunting” and with good cause. Animals may be killed only for legitimate purposes: for food and fur, self-defense, or to protect property. (When Sarah Palin and her ilk shoot wolves from helicopters, as much as they say it’s to relieve pressure on moose and moose populations that people need to eat in rural Alaska, it hardly seems all that sporty.) ).
  5. Wildlife is an international resource. As such, hunting and fishing will be managed cooperatively across state and provincial lines. (International cooperation has been called some dirty names by people fearful of the implications of a world government.)
  6. Science plays a key role in wildlife management. Wildlife populations are scientifically maintained and managed by professionals in government agencies. (Many people have stopped listening to science in recent years, especially if they don’t like the research results.)
  7. Hunting, fishing and trapping will be democratic. All citizens in good standing, regardless of wealth, social status, or land ownership, may participate in the capture of fish and wildlife within legal limits. (In other words, even the working class and the poorest should be able to take advantage of this public resource to support themselves. Hunting is no longer reserved for the aristocracy. Equality for all.)

In these days of broken supply chains, higher prices, and climate chaos, relocalizing our economy and especially our food system is of great importance. Growing our own food in home gardens is a traditional way of feeding our families high-quality local food, and it can be done at low cost. Game has long been rural dwellers’ way of adding nutritious, free-range, affordable protein to the dinner table, and it deserves a second look from those who may not have considered it an option. a few years ago. And if you are a gardener plagued by groundhogs eating your pumpkins and tomatoes, leaving you with nothing in return, maybe next year you can eat your greens and the groundhog too.

Join your local ecosystem. Just do it safely, legally, and ethically. Finally, if you’re using a projectile weapon, be sure to keep the business end pointed in a safe direction (and your booger hook off the burst button until you’re ready to fire).

Related: So do you want to start a COVID farm?


nuisance wildlife
Groundhog repellents that work
Michigan Hunter Safety Officer Course Online
Hunter Safety Certificate
Fishing and hunting license Information
Hunters and fishermen make a difference
The North American Model of Wildlife Conservation
Palin and the Wolves: Inside the Alaskan Aerial Hunt
7 ways to feed your garden for free (full movie)
Participatory ecology: Greens must embrace hunting
Buy a hunting license (by state)
Ethical meat, not trophies, could inspire new hunters
A groundhog stew