By Jack Ammerman
The Michigan 2023 bear season will soon be upon us. If you’re interested in participating, you must make a move very soon.
Michigan bear hunters must enter a lottery for the limited licenses available in the 10 areas designated by the state’s DNR as bear management units. There are 22 hunt period designations spanning the 10 units. The lottery drawing deadline is June 1, and successful applicants will be posted online by June 26.

Limited Licenses for Quality Hunts

Unlike whitetail deer hunting, where over-the-counter licenses are sold, enabling hunters to harvest a deer, Michigan DNR limits the number of black bear licenses issued. This allows the DNR to offer quality hunts while managing Michigan’s black bear population.

Lottery Drawing System and Preference Points

Using the lottery drawing system, prior unsuccessful applicants are given priority when hunting the more popular areas. In the license drawing, hunters with the most significant number of preference points in each hunt period are selected first. Those who are not selected earn one point for future drawings. Only one point will be awarded in a given year.
For the 2023 season, 27,571 people entered for the allotted 7001 available licenses.  Also, 33,070 people wanted to increase their preference point total, opting not to enter the drawing but spending the $5 for the preference point so that their chances would be better in future years when they could hunt. The number of preference points needed varies by the hunt unit. Hunts range from zero points needed to over ten, depending on hunter demand and availability. Preference points accumulate until they are used or until 5 years of inactivity (no point additions) have passed.

Michigan’s Black Bear Population and Hunting Areas

Most of Michigan’s black bear population lives in the Upper Peninsula, where large tracts of state, federal and private commercial forest lands contain good black bear habitat. Michigan’s lower peninsula has the Baldwin, Gladwin, and Red Oak bear management districts. These areas offer quality black bear hunting opportunities as well.

Hunting Methods and Dates

Michigan black bear hunters can hunt over bait or with dogs. Firearms or archery equipment may be used. Outfitters offer baited blinds and guided hunts behind hounds, but hundreds of hunters are successful without commercial help. The hunting dates run from the first week of September through the last week of October.
Leftover licenses, if any, will be available for purchase after the June 26 drawing results are posted. These licenses are available on a first-come, first-served basis without regard to preference point totals. However, as a general rule, if you purchase a leftover license, your preference points total will be reset to zero.
In the 2021 Michigan black bear season, 1863 bears were harvested. 2022 saw numbers of successful hunters at the same level. If you want to harvest a bear in 2023, it’s time to apply! Bear hunting applications can be purchased online or at any Michigan hunting license retailer.
Jack Ammerman has written articles, short stories and instructional columns professionally for over two decades. First published in Gun Dog Magazine in 1994, he is an ardent supporter of MUCC and chairs the MUCC Firearm, Sport Shooting and Range Policy Board Committee.