The beauty of commercial forestlands

Part of the reason Michigan’s Commercial Forest Program is to increase the amount of land available for hunting, fishing, and trapping. Users of these forestlands should be aware of their rights and limitations.

Deer Stand in a tree

Imagine walking into your forest, say a forty-acre woodland, and finding that a hunter has been doing things without your knowledge.  Someone has built a blind and a baiting station.  They’ve cut a shooting lane.  And, well-worn ATV trails lead to the site.  You don’t know who did this.  There are no names on the blind, like you would find on an ice shanty.

What do you do?

Just the year before, you left a note about removing the blind, which was done.  However, a new and larger one was constructed in its place.  The hunter has your name and phone number, which was also posted on a sign where your two-track road enters the property.  But, you don’t know who the hunter is! 

Who would take such liberties on private property that belongs to someone else? 

Sure, your property is entered into the Commercial Forest Program, so public hunting, fishing, and trapping is allowed.  A hunter doesn’t need to ask your permission to hunt.  However, you could potentially get kicked-out of the tax program for what this unknown hunter has done, and that could cost you a fair chunk of change.

So, what are the rules for your guests? 

Aside from reading the actual legislation, a decent summary can be found in the DNR annual Hunting Digest and on the DNR Private Forest Lands website. 

Michigan’s Commercial Forest Program (sometimes called by old terms CFA or CFR) opens over two million acres of forestland to hunting, fishing, and trapping. However, hunters, fishers, and trappers need to use these lands with respect and understand the limitations of that use. Violations can result in criminal or civil liability. 

  • Hunting licenses are required (public-land antlerless license for antlerless deer).
  • Foot access only, unless the forestowner allows motor vehicles. Owners can gate roads. 
  • Nothing can be left overnight, including blinds, bait stations, litter, tents, etc.
  • No blinds can be constructed of any sort, except from dead natural materials on-site.
  • Shooting lanes cannot be cut.
  • No nails, bolts, wire, tree steps that harm trees or may be dangerous to timber harvest.
  • No firearm target-shooting or sighting-in.

Most of these restrictions are simple courtesy when using someone else’s land. Hunters, fishers, and trappers are responsible for knowing the rules.  So should forestowners. 

Maps of CF land, by county, can be found on-line at Commercial Forest Maps. The tool is awkward to use, unless you already know the Township and Range of the land where you wish to hunt. However, CF-colored county maps can be found, which helps locate specific CF properties. Another color-coded locator tool can be found on the DNR MI-Hunt website, which is a bit easier to use. 

Note that the Qualified Forest Program is different and is managed by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. The Commercial Forest Program is administered by the DNR, with three Service Foresters that can field questions. 

Western U.P. - Gary Willis at or 906-353-6651

Central/Eastern U.P. - Ernie Houghton at or 906-789-8208

Lower Peninsula -  Mike Hanley at or 517-675-5445

So, what do you do if there are violators on your property? If you’re comfortable with talking to them, let them know they are in violation and ask them to stop whatever it is they’re doing. Failing that, a forestowner can contact a conservation officer. Remember, it is your land. 

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