Facility Rules and Policies

Welcome to your international wildlife refuge. National wildlife refuges are places where wildlife comes first. However, some units of the refuge are open to wildlife compatible public recreation uses including fishing, hunting, wildlife observation, photography, environmental education and interpretive activities. These activities, when and where allowed, are carefully managed to ensure sustainable natural resources.

To ensure your safety and protect wildlife and habitat, please be aware of refuge regulations.

The refuge is open during daylight hours. Hunting is permitted in certain areas. The only items that may be taken from the refuge are wild fruits, berries and nuts - all for personal consumption. Dogs must be kept on a leash, unless engaged in an authorized hunting activity.

General Regulations

To ensure your safety and protect wildlife and habitat, please be aware of refuge regulations.

Unless otherwise posted or stated in hunting regulations, you can access to open units of the refuge half an hour before sunrise, until half hour after sunset.

  • Daylight use only
  • Pets allowed on a leash
  • State of Michigan concealed carry permits are not valid in Federal buildings

    We Prohibit

    To protect natural resources and the public these activities are prohibited:

  • Allowing pets off leash
  • Bank fishing
  • BBQing
  • Littering
  • All types of motorized vehicles except on designated parking areas, access roads, and public roads
  • Drones and other unmanned aerial vehicle usage, including launching or retrieving drones, as well as operating drones in airspace above refuge lands
  • Camping, fireworks, open fires and overnight parking
  • Recreational trapping and fur harvesting
  • Biking on dirt or gravel trails
  • Feeding the wildlife - for their safety and yours
  • Destructing, defacing, disturbing or removal of any natural object, artifact, cultural resource or government property
  • Cutting, mowing, sawing, digging, collecting, injuring or removing vegetation
  • Target shooting
  • Commercial enterprise without a special use permit
  • Use or possession of any illegal drug or drug paraphernalia
  • Permits

    Special use permits are required for unescorted entry to most units of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge and may be issued for compatible secondary uses including: conducting research or monitoring activities, commercial still and video photography - including professional wedding and family photography - trapping and other related activities.

    Commercial use of the refuge is not allowed without a special use permit. Charging fees for tour services, operating concessions, and/or commercial videography or photography - including professional wedding and/or family photography - is not allowed without a special use permit. Contact the refuge for more information at DetroitRiver@fws.gov.

    • General Special Use Permits are needed for after-hours access and/or special access to closed areas
    • Commercial Special Use Permits are needed for ventures including filming and recording
    • Research and Monitoring Special Use Permits are needed for anyone, including colleges and universities, wishing to conduct any research, inventory or monitoring projects on the refuge

    On refuge units where hunting is permitted, hunters must follow both state regulations and the refuge unit’s specific regulations. During the small game and migratory bird seasons, hunting dogs must be under the immediate control of the hunter.

    Weapons: All state-approved hunting weapons are permissible on refuge lands. This includes crossbows. In accordance with state regulations, handguns will be permitted for hunting deer, fox, coyote and raccoon.

    Permissible Shot: Only approved non-toxic shot is permitted while in the field with the following exception: While hunting fox, coyotes and raccoons in units where it is allowed, the use of single projectile shot such as bullets, slugs, or muzzleloader bullets containing lead will be permitted. For deer hunting, only single projectile shot may be used. The use of buckshot will not be permitted on refuge lands.

    Do Not Shoot: Opossum, porcupine, weasels, mink, skunk, ground squirrel, woodchuck, muskrat, beaver, American crow, European starlings, house sparrows, northern bobwhite, generally called quail, or feral pigeons. These animals may not be hunted or trapped on the refuge at any time.

    Equipment Removal: All items, including blinds, boats and decoys must be removed from the refuge at the end of each day’s hunt. Discarded shells are considered litter.

    Portable Tree Stands: We prohibit construction of permanent blinds, stands, platforms or scaffolds. Only one tree stand per hunt unit per person. Portable tree stands are permitted for deer hunters. Tree stands do not need to be removed at the end of each day’s hunt. However, state regulations on the use of tree stands on public land will be strictly enforced. Personal tree stands are not allowed during the Humbug Marsh (Mainland) white-tailed deer hunt.

    Trail Markings: Cutting of woody vegetation on the refuge for blinds or shooting lanes is prohibited

    Paint and Flagging: The use of paint, flagging, reflectors, tacks or other human-made materials to mark trails or hunting locations is forbidden

    Baiting: Hunting over bait and the distribution of bait, including salt licks, mineral blocks, or any chemical substance applied to the ground or vegetation is prohibited on national wildlife refuge national wildlife refuge
    A national wildlife refuge is typically a contiguous area of land and water managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service  for the conservation and, where appropriate, restoration of fish, wildlife and plant resources and their habitats for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.

    Learn more about national wildlife refuge

    Hunting Dogs: The use of hunting dogs, provided the dog is under the immediate control of the hunter, is permitted. Dogs are permitted to hunt specified furbearers during daylight hours.

    Humbug Marsh Unit (Mainland) White-tailed Deer Hunts: A limited number of special hunting permits are available for archery only, antlerless deer hunts on this unit. Special permits will be chosen through a random lottery draw managed in cooperation with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Specific hunt dates range between October 1 and December 31. Hunters may apply for one deer reserved hunting permit from July 15 through August 15 at any license agent, Department of Natural Resources Customer Service Center. It costs $5 to apply. Selected applicants will be assigned a refuge-installed ground hunting blind.

    Brancheau Unit Waterfowl Hunts: The diked wetland areas of the Brancheau Unit are open to waterfowl hunting by special permit only and will be managed in cooperation with Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Division. Hunting will begin on opening day of the general Michigan waterfowl season and continue every Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday thereafter in conjunction with managed waterfowl hunts at the Pointe Mouillee State Game Area. A lottery drawing will assign special permits along with designated zones to hunters at the Pointe Mouillee State Game Area headquarters each morning at 5:30 a.m. All hunt zones are accessed by walking from the Brancheau Unit parking lot; no boats allowed. Each hunter is allowed a maximum of 25 shells containing approved non-toxic shot. No shot size larger than #1 shot is permitted. Waterfowl area permits are required and may be purchased at the Pointe Mouillee State Game Area. Permits are $4 daily or $13 annually.


    Drone use is not a permitted activity on any refuge unit, including, but not limited to: launching or retrieving drones or operating drones in airspace above refuge lands. Drone restriction is to protect the public from hazards and preserve the refuge’s natural, aesthetic and scenic values. The use of unmanned aircraft devices, such as unmanned aircraft systems or drones, has the potential to interfere with public safety by posing an in-flight hazard to other legal aircraft use in the area. The use of these devices also has the potential to disrupt wildlife by interrupting migration, nesting, mating and hunting, as well as native birds and mammals, which could result in harassment of wildlife, 50 CFR 27.51(a).