DNR Changes Deer Hunting Rules

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It's the worst deer die off Michigan has seen, and firearm season is just three days away.

The state is changing the rules this season to make sure the deer population remains high enough for future seasons.

"I'm here picking up my one doe license, because that's all that's left on my property, is one," Dave Schroeder said. "Last year we were able to buy five and we were able to use five, but this year we're just not seeing the animals."

More than 13,000 white-tailed deer in 30 counties have died from epizootic hemorrhagic disease, or EHD. In response, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is cutting the number of antler-less deer licenses per hunter in half in certain counties most impacted; five for private land and two for public land.

"Taking fewer antler-less deer through the harvest will decrease the harvest, and that should actually speed up the recovery of the deer herd," Department of Natural Resources veterinarian Steve Schmitt said.

The DNR said an average hunter shoots two deer at most, and many people are already self-limiting because of EHD.

"Might hunt a little less, and once you do shoot one, probably back off, not going to do any extra doe hunting, that's for sure," hunter Kyle Bliss said.

Schmitt said those does are key to getting the population back because they'll carry EHD antibodies.

"Next year that will protect them and for future years," Schmitt said. "And then the does will pass on that immunity to their fawns for next summer."

Some hunters feel fewer licenses this year might mean a smaller taxidermy bill.

"We probably won't be mounting that many animals again this year," Schroeder said. "But then that's a surprise too. We may find a big buck out there opening day, and everybody will be happy again."

The DNR will offer a voluntary EHD check for anyone who does bag a deer.

Schmitt said EHD may have killed up to 40-to-50,000 deer in Michigan.

Anyone with questions about the disease or the hunting season in general is encouraged to join a live online discussion hosted by the DNR on Facebook from 7-8 p.m. Tuesday night.

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