DNR Changes Deer Hunting Rules

By: Shannon Kantner Email
By: Shannon Kantner Email

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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  • by Ricardo Location: Lansing on Nov 21, 2012 at 02:28 AM
    I think "anonymous" makes a very good point. (re: The state taking action just to mess with the hunters) The DNR is so screwed up and comes out with so many petty rules, that it just isn't worth trying to enjoy the outdoors anymore. It's all about making things too complicated, then issuing petty violations to generate revenue to justify their existance. I gave up fishing and hunting years ago because these silly rules applied almost on a road by road basis. So you needed a lawyer with you to try and figure out what was permitted and what wasn't. It's just not worth it. Thank You. Ricardo
  • by Josh on Nov 14, 2012 at 07:23 AM
    Anonymous - The restrictions are only in effect for certain counties; mainly ones in southern Michigan where the EHD has been most prevalent. The DNR has a map showing where the deaths have been concentrated and they are almost exclusively in this area. If you hunt in northern Michigan or the UP you will not have these restrictions. To say that the disease only affects 1% of the deer population is misleading. If approximately 1/3 (or about 600,000) of the deer herd is in the area affected by EHD, then losing 50,000 is actually a loss of 8.3% of the population in the affected area. To me this warrants action by the DNR. Keep in mind that hunters will still be allowed to take 7 deer (2 bucks and 5 does). To me this is enough for anyone.
  • by Anonymous Location: One on Nov 13, 2012 at 06:09 PM
    The Michigan deer population is in the millions (I think somewhere around 2 to 5 million). 50,000 dead deer is not sufficient to change the hunting rules. That is only about 1 percent. So either: 1) The number of dead deer is under-reported by about a million or two (HUGE apocalypse numbers). OR 2) The state is taking action against hunters that is not necessary just to mess with them. Which one do you think it is?
  • by Brian Location: Hillsdale on Nov 13, 2012 at 11:28 AM
    In my opinion it is still not enough cut. The population of deer has been dwindling each year. Does one guy really need ten deer? Or twelve counting the two buck tags?
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