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Friday, April 25, 2014
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Published: Monday, 1/20/2014

OUTDOORS

Michigan hunters can sound off on deer management

BY MATT MARKEY
BLADE OUTDOORS EDITOR

OBJECTThere’s a place in the outdoors world for everyone, including the numbers-crunchers.

As part of its extensive analysis of the recently completed deer hunting season, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources sends out thousands of surveys to hunters, and when the completed surveys are returned, what emerges is a much clearer picture of the overall success of the hunt, deer populations, and of the effectiveness of current management practices.

We won’t get the drama of the late Richard Dawson spinning around and pointing to the tote board on Family Feud and shouting “survey says,” but with all of this fresh data and information in hand, the oversight of the white-tailed deer herd should be continually changing, and improving.

Brent Rudolph, the deer and elk program leader for the DNR’s Wildlife Division, said the input from Michigan’s hunters is essential, and asked for their cooperation in the survey program. This is “a vital tool for Michigan’s deer program, and an important way in which data provided by hunters contributes to our information base,” Rudolph said.

Hunters that do not receive one of the surveys in the mail can still take part in the data collection program. They can provide their hunting and harvest information by clicking on the “Deer Harvest Reporting Form” link at the michigan.gov/​deer Web site. Hunters are encouraged to use the site, but to report their information just once.

Whether via electronic means, or with old fashioned pen and paper, Michigan has used this basic formula for surveying hunters about their experience for more than 60 years. The surveys that went out to small game hunters back in 1954 drew a response rate of about 95 percent, but in recent years the return rate on some hunting surveys has dropped to around 50 percent.

The hunter survey allows the DNR to do the necessary fine-tuning of its preliminary figures on hunter success rates and the overall deer harvest. Each year, the DNR produces some initial estimates of the firearm deer harvest shortly after the season closes on Nov. 30, but those estimates are later replaced after a thorough assessment of harvest and participation covering all of the deer seasons — based on the information gleaned from the annual hunter mail survey.

Michigan biologists expect to find that the 2013 firearm deer season yielded decreased harvests in most of the state, and especially in the Upper Peninsula and southern Lower Peninsula. They cited “challenging conditions and lower deer numbers in some areas” as the primary reason for an overall decline in activity at deer check stations throughout the state.

“Deer populations in the Upper Peninsula are feeling the effects of late and heavy snowfall last winter, and in some areas of southern Michigan are still recovering from an extensive outbreak of epizootic hemorrhagic disease two summers ago,” Rudolph said. Hunter success could also have been impacted by locally severe weather conditions, warmer-than-average temperatures in some locales, and concentrations of standing corn that provide secure cover for deer.

Estimates put the decline in the Michigan deer harvest at about 15 to 20 percent across the Upper Peninsula, around 10 percent in the southern Lower Peninsula, with only a slight decrease in the northern Lower Peninsula.

New antler point restrictions in 12 counties of the northern Lower Peninsula, which wildlife biologists called for as a means of allowing younger bucks to mature, yielded an expected lower harvest of bucks in that region.

Upper Peninsula deer hunters will have an additional opportunity to share their experiences and viewpoints on the Michigan deer hunting season and the management of the whitetail herd at a series of open-house meetings the DNR is holding throughout the U.P. to give hunters the chance to learn more about regional deer management and hunting license changes for 2014.

The sessions are held from 6-8 p.m. local time and staged in conjunction with the Upper Peninsula Deer Advisory Team (UPDAT) — a group of citizens working with the DNR’s Wildlife Division to provide input from local communities on regional deer management issues.

Each region in Michigan — the U.P., northern Lower Peninsula, and southern Lower Peninsula — has a deer advisory team, and open houses for the northern and southern Lower Peninsula will be held in the future when the advisory groups from those areas have proposals ready for public review and comment.

The U.P. open houses started recently with sessions in Sault Ste. Marie and Ironwood, which were well attended. Tonight’s meeting is at Fornetti Hall at Bay College West in Ironwood, while a Thursday session takes place at the Ramada Inn in Marquette. There is an open house Jan. 28 at Sydney’s Restaurant in Munising, followed by one Jan. 30 at the Ottawa Sportsmen’s Club in Baraga.

The U.P. open houses will wrap up with a session Feb. 4 at the Comfort Inn in Newberry, and one on Feb. 6 at Bay de Noc Community College in Escanaba. All of the open house meetings are open to the public.

"It is our hope that by the end of the evening, you will know how the UPDAT functions, the type of issues being discussed, the name and contact information for your local representative, and – most importantly – how you can participate in the process," DNR regional wildlife supervisor Terry Minzey said.

U.P. DEER FEEDING: Due to the heavy accumulations of snow, the Michigan DNR is allowing supplemental feeding of deer in the southern counties of the Upper Peninsula, with the proper permit. The practice is allowed in the southern U.P. during those years when the early winter snowfall accumulates to a depth that is expected to produce winter stress on the deer herd. Supplemental feeding by permit is allowed annually from January 15 to May 15 in the northern counties that are located in the Lake Superior snowbelt.

 

Contact Blade outdoors editor Matt Markey at: mmarkey@theblade.com or 419-724-6068.



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