It all started in 1936…
Fred Bear was instrumental in promoting the first special bowhunting season in Michigan during 1936. Two years later, the Michigan Conservation Department officials agreed that archers were doing no damage to the deer herd, and the entire state was thrown open to bow hunting. That first year, just over 1,000 licenses were issued.
It is interesting to note that by 1964, the archery deer season harvested 2,100 whitetails. Compare that figure to those of today to fully realize how this sport has grown in popularity.
Deer hunters that purchase a Michigan combination deer license after June 11, 2008 and hunt the Upper Peninsula must note new rules…the regular tag is limited to a buck with three points of one inch or more on one side. The restricted tag remains the same; limited to a buck with four points of one inch or more on one side.
Important…If a hunter does not buy a combo license and instead chooses to purchase a separate archery license (good for any deer) and/or a firearm deer license (good for any legal buck) he or she is limited to taking only one buck in the U.P. whether it be harvested during archery or firearms deer hunting season!
Special Deer Season for Disabled Veterans:
Good news! This new rule works two ways. The special season runs from October 16-19th and has been extended by two days to four; Thursday through Sunday and includes any handicapped person holding a permit to hunt from a standing vehicle, Veterans listed as being disabled by the Veterans’ Administration, plus any individual who has been declared as being legally blind.
Furthermore, the Youth Season, two-day weekend that occurs in mid-September, will include disabled Veterans as well.
Special Antlerless Season for Southern Michigan
Specific areas simply have too many deer. The southern Michigan herd is considerably larger than it should be. This early September antlerless deer season won’t be justified over simply a one year period; it will take several years before it proves effective.
Southern Michigan is naturally suited for deer herd explosions due to great deer habitat, a wealth of agricultural crops, and virtually, no winter. Deer to the south are garnered a huge advantage over northern Michigan whitetails and U.P. deer.
Present Deer Population Statewide?
Figures indicate that Michigan’s deer herd remains fairly stable with some 1.8 million deer; however, there has been a slight shift in those numbers over the past several years. In 2007, deer harvest across the Upper Peninsula was down by 10 percent (30,000 deer) while the northern Lower Peninsula (NLP) showed an increase of five percent (30,000). The U.P. deer face harsher winter weather for survival, which plays a major role in their population fluctuations.
Will the cost of gas affect hunters heading north? I strongly doubt it. But especially true for those hunters who own or
annually hunt from a traditional deer camp. However, a southern Michigan deer hunter not attending an established deer camp, may weigh the price of gas and lodging and decide to hunt southern Michigan, closer to home. We must not forget that half of Michigan’s deer population are found in southern Michigan.
Statewide Deer Forecast
Rod Clute, DNR Big Game Manager:
Preliminary DNR figures indicate the following forecasts for Zones 1, 2, and 3:
Overall Deer Population: Numbers remain fairly stable with 1.8 million whitetails located in the three major zones; however, a slight shift of those figures indicates that hunters will find 10 percent fewer deer across the Upper Peninsula and a 5 percent increase in Zone 2 (Northern Lower Peninsula). Actually a 10 percent drop for the U.P. equates to some 30,000 less deer. NLP whitetail increases of 5 percent also total out at 30,000 deer on their plus side.
Zone 1 (U.P.): Preliminary figures indicate that the forecast for this area is hard to make. The new buck law may well amount to less deer harvested. Throw in the fact that population figures dropped and that too is an indicator of a lower deer harvest for 2008.
And the jury is still out regarding which license U.P. hunters will buy! Say, that he or she purchases a combo license and does not see a legal targeted buck…that results in no deer taken. Or, if a hunter opts to buy a regular deer license, only one buck can be harvested; albeit, archery or firearms season…One buck only…That’s it!
Zone 2 (ULP): Archery season should show an increase in the deer harvest of 5 percent over the 2007 hunt. Reports are that people are seeing more deer and in turn, antlerless deer licenses were increased, opening two QDM Units that had been closed the past four years.
Zone 3 (SM): A southern Michigan hunt should prove equal to last year’s harvest. A scheduled early September antlerless deer hunt could bring those figures somewhat higher for 2008.
DNR Wildlife Unit Managers/Biologists Terry Minzey, DNR Unit Wildlife Manager – Newberry (Eastern U.P.):
Here across the eastern half of the Upper Peninsula the deer herd is down. The winter of 2007-08 proved to be hard on the herd. Our southern unit suffered the greatest from Naubinway westward to Escanaba. Usually this area does not suffer high winter mortality losses.
The Shingleton area experienced an average winter as did Newberry, while the eastern end of the U.P. proved far worse off than normal, resulting in a loss of yearling deer. Furthermore, fewer spring fawn births occurred and some does bore single fawns instead of twins. Many fawns were stillborn.
When deer experience harsher than normal winter conditions, good hunting prospects fall as well. And in those targeted areas, hunters can expect lower deer harvests in both the 2008 and 2009 deer hunting seasons. One bad winter affords a double whammy to young deer populations.
The buck law that takes effect this fall across the entire U.P. could high-grade the EUP deer herd. But that event could also backfire! Say, that a yearling buck shows a 3-point legal antler on one side instead of a spike…that deer becomes legal and most likely would be harvested. And, if it showed excellent antler development at that age, that kill would remove a young buck from the herd that showed promise down the road both for antler development and the passing on of good genes.
We will have to wait and see what occurs with this new buck rule; it will take several years before proper assessment can be furnished. Presently, hunters appear to be divided 50/50 percent for and against this new ruling.
My overall advice for the first time archery hunter coming to the U.P. is; “Hunt hard! Be patient! Get out and have fun!”
Robert Doepker, DNR
Unit Wildlife Manager – Marquette (Western U.P.)
The winter of 2007-08 was above average as far as severity. The far western reaches and the north central areas suffered less as basically winter storms came out of the south bringing a lot of snow that arrived early and stayed late. Over the long winter months, we suffered a loss of fawns and by spring, some whitetail does had neonatal losses due to poor nutrition as a result of the long adverse winter weather.
Most losses occurred where traditionally they would not have; that being, in northern Menominee, east central Dickinson and in southwest Delta counties.
As a direct result, we expect the 2008 deer harvest will be down. Our pellet and dead-deer surveys indicate that the number of deer that did not survive the winter was well above average. The longer a winter hangs on, the more yearlings that simply will not make it. Loss of 1-1/2 year old animals will be devastating down the road and by hunting season this year, less 2-1/2 year olds will be seen or harvested.
In 2007 the buck kill was down by 15 percent. The total harvest was also down and the herd went into winter with fewer yearlings.
I would estimate that since 1995 when deer numbers peaked in the WUP, we are down some 40-50 percent in certain areas; overall, down perhaps 45 percent.
Will gas prices make a difference during archery season? I fully believe that they will. I doubt if many hunters will even consider crossing the Mackinac Bridge should gas prices continue to spiral higher or even if they level off.
DNR Wildlife Biologist – Gaylord (Northeastern L.P. )
Looking at the ‘Tip of the Mitt’ counties of Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, Cheboygan and Otsego, hunting prospects appear to be up for 2008. The herd wintered extremely well, having been afforded a welcome January thaw. We should be seeing far more 2-1/2 year old deer going into the 2008 deer hunting seasons.
Last year, northern lower Michigan experienced an exceptionally safe hunt. Opening day camp surveys showed that the season proved to be about average. A normal amount of hunters were out in the field.
Will gas prices this year keep those archers closer to home? I strongly doubt it as up here in my district, we have very few casual bowhunters; most of our archery enthusiasts are dedicated hunters who spend at least one week at camp. I am almost positive that they will continue the tradition of traveling north to bowhunt.
During the 2007 hunting season, more bucks were seen in four out of five counties and in those specific areas, the buck kill was also up. Opening day for the 2007 firearms season proved ideal with excellent weather conditions plus we had some tracking snow on the ground as well.
Spring fawn recruitment has been good and again we are witnessing more 2-1/2 year old bucks as our hunter surveys indicated that many hunters are simply letting the spikehorns pass by…Let ’em Go. Let ’em Grow, so to speak.
My advice to first time archers heading to northern eastern Michigan to hunt; “Look for a good source of mast; albeit, hard or soft; be patient; the deer will come!”
Larry Visser, DNR Unit
Wildlife Manager – Cadillac (North Western L.P.)
How did the herd winter? Generally speaking, quite well. As always, a few isolated areas faired worse than others but we experienced a breakup early in January that aided the northern herd with little extended weather taking a toll. Deer came through the winter well and overall our unit’s herd is in good shape.
Our district takes in Leelanau, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Mason, Lake, Osceola, Oceana, Newaygo and Mecosta counties.
You asked if deer/vehicle accidents are an indicator of heavy concentrations of whitetails in a given area? Not always true. For example, Newaygo County showed 792 such accidents during 2007, yet that county is our largest in the district and holds more roads than any other. Compare that figure, say, to Leelanau which is one of our smallest counties, and the records show 250 deer/vehicle accidents.
Archery season 2008 should prove to be excellent. We have met our long term deer population goals with exception of several counties to the northwest; namely, Benzie, Grand Traverse and Kalkaska. Therefore, the 2008 hunt should be similar to last year’s archery season or just a bit better.
Will high gas, food and lodging prices keep archers down south? Last firearms deer season, as gas prices spiked, we noted somewhat lower hunting pressure. I think our die-hard firearms hunters will be pretty much normal for the most part, as they came for a week or two and stay right at deer camp. But archers hunt differently. Many are weekend hunters traveling north after work on Friday, returning home Sunday evenings. They may choose to hunt closer to home because of the overall cost of heading north multiple times. It could be a factor.
Southern Michigan :
Southern Michigan represents approximately one-third of the state of Michigan yet each and every deer hunting season, 50 percent of the deer harvested are taken from southern Michigan.
Southern Michigan is composed of 93 percent private land. Some 34 parcels are set aside as public hunting lands.
If you want to see deer…harvest a doe or buck…then your best chances remain to hunt southern Michigan. Be prepared to experience high hunting pressure on state lands. Finding a place to hunt on private land holdings remains tough. However, I have heard of many hunters from above the bridge, actually traveling southward to hunt near the Ohio and Indiana borders. So evidently hunting private land is not impossible.
Seeing deer is always a plus. Somehow, scoring a kill proves inconsequential; sort of frosting on the cake or…venison in the freezer.
Overall, bowhunters should realize a good 2008 season. Deer numbers remain above unit proposals. Herds need thinning. Accident rates remain high with Kent County posting 2,208 deer/vehicle accidents for 2007. Jackson County follows with
2,017, Oakland posting 1,866, Calhoun with 1,817, Montcalm held 1,576 and Ingham County related some 1,530 such accidents. Those figures certainly indicate a burgeoning deer herd.
In the Thumb, look to St. Clair, Lapeer and Genessee counties. Both Lapeer and Port Huron State Game Areas offer public hunting lands but you will actually see few deer; as nearby croplands tempt whitetails off public access acreage.
Look to areas sporting thick cover in northwestern Oakland and Macomb. A small portion of Lapeer County holds good deer numbers. Again no public lands exist other than Ortonville State Rec. Area, which certainly is not over-crowded with either whitetails or archers.
Other counties worth mentioning; Jackson (home of the big-racked bucks), Saginaw, Midland, Gladwin and Clare. Heavy concentrations of deer may also be privy in Sanilac and parts of Huron and Tuscola.
So there you have it folks…the 2008 archery deer hunting forecast. We have presented facts, figures and expert interviews across the state…the rest is up to you…Have a great hunt!