The sport of archery has grown tremendously over the past 50 years. A harvest of 2,100 deer occurred in 1964 compared to over 150,000 arrowed today. We have seen the sport go from bowyers using traditional longbows and recurves to compound bows plus a host of related sophisticated equipment.
We have reached a milestone: The 115th anniversary of licensed deer hunting in Michigan indicates how the sport has become a tradition. A tradition that annually brings friends and family together for that “Up North” sense of camaraderie that can make the event special whether or not a whitetail is actually harvested. Generations of hunters can enjoy one deer camp…that special place known for bonding.
• On the average, 58 percent of deer harvested are taken during the state’s firearm season.
• During the 2007 deer hunting season, some 67,739 hunters were under the age of 17 years.
• The average age of a Michigan deer hunter is 42.
• Males comprise 91 percent of deer license holders.
• According to the Michigan DNR, approximately three to six percent of the state’s bowhunters harvest a second deer.
• The highest scoring nontypical deer arrowed for the state among bow kills was a 20-point monster buck taken by Aaron Davis of Holland, Michigan that scored 225 7/8.
The Short Forecast
Upper Peninsula: The deer herd is down slightly across the U.P. Winter was rather severe, but spring break-up was moderate so we do not expect that winter impacted recruitment very much.
Northern Lower Peninsula: The deer herd has clearly increased in size. Deer numbers are about where we want them and the increases in antlerless licenses are designed to maintain the present population; not reduce it; except in the bovine TB area where population numbers still need to be reduced to decrease disease transmission.
Southern Michigan: We are still well over our goal in southern Michigan and this regional deer population needs to be reduced.
Michigan DNR – Lansing Report
New policy for 2009 Deer Check Stations
Beginning in 1951, a deer-checking station was manned annually at the Straits of Mackinac ferry dock (later at the bridge approach) during the hunting season. Cusino personnel manned the station.
This year, due to Michigan’s severe budget deficit, deer check stations will be cut in half. Archers and muzzleloader hunters that wish to register their deer must go to a DNR Operations Service Center. There are only three across the entire U.P. at Baraga, Marquette, and Newberry. The centers will only be open on weekdays. They will not be able to use personnel from other Departments such as Law Enforcement, Parks and Recreation, or Fire and Lands.
Hunters in the Lower Peninsula can check their 2009 MDNR Hunting Guide for DNR Operations Centers in their hunting areas.
The 2009 Deer Forecast
Upper Peninsula – Crystal Falls Field Office – Doug Wagner – Wildlife Biologist:
Last season’s new buck law will probably need to be in place for at least three years before a judgement can be afforded whether or not it is working. Many U.P. hunters would have rather seen the Department order a one buck rule as they strongly felt that Upper Peninsula weather and other factors have taken the deer herd down.
The few hunters I talked to either remarked that the new buck rule was great or they simply stated that it stinks!
Winter broke just in time last spring. There were not many deer on the ground; however, many appeared malnourished and it also appears as though fawn recruitment may be down.
To afford a grim picture, a report came in from our Baraga office that a large farm near Chassell, normally puts up or runs over approximately 23 fawns during field work; last year that number dropped to 16 or 17; this spring only 3 fawns were counted.
The 2009 archery should be close to last season with little to no change in sight. Top rated counties in my area include Menominee, Delta, Dickinson, and Iron, followed by Gogebic, Houghton, Baraga, and Ontonagon. The Keweenaw Peninsula has its own mystic. Folks feed a lot of deer there. Numbers are improving but still have a long way to go.
Where do I hunt? Behind my house! And at my deer camp in northern Iron County. Last season due to work demands, I only hunted a half-a-day. No deer taken.
MDNR Escanaba Field Office – Craig Albright – Wildlife Manager:
Our winter found December registering record snowfall followed by 15-20 degrees below zero; however, then the weather moderated and we experienced a fairly normal spring. Dead deer counts taken in the spring were normal.
We expect to suffer a five to 10 percent decline in area deer numbers. But I strongly feel as though hunters will experience quality over quantity.
What counties take the most deer from this district? Menominee, Dickinson, and Iron appear to harvest the lion’s share! And if you are anticipating a trophy buck…cropland deer are not only big-bodied but bear tremendous headgear as well. On the other side of the coin…these counties are over-crowded with deer and as a result of dominance over fawning spaces and nutritional food, many farm country bucks hold perfect but miniature racks. Just about the length and width of a man’s handspan.
My 2009 archery deer hunting forecast would be that it should equate to last year’s hunt, but possibly may be even more challenging. It is not a drastic situation but you will have to hunt hard.
Where do I hunt? I hunt an area that is not the best deer country but it is where our family’s deer camp is located. As you know Betty, deer camp is all about tradition…not just taking down a fine doe or buck!
Newberry Operations Service Center – Terry Minzey – Wildlife Supervisor:
What was hunter reaction regarding the U.P. new buck law last season? Going into the season, hunters were 50/50 divided; coming out of the season, hunters were still 50/50 divided. No minds were changed.
We experienced a tough winter; actually, two severe back-to-back winters. Personally, I’ve seen but two fawns (August interview) and one of those I later found dead on the side of the road. Very few twin fawn reports are surfacing. This is the time that fawns travel with their doe mothers…it is a time of learning.
The bad winters have also taken their toll on soft and hard mast. We had freezing temperatures throughout the EUP in mid-June. Every berry crop as well as fruit ripening, will be delayed throwing a deer’s normal feeding schedule off. We’ve had the summer that wasn’t!
Some 50 to 60 percent of EUP hunting lands remain in the public domain. Compare that figure to southern Michigan that holds just 9 percent of public hunting lands. This alone makes deer hunting a good experience. You may not see as many animals, but you don’t have crowded hunter conditions either. A U.P. hunt is an enjoyable experience.
Where do I hunt? I have a camp in Marquette County. When not able to be there I choose public land in Schoolcraft or Alger counties. I also own 20 acres near Eben Junction, but I do not hunt there as I prefer forested lands.
Cadillac Operations Service Center – Larry Visser – Wildlife Supervisor:
The deer herd wintered well. We lost deer throughout January but an adequate February thaw came at an appropriate time enabling deer to leave traditional yarding areas. They did not appear to be extremely stressed. Throughout the spring, people were seeing more deer. And it certainly appears as though fawn recruitment was good showing little problems.
We don’t have deer numbers as high as southern Michigan but we have good deer populations coupled with far more public hunting lands than a hunter will experience to our south. Actually our herd showed a slight increase this year; approximately one percent; but along with that increase, our buck numbers have increased by 60 percent. Good news for 2009 archery and firearm hunters alike.
Highest hunting pressure across our central district would take in Lake, Missaukee, and Wexford Counties. Good whitetail populations grace these lands. You may also wish to check out Osceola, Clare, Gladwin, Newaygo, Roscommon,
Isabella and Mecosta counties. Both Lake and Newaygo provide an adequate mix of natural food.
First time bow hunters should find best opportunities on private agricultural lands.
Public lands include Pere Marquette and Manistee National Forests, the AuSable Forest, and Haymarsh State Game Area. Interested in setting up a tent camp this archery season? Check out state forest campgrounds in Missaukee, Mecosta, Newaygo, Oceana, or Osceola counties.
Gaylord Operations Service Center – Various DNR sources:
Overall, the deer herd is up by sources out of Lansing, by approximately 22 percent. Heavy deer concentrations usually occur on private land in Iosco and Ogemaw counties with a high annual success rate coming from Antrim and Charlevoix. At this point, croplands blend with forest, drawing whitetails onto public lands. Hunters will find that 80 percent of deer found in Montmorency, Alpena and Alcona counties are located on private land holdings. Basically private hunt club country.
If hunting southern Alpena county, some clubs are evident, but there is public lands on patches of the Alpena State Forest near Ossineke and further to the east, Negwegon.
It remains prudent that if you are not familiar with an area, talk to the locals, outfitters, and sporting goods store owners, for hunting possibilities and overall specifics. While local folks are usually responsive to questions, don’t expect them to pinpoint exactly where the big bucks might hang out!
At this writing I spoke to Bud Thomas (Raber) who was heading north on I-75 when he caught sight of a great 8-point buck. Most folks would deem it a “lost” buck…one they would never see again during archery season. I tend to differ. Any hunter living in that buck’s turf, has every chance of drawing his bow on him during hunting season. That’s when scouting early pays off.
Bay City Operations Service Center – Rex Ainsley – Wildlife Supervisor:
Last year, we strongly felt that more hunters stayed closer to home for hunting both the archery and firearms deer seasons. Probably due to two factors; high cost of gas, and the confusion over the new buck law for Upper Peninsula hunters.
Doe permits have increased for our district (antlerless deer permits) and more does were harvested than normal. Additionally, last deer season more than normal deer were harvested due perhaps to an added firearms season. Actually, as we speak, deer populations are quite similar to previous hunting seasons, especially so in the Thumb area. And the Thumb is always a fine place to hunt; lots of private land though; so knocking on doors is not out of the question.
My advice for first time hunters in our region would be first and foremost knock on doors. Private land affords big bucks. A lot of farmers have crop damage in Isabella County; that would be a great area to see if you can gain hunting permission.
Where do I hunt? Actually, I hunt private land. But I am far more interested in putting venison in the freezer than bagging a trophy buck. It’s a personal choice to be sure.
Plainwell Operations Service Center – Sara Schaefer – Wildlife Supervisor:
Sara is faced with deer management that remains similar across entire southern Michigan…too many deer…disgruntled agricultural proprietors, plus local suburban homeowners deeming deer as being “rats with hooves!”
Deer numbers are up again. Plenty of deer overall. Last year our district held a special antlerless deer season; this year it began September 17th, with permits available wherever licenses are sold. This new firearms season helped thin the herd. However, it started slow due to extremely hot weather. Hunters hesitate to process deer under warm summer-like conditions; others did not want to scare the bucks away. Later, it cooled off and the season was declared a success. We heard positive comments from most of the hunters.
If looking for that will-of-the-wisp trophy rack, best antler development appears to come from Barry and Allegan Counties. Hunt the Barry State Game Area as it runs adjacent to the Yankee Springs Recreational Area providing ample public hunting land. The Allegan State Game Area is yet another great place to hunt as are numerous smaller game areas scattered throughout our district.
Where do I hunt? I hunt with a friend on private land.
Much of our land base is agricultural with scattered small woodlots. Urban deer have grown smart. When pressured during hunting seasons, they seek out these quiet hide-a-ways that provide a semblance of security. Look for hunting spots near fruit orchards and truck gardens. Our unit holds a 60 percent success rate on private lands; 20 percent on public lands. Best…you learn how to politely knock on doors.
East Lansing – Various DNR sources:
This a huge management unit that contains way too many deer. Hunters should be encouraged to make use of all seasons including antlerless hunts as the herd needs thinning.
Counties contained in this district include Montcalm, Gratiot, Ionia, Eaton, Clinton, Shiawassee, Ingham, Livingston, Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale and Lenawee.
Which county produces trophy bucks? All are capable of holding bucks with good headgear; basically due to several facts; first, our deer harbor little if any winter stress; secondly, their nutritional needs are more than adequate; and finally, you will find little loss from predators. A coyote may take down a fawn as coyotes can be found in all of Michigan’s 83 counties. The biggest threat to our deer herd in the south central section of Zone 3 comes from deer/vehicle accidents.
Jackson County has produced numerous high scoring bucks. Bucks as young as 3-1/2 years old are capable of growing world class antlers…Boone and Crockett qualifiers.
Remember that 2009 is the 115th year that Michigan deer hunters have enjoyed the opportunity of partaking in this annual hunting ritual. Appreciate the fact that our state provides this privilege.
That first deer hunting license back in 1895 allowed the taking of five deer of either sex, cost 50 cents, and the season was open from November 1 to November 25. The following year, 1896, some 14,477 licenses were sold.