Last year, nearly 7,000 deer hunters voluntarily reported their deer harvest online to help test the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ new reporting system. Online harvest reporting is required for all hunters who successfully take a deer starting with the fall 2022 deer seasons.
Chad Stewart, the DNR’s deer, elk and moose management specialist, said there are several reasons the department is moving to online harvest reporting, but one of the most important is more precise data.
“The decline in response rate to our post-season mail surveys increases the amount of uncertainty in our harvest estimates, which can lead to incorrect regulation recommendations in some locations,” Stewart said.
Brian Frawley, the DNR wildlife biologist who manages the surveys, agreed.
“Twenty years ago, 75% of recipients responded to the survey, but in recent years we have seen a response rate consistently under 40%,” Frawley said. “If we’re going to provide hunters, wildlife managers and the Michigan Natural Resources Commission with timely, accurate data, we need to change how we collect it.”
Hunters will have up to 72 hours after taking a deer to report their harvest. The DNR estimates it should take about three to five minutes to complete the report, and there are two ways to do it:
• Report online at Michigan.gov/DNRHarvestReport.
• Use the DNR’s new mobile app – an even faster option – available in the Google Play store (for Android devices) and the Apple App Store.
Hunters who can’t report their harvest due to a lack of internet access or smart device may get help from a family member or friend with access, by providing them with their kill tag license number, date of birth and harvest location to report on the hunter’s behalf. Reporting by phone to the DNR is not possible because of the need for accurate harvest location data, which is provided by selecting the location on a digital map.
Frawley added, “Each harvest report will require an unfilled carcass tag number. By linking every harvested deer to a unique tag number, the department can track all harvested deer reported by a hunter and investigate potential problems. Conservation officers can verify the confirmation number through their laptop computer or cell phone application.”
Why is Specific Location Important?
Some hunters have expressed concern about sharing their harvest location, but Stewart stressed the confidentiality and value of that accurate data and how it helps the DNR and, ultimately, hunters.
“While we will have near real-time harvest data available for hunters throughout the season on our website, that data is at the county level,” Stewart said. “Only the DNR will have access to the GPS coordinates of the actual harvest location, which is needed for two very important reasons: more effective disease surveillance, and the ability to build a network of harvest locations over time so we can adapt management guidelines to better align with harvest numbers. That means better overall management recommendations for Michigan’s deer population.”
The move to required online harvest reporting, like any change, will take some time for people to embrace as part of the Michigan hunting experience, but the DNR is confident the ease of reporting and the benefits of better data will outweigh any initial concerns some may have. This first year will be all about familiarizing hunters with the new reporting requirement.
“Above all, we know Michigan’s deer hunters care about quality hunting opportunities and healthy deer herds,” said Stewart. “Each online harvest report takes just a few minutes but provides critical information about hunting experiences and deer abundance all over the state.”
Answers to frequently asked questions are available on the DNR website for this and other questions related to deer harvest reporting.
While the hunters who tested the system last year found it to be a quick and easy process, as outlined in a video on the MDNR’s website, assistance for those experiencing technical difficulties will be available at various locations around the state or by calling 517-284-9453 during normal business hours.
For those who would also like to commemorate the 2022 season with a deer patch, they will be available to purchase later this fall at Michigan.gov/DNRLicenses or in the DNR mobile app for $8 each, while supplies last.