Preliminary firearm deer harvest numbers
January 01, 2008
It was fairly obvious from my observations that the number of hunters and hours hunted were down for the opening of the 2007 firearm deer season. I was surprised, the harvest forecast was fairly positive, with three consecutive mild winters the deer enter spring in good shape. The weather was decent, although there were windy conditions. So, what happened, why less hunters? Thursday opener? Michigan's economy? Hunter dissatisfaction? Hunter apathy?
I spent opening day hunting near my home in southern Michigan's thumb and after attending to some last minute midday business stuff headed to Mid-Michigan for a four day hunt, after the opener's afternoon hunt. The shots not heard, the hunters not seen, the vehicles not parked in traditional hunting spots all were apparent. The DNR made the same assertion, according to Rodney Clute, DNR big-game specialist, "There appeared to be a reduction in the number of deer hunters who participated this year." Acting Wildlife Division Chief Doug Reeves added, "This year, the noticeable reduction in hunters appears to be related to factors other than the number of deer…" Yet deer license sales remained consistent with last year. Go figure.
The DNR announced their preliminary harvest for the past firearm season; "based upon information available immediately following the firearm season. This includes observations by employees, hunters and processors, along with the number of deer license buyers, licenses sold and the number of deer voluntarily brought in to DNR check stations."
Basically it's deja vu of last year with an estimated 249,000 deer shot, 168,000 bucks and 93,000 antlerless. Only 100,000 less than the all-time record harvest 19 years ago of 351,000. So this past firearm season was about five percent lower than last year with most of that reduction occurring in the northern Lower Peninsula. Although total harvest may be less in that area, I have a hunch that the number of big racked bucks seen or taken will be up (Check out our trophy pages 94-96).
According to the DNR, "Upper Peninsula hunters harvested an estimated 36,000 deer this fall, up six percent from last year's final estimate of 34,000 deer. The northern Lower Peninsula (NLP) harvest of 78,000 deer was down by six percent. The deer harvest in the southern Lower Peninsula (SLP) also was down about six percent from 2006. The preliminary harvest estimate for the SLP is 135,000 deer compared to last year's estimated final harvest of 144,000 deer."
There's still some great hunting with muzzleloader, archery and firearm antlerless season taking place in the month of December. But the DNR has calculated that, "Approximately 60 percent of the total annual harvest occurs during the firearm deer season. The archery season contributes about 25 percent, muzzleloader season about 10 percent and the special antlerless seasons add approximately five percent." The total deer harvest numbers from all 2007 seasons are expected to be below the 2006 estimated harvest of 450,000 deer.
Now, here's your chance to be part of Michigan's deer management. Once you complete your deer hunting for 2007 go online, https://secure1.state.mi.us/deersurvey/ and report your deer hunting activity - good or bad, successful or unsuccessful. The information that you provide will help the DNR evaluate hunter success and total harvest. The DNR's "final deer harvest figures, which will be announced in July 2008, will be based on a mail survey of more than 50,000 of this year's deer hunters. Information provided by deer hunters who participate in the DNR's online deer harvest survey also will be included to determine the annual harvest numbers."
No License Fee Hike
Good news for Michigan's hunters and anglers, the state legislature will not increase hunting and fishing license fees this year. Some how, somebody found some money somewhere in the state's budget to help bolster the Game and Fish Fund. The money is expected to be only a short term fix and the DNR's budget woes are expected to continue in 2008-2009 until a permanent solution is found.
To help concerned outdoor enthusiasts understand the current fiscal crisis the DNR is dealing with, Tom Antor CEO of Sports Link Inc., producer of Huntin' Time Expo Shows, announced that the Huntin' Time Expos in Mt. Clemens (Jan 18-20) and Grand Rapids, (Jan 25-27) will be hosting a "Town Hall" format meeting on the Friday of each show from 6:00 -7:30 PM. Representative Joel Sheltrown, Chair of the House Natural Resource Committee, will participate along with other state and outdoor representatives.
According to Antor, "Michigan is in the middle of a fiscal crisis affecting many groups, not the least of which is the outdoor community who continue to see attrition rates at an alarming level. This crisis has led to increased pressure from the anti-hunting and trapping movement and the potential for fee increases across the board which further threatens quickly declining license sales."
Representative Sheltrown's office has issued the following statement, "A disconnect has developed between policy-makers and the hunter in the field. We need to focus our attention on the ultimate consumer: the licensee."
Be sure to join the town hall meeting for a discussion of these important issues; Friday, January 18 at the Gibraltar Trade Center (Mt. Clemens) and Friday, January 25 at the Delta Plex Arena (Grand Rapids). Both meetings are 6-7:30 pm
A reminder, if you bagged a deer this year please be sure and enter it in our Marty Heim Memorial Deer Contest. It's simple, just fill out the entry form below, attach your photo and mail it in. Or email the information and attach your photo as a jpeg or tiff and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. From all the entries deemed eligible we will randomly draw 10 lucky hunters that will win various Woods-N-Water News merchandise and subscriptions! Deadline is January 11. Be sure to check out a few of the photos we've received on pages 41, 94-96 of this issue and there will be plenty more in upcoming issues.n