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July 23 08:39 PM
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I support the early antlerless season


Dear Woods-N-Water News:

After reading Kenny Darwin's comments in the last issue, concerning the September early antlerless hunt recently approved by the DNR/NRC, I thought some of his reasoning needed to be addressed. The early antlerless hunt will occur from Sept. 18-22 and will include private lands in Southern Michigan's Zone 3 and also the special TB areas. The hunt is intended to reduce deer numbers in areas that continue to be above their population goals or that are at risk for spread of disease. This early hunt, which is really a management hunt, was supported by the Michigan State Chapter of the QDMA, Michigan Bowhunters, Commemorative Bucks of Michigan, and the SCI Southeast Michigan Bowhunters.

Mr. Darwin had many complaints regarding the early hunt, one of which that Michigan had once before utilized a September early antlerless hunt, but discontinued it due to lack of effectiveness and hunter support. Fortunately, the attitudes of Michigan deer hunters have changed significantly over the years with respect to doe harvests. It wasn't that long ago that harvesting a doe was taboo. Hunters would apply for doe permits, only to throw them away as their way of saying "No" to doe harvests. Fortunately times have changed and hunter's attitudes have also. I believe Michigan hunters are now ready to step up and do what is necessary to protect the health of Michigan's valuable habitat and whitetail deer resources.

Today's educated deer hunters realize that deer numbers, if left unchecked and allowed to exceed the winter carrying capacity of the landscape, can quickly damage habitat that will take years to reverse. This habitat decay and resulting winter stress periods can also have a profoundly negative impact on the deer's health in subsequent years. Today's deer hunters also recognize that diseases such as CWD and TB pose a serious threat to our deer herd.

Many hunters have questioned the late antlerless hunts, which come too late to save the precious resources the deer have already consumed during these important pre-winter months. Couple this with the wasted time and energy on the part of the bucks that work so hard during the rut to breed all available does, only to have those does shot weeks later, one quickly realizes that early doe hunts make more sense biologically.

Additionally, by removing excess does early, hunters will observe a more intense rut with increased rubbing, scraping, response to calls/rattling, and a better chance that the majority of does will be bred on time, resulting in less fawn mortality and improved fawn recruitment.

Mr. Darwin believes that the warm weather of Sept. 18-22 will be too objectionable to hunters due to mosquitos, venison handling, meat spoilage and too much foliage in the woods to make deer hunting possible at this time. We're talking about an early hunt that will occur less than one week before the annual Youth Hunt and less than two weeks before the Oct. first archery opener.

To verify the actual change in temperature between these different hunt dates, I went to the website http://climate.geo.msu.edu and downloaded the average monthly temperatures for Lansing Michigan (Zone 3). The most recent data shown (2000 c/y) shows the average temperature for September and October respectively to be 60.1 and 52.9. This means that the average weekly change in temperature is 1.8 degrees. So the average change in temperature between the new early antlerless hunt and the youth hunt is 1.8 degrees, followed by another change of 1.8 degrees by the Oct. 1st opener. I don't believe 3.6 degrees of added temperature (compared to Oct 1st) will be a serious enough disincentive to keep hunters from partaking in the early antlerless hunt, especially if they believe they have too many does and/or deer on their lands. Also, the amount of foliage in southern Michigan will change little, if at all, in this timeframe.

Those who believes the early antlerless hunt will be a "poacher's holiday," let's remember that poachers don't need an excuse, or a holiday, to poach. We don't enact game laws based on how we anticipate the poachers will respond. If this were the case then the September youth hunt would be under the magnifying glass. During the early antlerless hunt, nobody should possess a killed buck, period!

Lastly, the early antlerless hunt breaks the tradition of November 15th as the start of gun season. Don't forget the youth hunt has already changed that tradition and it was a change for the positive. The only thing we can guarantee in Michigan is that if we maintain the old traditions as we've been practicing with respect to deer hunting, is that Michigan will remain near the bottom of the deer hunting states. Some of these traditions must change if we are ever going to be able to see Michigan's deer management change to become more of what the majority of deer hunters' desire. That desire isn't "lots of deer," but a smaller, more balanced deer herd with a greater number of mature bucks available for hunting/harvesting/observing. Maintaining the old traditions will only ensure that Michigan remains near dead last with our deer management program.

We have been performing deer surveys annually on my property and around my section in Huron County for over 4-years. My neighbors and I have been very aggressive with doe harvests the past 6-years. You can be assured that whenever we determine that our private hunting lands have either too many deer (less than 32 deer per square mile) and/or too many does (less than two-adult does per adult buck), that we will fully utilize tools such as the new early antlerless hunt to address those issues. Our hunting continues to improve annually. I've also talked with many other friends that are private land owners and they will also be utilizing this tool to better manage their deer herds.

I do agree with Mr. Darwin concerning the killing of spotted, "itsy, bitsy" fawns. As a group, when we are in doe-harvest mode we strive to only harvest adult does. This is primarily to maximize the saving of forage going into winter (adult deer eat about one ton of forage per year) and to avoid harvesting any button bucks. While an occasional button buck is harvested accidentally, usually by a new hunter, it's not the end of the world to us. Annually, we know we leave the resource in better condition than when we started.

I think we need to take a closer look at the reasons the DNR, NRC, and supporting organizations wanted the upcoming early antlerless hunt and also reevaluate your own reasons for having so many objections. I think you might surprise yourself.

Paul Plantinga
August 27, 2008

REO-Ted S
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