December NRC: Deer license sales didn’t decline more than normal in 2019

Deer license sales didn’t drop more than the normal, annual decline in 2019 despite a ban on baiting during the 2019 hunting season in the Lower Peninsula.

Meetings began with the NRC Policy Committee on Wildlife and Fisheries at 10:30 a.m. During this meeting, the commissioners were given division updates by the chiefs of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Wildlife and Fisheries Divisions, respectively. Fisheries Chief Jim Dexter reported that his staff is working on a plan for consistent regulations for inland walleye anglers, as well as possible expanding catch and release fishing opportunities. 

Acting wildlife chief Rex Ainslie, accompanied by DNR Deer, Elk and Moose Specialist Chad Stewart, provided an update on the preliminary data collected during the firearm deer season. Stewart reported that unique license buyers were down 2.9 percent this year over last year, and deer harvest tags were down 2.3 percent. It is important to note that this falls well within the annual rates of hunter attrition that we have been observing and is not abnormal. It also suggests that new regulations, especially those regarding baiting, did not impact hunter participation.

Ainslie also briefed the commission on the permanent chief search. Dan Kennedy will become the next acting DNR Wildlife Division chief in January, with the hopes of finding a permanent replacement through a national search by mid-spring. 

The NRC Committee of the Whole met at 12:30 p.m. to discuss a number of matters up for action and for information. This meeting started with an update from MDNR Deputy Director Shannon Hannah on a number of items before the director, including an oil and gas lease auction, a special disease unit hunt, shooting range regulations, and a number of land transactions. Nicole Tolman of the Parks and Recreation Division briefed the commission on a new Parks and Recreation Division Land Use Order regarding the management of state forest campgrounds.

Before moving to business on the agenda, the commission took public comment. Individuals and stakeholder groups spoke on a myriad of topics before the NRC. 

Later in the meeting, MDNR Director Dan Eichinger presented the Thomas L. Washington Award for Lifetime Commitment to Conservation and Outdoor Recreation to Thomas Bailey. Mr. Bailey has been working in Michigan conservation for many years, most recently leading the Little Traverse Conservancy. He also has published a book reflecting on his work: “A North Country Almanac: Reflections of an Old-School Conservationist in a Modern World.” MUCC congratulates Mr. Bailey on his great achievements and on receiving this award. 

The Thomas L. Washington Award is named after a past director of MUCC. 


For Action

The commission voted on open and closed hunting areas within the Yankee Springs State Recreation Area. This tract of public land is located adjacent to the Barry State Game Area and will provide ample opportunities for public hunting in the southwest part of the state. 


For Information

Fisheries Order 200.20

Commissioners received information on an order regarding statewide trout, salmon, whitefish, cisco, grayling, and smelt regulations. This order has been debated at previous commission meetings regarding brook trout limits on Upper Peninsula inland streams. A regulation that increased the bag limit from five to 10 for brook trout on certain U.P. streams sunsetted on Oct. 1. The commission reinstated the rule at their November meeting by a narrow margin. MUCC is opposed to the regulation; the best available science suggests that it will likely decrease brook trout populations over time and have a negative impact on the species and their sizes.

The Commission heard some debate on this topic but soon recessed for an executive session to gain counsel from the Michigan Attorney General’s office. Commissioners did not take action on this, but they could bring it up for action at their meeting on January 9th. 


Director Action

Director Eichinger approved a number of items, including: 

The results of an oil and gas lease auction that took place in October. This auction resulted in the leasing of 5,442 acres of state-managed public land, raising $91,906 for the State Parks Endowment Fund.

An order to regulate target shooting at Lapeer State Game Area. This order prohibits target shooting beyond the range, to limit the impacts of recreational target shooting such as debris, lead shot and conflict with neighbors and other users.

An order to establish a firearm deer hunt for certain private lands in Alpena County during portions of January next year. One goal of this hunt is to help in meeting set management objectives in the bovine tuberculosis zone. 

Ten land transactions, the details can be found in the NRC agenda.


Moving Forward

The next NRC meeting will take place on January 9th, 2020 on the campus of Michigan State University at the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (4125 Beaumont Road, Lansing 48910). As always, MUCC will keep you updated of these meetings and the important decisions that will be made. 

Finally, MUCC would like to thank Vicki Pontz and Rex Schlaybaugh for their service to the NRC and to the state of Michigan, as this was the final meeting of their current terms. Governor Whitmer will appoint two commissioners to the NRC by Jan. 1, 2020.  


  1. Steve Kurtz on December 17, 2019 at 7:59 am

    Why doesn’t Michigan adapt the same policies that Arkansas has on handicap hunters, they don’t open regular trails for people like me that have disabilities so we just plain don’t hunt.they actually have several thousand acres around their state that are just ORV accessible for disability hunters only that might improve some license sales both in state and out

  2. Richard P. Smith on December 18, 2019 at 9:17 am

    What information was provided about the special disease unit hunt by Shannon Hanna?

  3. John Haynes on December 24, 2019 at 9:58 am

    Encouraging news for the Michigan and non-resident DNR revenue generating true deer hunters. Michigan Out of Doors TV, Ted Nugent and other pessimists take note: Michiganians are sports men and women who are interested in supporting deer management, stewardship and the spirit of deer hunting that we were taught by our parents, even if it means adjusting hunting techniques.

  4. Roger Pritchard on May 21, 2020 at 5:08 pm

    A reply to the cadillac news article on the upcoming deer season!
    WE have a deer camp 18 miles north east of St. helens. we think this dmu thing has gone on long enough.We no longer care to hunt there because you have destroyed the population of deer with all the antlerless kills. We now hunt for a week and ; and maybe one of us will see a doe. Seven of us hunted two years ago and no one saw a deer .Also planting jackpines by the acres hasn’t helped with the food supply. And you wonder why license sales are down.My Uncle (92 years old ) said TB has always been around and the deer probably got it from cattle.
    Besides don’t they vaccinate cattle for it? You really need to rethink this DMU nonsense.Point restrictions and no doe permits might bring the hunters and the deer back. Is the Plan to wipe them out completely!

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