Deer Hunting: Let’s Talk About Shooting Does

The Natural Resources Commission is poised to approve the antlerless deer license quotas at their next meeting on July 11 in Lansing. This year, you will see some significant changes as will be explained below. These changes are detailed in the memo on the DNR’s website, this blog attempts to just hit the highlights.

Michigan manages its deer numbers through the issuance of antlerless licenses and if your area is open to antlerless licenses (purple or green below), the wildlife biologists making these recommendations are confident that by allowing hunters to take X many does, it will have a desired effect on the deer herd (be it increase, decrease, or stabilize the population).

2013 Deer Management Units–SLP Changes

2013_antlerless_digest_deer_units (2)

As you can see from the 2013 map of DMU’s above (click to enlarge), there have been some changes particularly in the Southern Lower Peninsula (SLP). Over the last decade, the goal of deer management here was to reduce or stabilize the deer population in this region.

Guess what? It’s working! Now its time to take our foot off the accelerator. By breaking down the multi-county DMU 486 into smaller scale units (see map for new SLP units in the 300 range), the DNR has the ability to direct management efforts towards distinct areas and reduce the public and private land quotas where it makes sense to do so.

Private land hunters will no longer be able to buy DMU 486 doe tags, but will return to having to choose which SLP DMU’s they plan to hunt in accordingly. Typically, these quotas are still generous enough to allow for over the counter purchases rather than requiring an application, but some units may have quotas close to anticipated demand so they could sell out. Public land hunters should still apply to be assured a public land doe tag in the desired DMU.

UP Recommendations

While a prolonged winter last year may have resulted in some adult deer mortality and low fawn recruitment, there will still be 6 of the 22 DMU’s open to doe harvest to address agricultural damage and forest regeneration issues in the southern U.P.

  • 5 units will be closed to public/private land doe harvest: Nissula (DMU 031), Amasa/Michigamme (DMU 036), Drummond Island (DMU 117), Gwinn (DMU 152), and Rock (DMU 252).
  • Decreasing public land quota in Menominee County (DMU 055) and Gladstone (DMU 155).
  • Decreasing private land quota for Crystal Falls Unit (DMU 022).
  • Decreasing total quota for LaBranche Unit (DMU 255)
  • Bay de Noc (DMU 121) and Norway (DMU 122) will remain open with the same quotas.

NLP Recommendations

With the recent controversy over the Northwest LP Antler Point Restrictions (APR) decided (in case you missed it, it was approved) and the continued situation with Bovine Tb in Northeast Michigan, eyes turned to the antlerless quotas in this region as well. Fruit farmers fumed over the APR, saying that the possible decreased take and bigger bucks was going to result in more damage to their fruit trees, while livestock producers still don’t think the DNR and hunters are doing “enough” to help Tb. Some hunters hissed that the APRs would increase the possibility of disease or take away opportunities from people who just want the meat for the freezer.

To all of these folks, the DNR said that maintaining or increasing doe harvest will help more than the APR might harm the health of the deer population, agriculture, and hunter opportunity. While MUCC staff had reservations about some of the significant quota increases initially proposed in some DMUs, the President of Michigan Quality Deer Management Association suggested that the antlerless recommendations were appropriate and perhaps even still conservative in some areas.

In the end, the DNR is recommending moderate increases in antlerless quotas throughout the NLP, but particularly in the Northwest where quotas have remained conservative for a number of years. 19 DMU’s will have increases, while 17 will remain the same. New public land antlerless opportunities will be found in the following counties: Antrim (DMU 005), Benzie (010), Charlevoix (015), Emmet (024), Grand Traverse (028), Kalkaska (040), Lake (DMU 043), Leelanau (045), Manistee (DMU 051), and Osceola (067) and Bois Blanc Island (DMU 149). This appropriately balances the opportunity to continue deer hunting and get a chance at a doe while you wait for the bucks to develop.

Won’t Shoot Does?

With all this talk of deer management, the bigger question that I would like to know is why some hunters are still “against” shooting does in this era of modern scientific wildlife management? It is saddening to hear the comments during APR discussions that people will just give up deer hunting if they aren’t allowed to shoot a spike because they “won’t shoot does,” even in areas over their population goals where antlerless tags are abundant.

To those hunters, we hope you won’t give it up—Michigan’s forests and fields hold so many possibilities.

~Amy Trotter, MUCC Resource Policy Manager

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