Southern Michigan: land of farms, suburbs and big bucks. And private land. And EHD. So how will all this mix together for deer season this year? The DNR’s 2014 Michigan Deer Hunting Forecast, compiled by DNR biologists Brent Rudolph and Ashley Autenrieth, lays it out:
Volunteers hinge-cut trees for deer habitat at Maple River State Game Area Volunteers hinge-cut trees for deer habitat at Maple River State Game Area
Abundant food and cover in the form of agricultural crops and scattered swamps and woodlots provide very good habitat across the southern Michigan landscape. This high quality habitat, combined with relatively mild winter conditions, typically results in a more abundant and productive deer population compared to other regions of the state.
Over the last decade or more, deer population estimates and indices (including deer/vehicle collisions, crop damage complaints, and observations of deer by the hunting community and field staff) in the Southern Lower Peninsula have stabilized or declined. In many instances, reductions were intended to reduce conflicts that can occur when deer populations are high, though the Department still desires to keep adequate deer for enjoyable hunting and viewing experiences. Repeated outbreaks of Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD), however, have also occurred over this period. Though individual EHD outbreak sites affect deer at the scale of a township or smaller, these outbreaks have likely produced more variability in deer densities across southern Michigan than has occurred in many years. Populations in a number of locations are likely now at or closer to goal than they have been for some time and in some cases deer population should be increased.Management efforts are now being directed towards distinct areas at a smaller scale than larger, regional regulations and Deer Management Units that were formerly in place.Research is underway to improve understanding of the duration of EHD impacts that hunters and landowners should expect to see where outbreaks have occurred. Given the higher proportion of land in private ownership in this region, and the often small property sizes, the Department is working to find more ways to support good deer harvest and habitat management decisions among networks of private landowners and hunters.
To aid in those habitat management decisions among private landowner networks, conservation groups are working together with the DNR to develop a wildlife habitat cooperative program that will be housed here at MUCC. Pheasants Forever, the Quality Deer Management Association and the DNR are providing funding for a Wildlife Cooperative Coordinator who will work with, support and develop networks of private landowners in Michigan to improve private land wildlife habitat.
In addition to the projects conducted by MUCC’s On the Ground program on public land, including whitetail deer projects in southern Michigan game areas, the new wildlife cooperative program promises to improve deer habitat all over. OTG conducted three whitetail habitat projects on southern Michigan state game areas this year, including planting cedars for winter cover at Crane Pond State Game Area and hinge-cutting with QDMA members at Maple River and Dansville State Game Areas.
If you think you have what it takes to be the Wildlife Cooperative Coordinator, or know someone who does, then click here to view the job description and send your resume and cover letter to Drew YoungeDyke, MUCC Field Manager, at dyoungedyke@mucc.org.

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