At the Natural Resources Committee meeting yesterday, the NRC’s Wildlife Committee took the option of closing the Upper Peninsula deer season off the table. The option had been one of six brought forward – but not recommended – by the Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Division to help the U.P. deer herd recover. At the next meeting, the full NRC committee will consider two options: eliminating antlerless harvest on the archery tag, or maintaining current regulations.
Deer harvest in the Upper Peninsula is estimated to be down to the lowest levels in over 30 years. U.P. hunters are naturally concerned, so the NRC asked the DNR for its harvest options (in addition to ongoing efforts to improve and maintain critical deer habitat). DNR Deer Specialist Chad Stewart presented the six recommendations, which included:
Closing the whole U.P. deer season was never a serious option, despite it garnering most of the headlines. Stewart explained that the option was included to show the full range of options, and also to illustrate the importance of deer hunting to the Upper Peninsula culturally and economically. In its memo to the NRC, the DNR wrote:
“There are significant ramifications resulting from closing down a deer hunting season in a region. There would be added fiscal impacts locally, as many hotels, restaurants, and other service businesses would see reduced revenue due to the lack of recreation and visitation during the fall. Since winter is a primary driver of deer populations in the UP, it’s possible that many of the deer that are not harvested by hunters will succumb to winter loss.”
Option 4, which the NRC will consider for action next month, would eliminate the option of taking an antlerless deer on the archery tag, which is the only way that does can be legally hunted in most of the U.P. That could save between 3,000 and 6,000 does, which would have the greatest impact of the options considered. This option was supported by U.P. Whitetails of Marquette County.