Archery forecast looks good
Lansing - Throughout the state, bow benders can expect to find more deer this year than in 2009.
According to Brian Frawley, a research biologist with the Michigan DNRE, hunters killed an estimated 444,047 deer last year, a drop from 489,922 in 2008.
These numbers are based on the DNRE's annual mail survey. Although there was a 7.6-percent increase in the number of antlered deer taken during the 2009 archery season, altogether there were 14 percent fewer antlered bucks harvested during all deer seasons. This could increase the amount of mature bucks seen by bowhunters this year.
Once again, a baiting and feeding ban exists this year for all counties in the Lower Peninsula due to the chronic wasting disease-positive deer that was found in a privately owned facility in Kent County in August 2008.
The antler point restriction (APR) that began in 2008 remains in effect this year. According to the 2010 Hunting and Trapping Guide, individuals who possess a combination license have APR for both licenses. If you're using the regular combination license, the deer must have at least one antler with three or more points, each being 1 inch in length. The APR for the restricted combination license remains the same (at least one antler with four or more points, each at least 1 inch in length).
According to DNRE wildlife biologist Craig Albright, "The 2009-10 winter was exceedingly mild in the south-central U.P., characterized by low snowfall amounts and normal winter temperatures. Snow did not begin to accumulate until mid-December and had melted by early March. Nevertheless, the 2010 deer pellet group survey suggests the west U.P. deer herd continues to decline and has remained below the 54-year average level for six straight years.
"Deer numbers typically hold up better in the south-central U.P. than elsewhere in the peninsula, but even in this area the deer herd has demonstrated a slow decline during the past 10 years," Albright said. "Due to the mild winter weather, we expect a rebound in fawn recruitment this fall. The deer herd should be larger than last year, due to an increased fawn component, but numbers of legal bucks likely will remain depressed."
The APR in the U.P. is expected to increase the amount of older bucks that bowhunters see throughout the deer woods.
Northern Lower Peninsula
Across the northern Lower Peninsula (NLP) the success rate of bowhunters should increase on both private and public lands. Both these areas saw almost a 40-percent reduction in the harvest in ‘09.
According to DNRE wildlife biologist Elaine Carlson, the winter of 2009-10 was relatively mild in the NLP, which usually means that fawns survive at a higher rate. However, due to a hard winter the previous year, productivity may have decreased so the overall number of fawns to reach adulthood could possibly be lower.
Carlson says that only a few people are reporting acorns this year and few, if any, have noticed beech nuts. Overall, the hard mast is spotty in this region.
A major regulation change will take effect this fall for bowhunters in Deer Management Unit (DMU) 487, which includes Presque Isle, Alpena, Montmorency, Oscoda, Alcona, and Iosco counties. This six-county area located in the northeastern L.P. is where bovine tuberculosis has been an issue with the deer herd. Antler point restrictions, approved by the Natural Resource Commission earlier this year, require hunters who purchase the two-tag combination license to take a buck with a minimum of three points on one antler while using the regular tag and four points on one side when using the restricted tag.
Southern Lower Peninsula
According to avid bowhunter Shane Morse, who resides in Lenawee County, the deer seem to have fared well in southern Michigan despite the extended winter season throughout.
Waste crops and crops left standing during these harsh months contributed to a healthy deer herd in this region. Despite the long winter, the snow depth didn't prevent the deer from pawing down to the ground while feeding.
A warm, wet, summer has allowed agricultural crops and mast crops such as white acorns, apples, and beechnuts to flourish.
At the Waterloo Recreation Area, the largest piece of public land in southern Michigan, Morse has seen a decent number of deer.
The mixture of oak-hickory and beech-maple forests, along with wooded upland brush land provides excellent habitat for deer in that area.
This year, 50,000 private land antlerless licenses are available in DMU 486, which covers most of the southern Lower Peninsula.