Combo deer license survives challenge
By Steve Griffin
Saginaw, Mich. – We listened, the Natural Resources Commission
wanted to tell hunters at its March monthly meeting here.
It listened to suggestions that hunters be more restricted in
how many bucks they can take, but it just didn’t see any reason to
Hunter after hunter stepped to the mic to say the two-buck combo
license, allowing them to take antlered deer in either archery or
firearms seasons, works just fine.
Trimming that to a single buck with archery gear, another with
gun, would only reduce hunting opportunities, they said.
Ultimately the commissioner who brought the issue forward, John
Madigan, of Munising, said he couldn’t even see his way clear to
make a motion for one-each buck limits in either the Upper
Peninsula or statewide.
Commissioner Mary Brown suggested the board might just not act,
and let it die, but others – including commissioners Hurley Coleman
Jr., Frank Wheatlake, and Darnell Earley – said it was important to
take action, even if it were to stand pat.
And so commissioner Bob Garner first moved to enact
one-buck-per-method in the Upper Peninsula, and then statewide –
and unanimous no votes endorsed the status quo.
Madigan had raised the issue last year, at the request of U.P.
hunters. When it became clear the commission would not approve a
single-buck limit, he amended it to one buck each with archery and
A vote on that tied, and he promised to bring it back this
In the meantime, the DNR’s wildlife division launched a
Brian Frawley, who conducts the DNR’s mail survey programs, and
Brent Rudolf, a deer research biologist, showed the commission
interim results of their hunter opinion survey.
They created a list of randomly selected hunters, 3,000 each in
the Upper Peninsula, northern Lower Peninsula, and southern Lower
Peninsula, and queried them on how they felt about deer hunting and
And although a slight majority said they favored some kind of
restriction in the buck harvest, they were cool toward listed
Two-thirds statewide said they favored existing rules over
options including requiring a buck tag on any male deer, including
button bucks; a one-buck-per-year bag limit; a two-buck limit with
both required to have four points or more on at least one side; and
one buck each with archery and firearms gear.
Hunters did say that a restriction in buck limits might affect
their decision-making – whether they’d shoot the first legal buck
Hunters addressing the commission urged continuation of the
combo option, saying it encouraged hunters to continue hunting
after early success.
‘I am adamantly opposed to any restriction that would restrict
opportunities for sportsmen,’ said Dave Dalton, of Frankenmuth, a
member of the Michigan Sportsman’s Congress and Camp Wilderness.
‘Keep the current combo license as it is.’
Tony Hansen, of the Michigan United Conservation Clubs, said his
group’s board had voted on one-buck resolutions at its three most
recent annual meetings, and each had failed. Thus, his group would
not support the proposal. ‘When science is not an issue, maximum
recreational opportunities should be considered,’ he said.
‘I am puzzled why you’re even considering changing regulations
(in a way) that would impact current programs,’ said Ron Shaver, of
Clare County. He said there would be no biological gains – and
financial losses to the DNR in licenses not bought.
No one, in fact, spoke in favor of the restrictions.
The closest was Ryan Schwartz, of Bad Axe, vice president of the
Thumb Branch of Quality Deer Management. He said his group saw
possible gains in antlerless harvests in southern Michigan from
such a move – but not in the U.P., from where the idea
Bill Mott, of Saginaw, spoke to the potential loss of hunting
‘I hunt in the western Upper Peninsula,’ he said, ‘and last year
I was fortunate enough to shoot a nice buck on the second day of
the season. With one-buck, I’d have been done.’