DNR eyes antlerless reg changes

Lansing – Hunters pursuing antlerless deer on private land in
southern Michigan could move from one deer management unit to
another without purchasing individual permits for each area if a
proposed regulation change is approved by DNR Director Rebecca
Humphries. It is one of several changes the DNR is considering for
antlerless deer hunting in Michigan.

The proposal would create two multi-county DMUs. One would
include private land only and would include nearly all private land
in southern Michigan. The other would include private and public
lands in six counties in northeastern Lower Michigan where the
state is battling bovine tuberculosis in white-tailed deer.

If approved, the proposal would “provide a lot of flexibility
for hunters to move around on private land,” wildlife biologist Rod
Clute told the NRC’s Policy Committee on Wildlife and Fisheries at
a recent meeting in Lansing. “The exceptions would be four
southeastern counties (St. Clair, Macomb, Wayne, Monroe) and Kent
County.”

The proposed multi-county DMU for private-land antlerless
permits in southern Michigan would include all of Mecosta,
Muskegon, Isabella, Midland, and Bay counties, plus all DMUs in
Zone 3, with the exception of St. Clair, Macomb, Wayne, Monroe, and
Kent.

The proposed multi-county DMU in the northeastern Lower
Peninsula would include Presque Isle, Montmorency, Alpena, Alcona,
Oscoda, and Iosco counties.

“This amendment proposes to consolidate most of the southern
Lower Peninsula counties into one large unit for private-land
antlerless deer-hunting licenses, and six northeast Michigan
counties where bovine tuberculosis has been documented in deer into
a large deer management unit for both public and private land
antlerless licenses,” the DNR wrote in a memo to the
commission.

If approved, the change in southern Michigan would not eliminate
existing DMUs, which would remain intact for issuing public-land
antlerless deer licenses. This would allow the DNR to maintain some
control over antlerless deer harvests on public land.

The eight existing DMUs in northeast Lower Michigan (071, 060,
004, 452,068, 001, 035, and 135) would merge into one DMU for both
private- and public-land antlerless deer hunting.

Another proposal being considered by the DNR seeks to split DMU
049 in the U.P.’s Chippewa and Mackinac counties into two DMUs, and
split DMU 062 in Newaygo County into two DMUs. Both of these DMUs,
the DNR says, have substantial differences in habitat and deer
densities within their boundaries. According to the memo, this
proposal would allow the DNR to focus the antlerless harvest in
areas where it is most needed.

The DNR also is asking that the cost of an antlerless deer
license return to $15 in most areas.

“License fees are established by the Legislature, but they allow
the DNR to reduce prices,” Clute said. “(The proposal) is to
eliminate the reduction, except in the TB Zone and in Kent County,”
where CWD_was found in a captive whitetail. Clute said the
antlerless license fee would be $15, except in the TB_Zone where
the price would remain $10, and in Kent County where it would be
$5.

In its memo to the commission, the DNR wrote, “In recent years
some hunters have criticized the department for establishing the
price of antlerless deer-hunting licenses lower than the price for
hunting licenses that are valid for antlered bucks. They feel that
the difference in price devalues antlerless deer. Proponents of
balancing the age and sex ratios among deer have been particularly
critical because button bucks may be tagged with an antlerless
deer-hunting license, which can be purchased for a lower price than
licenses that are valid for antlered deer. They feel button bucks
should be valued just as much as antlered bucks because they will
be antlered bucks in the future.”

The final change being proposed would add the counties of Bay,
Berrien, Isabella, Iosco, Mecosta, Midland, Muskegon, Oceana,
Saginaw, and southern Newaygo counties to the late firearms
antlerless deer season. It would remove Crawford and Otsego
counties from the late season.

The proposal also would allow hunters who purchase antlerless
permits to buy up to two permits in one day. Currently, hunters are
restricted to purchasing one permit per day. The seasonal limits on
antlerless permits would remain the same.

Humphries is expected to act on the proposals at the May 7
Natural Resources Commission meeting in Lansing.

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