U.P. antler regs heading south

Lansing – In a move that surprised both supporters and
detractors of antler point restrictions, the state Natural
Resources Commission last week voted 4-1 to impose the same buck
regulations valid in the Upper Peninsula to hunters in Deer
Management Unit 487 (Presque Isle, Montmorency, Alpena, Oscoda,
Alcona, and Iosco counties).

The new regulation was a last-minute amendment to a proposal
that called for imposing an antler point restriction of at least
three points on one side in order for a buck to be legal in DMU 487
(commonly called the TB Zone).

Hunters in DMU 487 now have the option of purchasing either a
two-tag combo restricted license, which allows the holder to take
one buck with at least three points on one side, and one buck with
at least four points on one side; or one unrestricted buck license,
good for any deer with at least one antler, three inches or more in
length. Anyone purchasing an unrestricted buck license is limited
to tagging one buck only in all seasons combined.

Starting this year, hunters in DMU 487 also may tag an
antlerless deer with a firearms license, archery license, or a
combo license.

“At the last (NRC) meeting, at the end of the day (after
discussing the proposal) I thought that people who want to shoot a
buck should be able to,” said commissioner J.R. Richardson, who
introduced the amendment. “If it helps us get rid of more deer,
that works.”

The regulation is an effort to further reduce the deer herd in
DMU 487.

Although the long-term trend in the prevalence rate of bovine
tuberculosis in the deer herd in DMU 487 shows a reduction, deer
managers are concerned that the rate has flattened out the past two
years.

Biologists fear the current TB eradication strategy has reached
a plateau and that changes are needed to further reduce the rate of
infection. To accomplish that goal, biologists want hunters to
shoot more does to continue to reduce the overall deer population.
Imposing antler point restrictions, some believe, will encourage
hunters to shoot a doe rather that a young buck.

Commissioner Frank Wheatlake cast the lone vote against the
proposal, saying he doesn’t believe shooting fewer bucks will
reduce the overall population.

“If the doe population doesn’t come down next year, we’ll have
to do something drastically different,” Wheatlake said.

Jeff Kala, a member of the Northeastern Lower Peninsula
Agricultural and Natural Resource Stewardship Cooperative, which
introduced the original proposal, was surprised by the amended
outcome.

“I guess it’s better than nothing,” Kala said. “If we don’t put
some sort of restriction against taking smaller bucks, hunters will
be less apt to shoot a doe. I guess time will tell.”

Russ Mason, chief of the DNRE’s Wildlife Division, supported the
original APR proposal, but believes the amendment is a step in the
right direction.

“It still gives folks an opportunity to shoot a spike if they
want to, and it might motivate more people to shoot more does,”
Mason said. “Everyone knows TB has got to go and that won’t happen
without some pain.”

Youth season expanded

Youth deer hunters on private land in southern Michigan (DMU
486) as well as public and private land in DMU 041 (Kent County)
will have an additional four days to hunt antlerless deer.

The early antlerless deer season on private land in select DMUs
is Sept. 16-20, and the statewide youth firearms deer season is
Sept. 25-26. The NRC approved a proposal that opens a youth-only
firearms antlerless season in DMU 486 and 041, Sept. 21-24. Youth
hunters may now hunt deer in southern Michigan continuously Sept.
16-26.

Antlerless opportunities

The commission voted to issue antlerless deer permits for public
and private land in 64 DMUs, and only private land antlerless
permits in an additional 17 DMUs.

Six DMUs in the U.P. – 017 (Sault Ste. Marie), 031 (Nissula),
121 (Bay de Noc), 127 (Ironwood), 252 (Rock), and 349 (Engadine) –
that were open for private land antlerless licenses last year are
closed this year.

In the Lower Peninsula, DMU 040 (Kalkaska County) and DMU 025
(Genessee County) will have no antlerless permits available, and
DMU 024 (Emmet County) will have permits available for private land
only. DMU 072 (Roscommon County) also will have private land
antlerless permits, but none for public land.

Gladwin Field Trial Area

The Gladwin Field Trial Area is recognized as a premier dog
field trial area, but an overabundance of deer sometimes has a
negative impact on forest regeneration.

In an effort to address this issue, the NRC voted to issues
additional permits for a special hunt specifically in the Gladwin
Field Trial Area.

Permits will be issued through a lottery, which will be held at
the Gladwin Field Office.

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