Monday, February 6th, 2023
Monday, February 6th, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

Whitetail kill down in 2009

Lansing – Hunters killed fewer deer in 2009 than in 2008 and
hunter satisfaction also dipped. According to DNRE final estimates,
in all seasons combined, hunters tagged a total of 444,048
whitetails last fall, about 9-percent fewer than the 489,922 taken
in 2008. Hunters killed an estimated 214,937 antlered bucks in ‘09
and 229,111 antlerless deer, according to state wildlife
biologists.

The estimates are gleaned from the DNRE’s annual mail survey of
state hunters, which was completed this year by 31,217 of the
50,112 individuals who received the questionnaire. This year, an
additional 11,489 individuals completed the survey online. The
DNRE’s mail survey has been conducted since 1950. Results of that
survey were released earlier this month at the Natural Resources
Commission meeting in Lansing.

The survey found that the biggest decline in the harvest
occurred during the firearms season when hunters shot 132,822
bucks, down 21 percent from 2008, and 101,234 antlerless deer, down
17 percent.

“Some of the decline is surely due to a reduced deer population,
especially in the Upper Peninsula,” DNRE research biologist Brian
Frawley told the commission. “It’s also partially due to standing
crops. Only about 35 percent of the corn was harvested last year by
Nov. 15,” opening day of the firearms season. Milder weather and
less snow than normal also were cited as contributing factors to
the harvest decline.

The biggest increase in the harvest, percentage-wise, was during
the late antlerless season when hunters shot 21,325 deer, a
30-percent increase over 2008, according to the survey. The DNRE
attributes that spike to an increase in the area open for the late
hunt.

Archery hunters shot an estimated 64,580 bucks and 53,053
antlerless deer, an 11-percent increase over 2008. That additional
harvest could be attributed to the liberalization of crossbow
regulations. Frawley said 56,915 hunters used a crossbow in 2009
and they combined to shoot 24,882 whitetails. It was not known how
many of those crossbow hunters were new archery-season hunters and
how many were former bowhunters who converted to a crossbow.
Frawley said future deer hunter surveys could be tweaked to answer
those questions.

According to the survey, only 39 percent of hunters were
satisfied with their overall hunting experience last year, compared
with 49 percent in 2008. Twenty-nine percent were satisfied with
the number of deer they saw (40 percent in 2008); 19 percent were
satisfied with the number of bucks they saw, and 27 percent were
satisfied with the number of deer they harvested.

“We combined people who said they were satisfied and who said
they were very satisfied,” Frawley said. “We saw a decrease in
hunter satisfaction in all those areas.”

That’s despite a statewide success rate of 43 percent.

Some of the other highlights of the 2009 deer hunter survey
include:

n An estimated 725,190 individuals purchased a deer-hunting
license in 2009, and 686,392 hunters went afield, which is a
1-percent decrease from 2008;

n Approximately 43 percent of all hunters killed at least one
deer, 24 percent took at least one doe, 28 percent took at least
one buck, 15 percent took two or more deer, and 4 percent killed
two bucks;

n About 53 percent of the total number of deer killed last year
were shot during the firearms season, including 46 percent of the
antlerless deer and 62 percent of the bucks. Bowhunters accounted
for 30 percent of the buck harvest and 24 percent of the antlerless
deer harvest;

n Hunter success was highest in the southern Lower Peninsula
where 47 percent of hunters harvested at least one deer. Hunter
success ran about 33 percent in the northern Lower Peninsula, and
29 percent in the U.P.;

n On a question concerning the preferred opening date of the
firearms season, 84 percent of hunters responding to the survey
said they preferred Nov. 15;

n Statewide, 49 percent of hunters support the antler point
restrictions in the Upper Peninsula (50 percent supported it in
‘08). On a regional basis, the U.P.’s restrictions are supported by
53 percent of hunters in the U.P. (down from 56 percent last year),
46 percent in the northern Lower, and 49 percent in the southern
Lower.

The DNRE announced the formation of a work group to look at the
process of implementing antler point restrictions (quality deer
management applications).

NRC Commissioner J.R. Richardson will head the group, which will
include hunters and representatives of hunting organizations. The
goals of the group will be to evaluate the nomination,
implementation, and evaluation protocols including timelines and
involvement of sponsoring groups, notices and meetings, surveys and
biological data; recommend changes and provide resource-based
reasons; and review costs for implementation.

Anyone interested in having a voice in this process should
contact the NRC before Aug. 12. Members of the group will be
announced Sept. 9. Meetings, of which there will be no more than
six, will be aligned with NRC meetings and will begin Oct. 7.

For more information and to apply for inclusion in the group,
contact the NRC at (517) 373-2352.

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