Croswell, Mich. – With some pre-season scouting and preparation,
bowhunters can expect to find more deer than last year when heading
afield with bow in hand this October.
According to Brian Fawley, DNR research biologist, hunters
killed an estimated 418,000 deer during all hunting seasons last
year, which decreased from the 2009 harvest of 436,036. These
numbers were based on the annual deer-hunting survey that was sent
out by the DNR to more than 50,000 deer license buyers. Based on
the survey, 1 percent fewer antlered bucks and 10 percent fewer
antlerless deer were killed by hunters last year than in 2009.
Statewide, archery hunters shot 117,180 deer in 2010. This was a
slight decrease from 117,633 the previous season.
In June, the Michigan Natural Resources Commission voted to lift
the 3-year ban on deer baiting in the Lower Peninsula. The baiting
of deer will now be allowed during the 2011 archery season.
However, baiting will still be prohibited in Deer Management Unit
487, which consists of six counties in the Bovine Tuberculosis Zone
in northeast Michigan (Alcona, Alpena, Iosco, Montmorency, Oscoda,
and Presque Isle).
Baiting in the Upper Peninsula will remain legal Oct. 1-Jan. 1.
See the 2011 Hunting and Trapping Guide for more details or visit
the DNR website at www.michigan.gov/dnr.
According to Craig Albright, DNR wildlife biologist who works in
the south-central U.P., “The winter of 2010-2011 was the second in
a row that can be characterized as quite mild for deer. Weekly snow
depth measurements never topped one foot at either Escanaba or
Crystal Falls and were frequently less than 8 inches. Deer enjoyed
good mobility in their search for food and did not have to contend
with long stretches of sub-zero temperatures. As was the case in
2010, we believe over-winter survival of deer was good, and we
expect high recruitment of new fawns into the population this
Within Albright’s region, which consists primarily of Delta and
Menominee counties, about 140,000 acres of state forest land is
“Thus, early successional forest beneficial to deer is
continuously being created,” Albright said. “There are also vast
holdings of Hiawatha National Forest land and timber company
ownership that see variable amounts of timber harvesting. The
south-central U.P. contains much agricultural land that provided
good habitat for deer.”
According to the DNR, within these two counties, 50 acres of
small clover food plots were planted as part of 2010 deer
habitat-improvement projects. Other projects in the U.P. include:
the planting of red oak seedlings in Gogebic and Mackinac counties;
wildlife orchard plantings in Dickinson County; rehabilitation of a
historic wildlife opening with clover and other forage in Ontonagon
County; and 300 acres planted with 50,000 red oak seedlings in
Alger and Schoolcraft counties.
“The soft mast crop for apples appears to be good this year and
will be an early source of activity for deer. The hard mast crop
(acorns primarily) seems sporadic and may prove more difficult to
predict. Hunters should start scouting habitat conditions as soon
as possible,” said Bill Scullon, DNR wildlife biologist for the
Baraga Unit, which includes Gogebic, Ontonagon, Keweenaw, Houghton,
and Baraga counties.
“We expect good numbers of bucks in the 11⁄2- and 21⁄2-year age
classes, but truly mature bucks (41⁄2-plus years) will remain
uncommon (about 5 percent of the total buck harvest),” Albright
said. “The U.P. (Zone 1) buck harvest increased 26 percent from
2009 to 2010 with most of that increase occurring in the west half.
Considering the mild winters of 2010 and 2011, the stage is set for
another potential increase in harvest this year.”
Northern Lower Peninsula
Mild winter conditions across the northern Lower Peninsula (Zone
2) meant little effect on the overall deer herd in this region.
According to DNR wildlife biologist Brian Mastenbrook, of
Gaylord, the soft mast crop appears to be decent, especially
apples. Overall, the hard mast crop is scattered with few acorn and
beech nut sightings, although these should be more prevalent as the
In his region, which covers Otsego, Cheboygan, Emmett,
Charlevoix, and Antrim counties, 400 acres of food plots were
planted this season. These consist of buckwheat, oats, clover, and
alfalfa. These plantings provide deer with plenty of bedding and
feeding areas, which will improve the health of the deer herd in
the region. Mastenbrook said he’s noticing an increase in deer
numbers on state land, while the number of deer on private land
remains about the same as last archery season.
Southern Lower Peninsula
As usual, there was no negative winter impact on deer in the
southern Lower Peninsula (Zone 3). This sets the stage for what
should be a productive season for bowhunters in this region.
Heavy spring rains could mean that more crops such as corn and
soybeans will be standing a little bit later than usual this fall.
As for hard and soft mast crops, bowhunters should find more
success near apple trees, but acorn numbers are not as common this
season as in past years.
Brent Rudolph, the deer and elk program leader for the DNR, said
he’s heard positive remarks from sportsmen in south-central
Michigan about good antler development.
Overall, Rudolph said bowhunters should find that deer numbers
are similar to last archery season. He recommends spending time in
the field scouting and using maps if necessary to locate areas that
are holding deer.
Plantings for deer still exist in the southern Lower Peninsula
at state game areas and at the Waterloo Recreation Area, Pinckney
Recreation Area, and Lake Hudson Recreation Area. Corn, soybeans,
sorghum, and buckwheat are a few of the crops that have been
planted, according to Kristin Bissell, DNR wildlife biologist.