NRC considers dates for youth deer hunt

Lansing — This year’s special September deer hunt for young hunters may take place pretty much as it has in the past, although a little closer than usual to the general Oct. 1 bowhunt opening day.

Then again, it might be part of one mid-September weekend with several special hunts – the early private-land antlerless hunt, the youth hunt, and the hunt for fully disabled veterans –  taking place.

The Natural Resources Commission, which oversees policies and programs of the DNR, will consider those two options at its June 14 meeting in Lansing, at the Diagnostic Center for Population and Animal Health, near the Michigan State University Campus.

The options were “information-only” items at the NRC’s May meeting.

Ashley Hippler, the DNR wildlife biologist who oversees deer programs in the northern Lower and the Upper peninsulas, explained the youth hunt options in a phone interview with Michigan Outdoor News from her Gaylord office.

The DNR-recommended Option 1 would continue the pattern of youth and disabled veteran hunts taking place immediately after the early antlerless firearms deer season.

The way the calendar falls this year, Hippler said, would place the youth/disabled vet hunts on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 29-30 – ending just a day before the Oct. 1 opening of the archery deer season.
(Between the Sept. 20-24 early antlerless season and the youth/disabled vet hunt would be a Sept. 25-28 youth early antlerless hunt.)

Commissioners, she said, “wanted us to explore possible changes to the youth hunts, because of increased opportunities, through the Mentored Youth program, for youth to be afield in regular hunting seasons.”

Lowered minimum hunting ages and the mentoring system might prove sufficient enticements to recruiting new hunters, goes the thinking, without the need for so many September opportunities.

The result is Option 2, which would place the youth, the 100-percent disabled veteran, and early antlerless firearms seasons all on the same first weekend following Sept.15; this year that would be Sept. 22-23.

Among other results, that would leave a period of no deer hunting between the close of the special seasons and the start of bowhunting – something some hunters had been requesting, Hippler said, complaining that September hunts disrupt deer behavior even after the seasons close.

Said the DNR’s memo to the NRC: “It is not clear that this is the case,” because fewer than 30,000 hunters take part, and some of the seasons are held only on private land or specific areas.

Nor are harvests especially telling. Hippler said about 23,600 youths participated in the early youth and early youth antlerless hunts last year, killing about 2,700 antlerless deer and 4,600 bucks – the latter a small percentage of the state’s 213,000-buck overall bag.

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