Lansing — State deer hunters bucked a two-year trend of declining harvest with a slight increase in the number of white-tails killed in 2011. According to the DNR’s final estimates, hunters in Michigan combined to kill 422,014 deer last year during all hunting seasons combined.
That’s about a 1-percent increase over the number of deer killed in 2010.
“A survey of deer hunters was conducted following the 2011 hunting seasons to estimate hunter participation, harvest, and hunting effort. In 2011, an estimated 648,100 hunters spent 9.6 million days afield. Statewide, the number of people hunting deer decreased 1 percent, but their hunting effort was nearly unchanged between 2010 and 2011,” DNR research biologist Brian Frawley wrote in the Michigan Deer Harvest Survey Report, 2011 Season.
The estimates are determined by the DNR’s annual mail survey of state hunters, which was completed this year by 27,443 of the 50,011 individuals who received the questionnaire. An additional 5,231 individuals completed the survey online.
According to the DNR, hunters shot 212,791 bucks and 209,223 antlerless deer last year.
In the U.P. (Zone 1), the DNR says hunters killed 13,355 antlerless deer (a 15-percent increase over 2010) and 30,033 bucks (down 1.8 percent from 2010).
“The U.P. was the only region that we had a drop in hunter numbers, by about 6 percent from 2010,” Brent Rudolph, DNR deer specialist, told Michigan Outdoor News. Although he couldn’t pinpoint the reason for the decline – Tuesday firearms opener, high gas prices, opposition to antler-point restrictions have been mentioned by hunters – he’ll be watching what happens with hunter numbers this year.
“The firearms season opens on a Thursday this year,” he said. “We’ll see if that makes a difference.”
In the northern Lower Peninsula (Zone 2), the DNR says hunters killed 71,383 bucks (20.4 percent more than in 2010), and 60,703 antlerless deer (11.2 percent more than in 2010).
“We had about the same number of hunters in the NLP, but we had a good jump in the harvest,” Rudolph said. “We’ve ben saying for the last couple of years that the conditions looked good there.”
Rudolph said the harvest has been down the past few years in both the U.P. and northern Lower, and the winters have been mild, so more deer carried over from one year to the next.
The biggest decline in the deer kill last year occurred in the southern Lower Peninsula (Zone 3). Although that region still had a higher total kill (241,246) than the U.P (43,388) and NLP (132,086) combined, the kill was down nearly 6 percent from 2010. Hunters in southern Michigan killed an estimated 111,374 bucks (down 9.1 percent from 2010) and 129,872 antlerless deer (down 2.9 percent from 2010).
“Our population estimate has been in a declining trend in southern Michigan for about seven years. Before that we had an increasing population for decades,” Rudolph said. “Maybe we are close to where we want to be with the population there.”
The survey revealed that 691,215 individuals purchased at least one deer-hunting license last year and that 648,100 actually participated in a hunting season. About 90 percent of those license buyers were male; 10 percent were under the age of 17; 2 percent were younger than 12; and the average age of license buyers was 43 years old. A total of 1,152,183 deer licenses were sold last year, which is down about 2 percent from 2010.
The survey also revealed the following:
- Statewide, hunters spent an average of 15.3 days afield;
- Hunters participating in the firearms season killed approximately 51 percent of all deer killed, including 60 percent of the bucks and 43 percent of the does;
- During the archery season, hunters killed 32 percent of all the deer killed, including 33 percent of the bucks and 30 percent of the does;
- A whopping 87 percent of all deer killed in 2011 were tagged on private land;
- Hunter success for all seasons combined was 45 percent;
- Slightly less than 4 percent of all hunters killed two bucks, and about 6 percent killed two or more does;
- An estimated 118,573 bowhunters (36 percent) hunted with a crossbow in 2011, and they combined to kill an estimated 54,902 deer.