Official tally has 2012 deer kill over 400,000

Lansing — An estimated 654,000 hunters combined to kill about 414,000 white-tailed deer during all of the 2012 hunting seasons combined, according to the DNR’s 2012 deer hunter survey results, which were  released last week. That total does not include some 4,000 deer killed with Deer Management Assistance (crop damage) permits.

“A survey of deer hunters was conducted following the 2012 hunting seasons to estimate hunter participation, harvest, and hunting effort,” DNR research biologist Brian Frawley wrote in the Michigan

Deer Harvest Survey Report for 2012. “In 2012, an estimated 654,100 hunters spent 9.4 million days afield. Statewide, the number of people hunting and their hunting effort was nearly unchanged between 2011 and 2012.”

The report results were mathematically derived from a survey of state deer hunters, which was completed this year by 28,488 of the 53,713 individuals who were sent the questionnaire.

According to the survey, Zone 3 (southern Lower Peninsula) led the state’s three hunting zones in deer kill with an overall take of 217,694 deer, including 107,103 bucks and 110,591 antlerless deer.

That’s about a 10-percent drop from the 2011 totals.

“The buck kill in southern Michigan was about the same as last year, but antlerless numbers are the numbers that dropped significantly,” Brent Rudolph, the DNR’s deer and elk program specialist, told Michigan Outdoor News. “We have had some decreases in deer numbers in the southern Lower Peninsula, and some of it could have been the effects of EHD (epizootic hemorrhagic disease).

Even in areas that weren’t hit hard, I think some hunters took a more conservative approach due to EHD.”

The take was up 10 percent in the Zone 2 (northern Lower Peninsula), where hunters killed an estimated 146,862 whitetails, including 79,571 bucks and 67,291 antlerless deer, according to the report.

In Zone 1 (Upper Peninsula) hunters killed an estimated 49,448 deer, including 35,966 bucks and 13,482 antlerless deer. That was a 13-percent increase over 2011.

“I think that’s indicative of the gradual increase in deer numbers in those regions over a number of years,” Rudolph said.

About 54 percent of the total harvest occurred during the firearms season, while 31 percent was during the archery season. Gun hunters shot an estimated 223,258 deer, including 137,280 bucks, while archers tagged 127,281 deer, including 68,348 bucks. Muzzleloader hunters accounted for 26,935 deer, including 9,034 bucks, and kids shot 12,703 deer during the youth hunt, including 7,857 bucks, according to the DNR.

Of the 654,122 hunters who pursued whitetails last year, about 580,286 hunted during the regular firearms season, 325,424 during the archery season, 184,011 during the muzzleloader season, and 36,418 during the youth hunt.

The DNR survey asked hunters how they felt about antler point restrictions.

  • About 55 percent of deer hunters surveyed statewide supported the antler point restrictions in place in the U.P., and 58 percent of U.P. hunters surveyed supported the restrictions.
  • About 45 percent of deer hunters statewide supported antler point restrictions in Deer Management Unit 487 (TB Zone in the northeastern L.P.), and 49 percent of hunters who hunt in that area supported the restrictions.

Some of the other highlights of the DNR’s survey are:

  • Statewide, about 46 percent of hunters killed at least one deer in 2012. About 23 percent shot a buck, and 31 percent tagged an antlerless deer. Only 14 percent of deer hunters shot two or more deer last year.
  • Statewide, around 45 percent of hunters were satisfied with their overall hunting experience in 2012. 
  • There were 142,548 crossbow hunters during the 2012 archery season, and they killed about 59,771 deer.
  • About 90 percent of license buyers were male.
  • The average age of a license buyer was 42.
  • Nearly 12 percent (82,119) of the license buyers were younger than 17 years old, and about 3 percent (24,184) were younger than 12 years old.
  • The number of people buying a license in 2012 was about 11 percent less than the number of people who purchased a license 10 years ago.
  • About 353,000 deer were killed on private land, and 58,000 were killed on public land.

“There are fewer deer than there were a decade ago, but there are still a lot of deer in Michigan,” Rudolph said.

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