Archers eager for bow opener


Bowhunters throughout the state can expect to find favorable conditions for a successful archery season this fall, according to DNR officials.

“If current conditions continue bowhunters should look forward to a great deer season. Weather is now on a cooling trend and the rain we’ve seen over the last week has given way to a great flush of nutrients across Michigan. This will have deer looking exceptionally healthy heading into fall,” Ashley Autenrieth, DNR Deer Program biologist for the Upper Peninsula and the northern Lower Peninsula told Michigan Outdoor News.

Last year, 319,849 bowhunters killed a total of 111,568 deer statewide, a slight increase over the 2014 archery season total of 110,022 deer.

An estimated 334,612 deer were killed by hunters during all seasons combined last year according to DNR research biologist Brian Frawley. That’s a slight increase over the estimated 329,040 taken in 2014. Both of these figures include antlered and antlerless deer.

These figures are based on a hunter information survey mailed to deer hunters across the state.

Antler point restrictions (APR) remain in effect again this season in the northwest region of the Lower Peninsula including Antrim, Benzie, Charlevoix, Emmet, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, Lake, Manistee, Mason, Missaukee, Osceola and Wexford counties. Any antlered deer that are taken in this 12-county region must have at least three points on one side.

APRs also apply to the entire Upper Peninsula if you purchase a combo license, along with DMU 487, which consists of Alcona, Alpena, Iosco, Montmorency, Oscoda and Presque Isle counties. Check out page 32 of the 2016 Hunting and Trapping Digest for more information. In DMU 487 hunters also have the option of shooting an antlerless deer with either a regular deer license or a deer combo license.

After the April 2015 discovery of chronic wasting disease in Ingham County, the baiting of deer will once again be banned for all deer hunting in DMU 419, which consists of Clinton, Ionia, Shiawassee, Ingham and Eaton counties. This area was formerly known as the CWD Management Zone, but has been recently renamed DMU 419. In addition to the baiting ban, mandatory deer check is required if deer are shot in DMU 333, which includes 17 townships within the core of this five-county region. According to Chad Stewart, DNR deer specialist, “DMU 333 was expanded due to additional positive cases (of CWD) located outside of the original area.”

If you plan on bowhunting in DMU 333 you must present the head or the entire carcass at a DNR check station within 72 hours of killing the deer. In addition, voluntary submission and testing for CWD is accepted at all check stations across the state. Visit for a list of deer check locations.

Upper Peninsula

Mild conditions last winter should set the stage for a successful archery season for UP bowhunters according to Autenrieth.

“The winter of 2015-2016 was relatively mild, especially in comparison with the last three winters prior to it,” she said. “A mild winter tends to allow for better forage opportunities since deer are not as restricted to deer wintering complexes. Mild winters coupled with mild springs tend to produce good fawning conditions. While this has been a good step for deer in the UP deer numbers are still very low and it will take at least one or two more mild winters to begin seeing a good rebound in deer numbers.”

Due to a bumper crop of acorns in 2015 it appears that the number of acorns have decreased this year, which is typical based on their cycles. However, apple production although mostly spotty throughout the UP does have some areas with abundant production according to Autenrieth.

There have been fewer buck sightings throughout the UP, especially mature bucks. Autenrieth offers some advice on how bowhunters can increase their success this archery season.

“By far the best thing you can do is scout. Learning the patterns that the deer in your area are using is priceless information,” she said. “Patterns change with the season so also knowing where they may shift will go a long way. Is there a producing apple tree in your area that they may focus on once the apples begin to drop?”

Last fall UP bowhunters shot a total of 3,115 antlered deer and 764 antlerless deer, down 6.3 percent and 82.2 percent respectively from 2014. The antlerless harvest decline is a direct result of reduced antlerless licenses in the UP and the fact that bowhunters there are not allowed to shoot an antlerless deer on their regular hunting licenses.

Northern Lower 

Bowhunters throughout the northern Lower Peninsula should find excellent opportunities to fill their tag this season.

“It was a mild winter for the NLP, which allowed deer populations to continue to increase across much of the range,” Autenrieth said. “Fawning conditions appear to have been ideal since there have been several observations of twins and even some triplets in the region. While there were drought conditions throughout much of July and early August, late rains this summer have made for excellent growing conditions going into the fall.”

Based on reports from the DNR, bowhunters should see an increase in not only the amount of bucks, but the quality of them also.

“Observations of bucks have been relatively high across the entire NLP,” Autenrieth said. “With the mild winter this past year and the previous winters not taking a major toll on the herd deer numbers have been increasing and nutrition has been very good leading to not only good numbers of bucks, but also good quality in terms of antler development and body condition.”

Setting up a treestand or a ground blind near an apple tree should help bowhunters fill their tag this fall based on the bumper crop of apples throughout the NLP. However, according to Autenrieth the numbers of beechnuts and acorns are sporadic throughout the region so finding these areas will require some extra time scouting.

A great tool in finding out which mast crops are producing in your hunting area is MI-Mast. You can find out more information by visiting

Southern Lower

Stewart is optimistic for another successful archery season for bowhunters throughout the southern Lower Peninsula.

“This past winter had little to no negative impact on deer in the SLP. Deer numbers appear to be up from last year, and there seems to be excellent fawn production. The deer are in great shape,” he said. “While the summer months had several dry spells there appears to have been enough rain to have widespread forage opportunities.”

According to Stewart, it appears that the Michigan deer herd has escaped any outbreaks of epizootic hemorrhagic disease so far, which he says was a concern with the heat and dry conditions earlier this summer.

Much like the NLP the apple production is also high across the SLP, with acorns and beechnuts being less prevalent.

“Mature bucks are always hit or miss, but they are definitely out there to find with some advanced scouting,” Stewart said. “Bachelor herds are being seen with some nice 21⁄2 and 31⁄2-year-old deer in them.”

Categories: Hunting News, Whitetail Deer

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