I hesitated to write this commentary regarding the decimated deer herd in knowing the juggling act the DNR has to endure with pressure coming from the auto insurance industry, farmers, sportsman's clubs, timber industry and licensing to name a few.
First off, recently in The Daily News, I've read twice now how the difficult winter last year reduced the deer herd substantially. I don't think any sportsman would disagree with that assessment, however I believe there is a lot more to the story which I will list:
1. Bad winter.
2. Youth hunt.
3. Bow season.
4. Regular fire arms.
5. Black powder.
6. Bow season (These seasons run from Oct. 1-Jan 1. My point is that this amount of hunting takes its toll on the deer herd.)
Secondly, let's look at the amount of predators we have roaming the forests:
1. Bears, (They take a lot of the fawn crop).
2. Wolves, (We've never seen this type of killing of deer. I never heard an explanation of why the wolf hunt didn't include the entire U.P. and why not allow trappers to trap them like in Wisconsin. We couldn't meet our quota, and they are running all over in the southern part of the U.P.)
3. Coyotes, (We are so overrun with coyotes that nearly any night one can go outside anywhere and hear them howling. In fact, opening day of deer season I shot a coyote off my post as my cousin did on the same forty. The second day I shot another. Several more were seen.)
6. Cougars (Let's hope they don't proliferate like the wolves did.)
Again, my point is that this also takes a large amount of deer.
Thirdly, I'd like to mention the following as well:
1. Farm permits. (I agree that some farmers do need help in their areas.)
3. Car/deer accidents (over 1,000 just in this county, not to mention counties like Delta and Menominee who have far more car/deer accidents than we do.)
4. Regular mortality.
5. Towns reducing deer (I believe the easier access to food and the amount of predators in the forest are a big reason that deer take up residence in the cities.)
(More reasons for less deer)
Does anyone wonder why deer are so jittery and stressed with the amount of pressure they are under? I would think that in addition to bad winters, there are many other reasons I've just listed why our deer herd is so fragile. I think we are faced with some pretty dismal seasons ahead. I love to hunt like the next person, but it is frustrating to see such an up and down herd where encountering a nice buck in the U.P. is a rare occasion. Several of my friends now go to Canada, Wisconsin, Kansas and Ohio due to their huge bucks and deer herds. Most won't hunt here anymore because it's so much better elsewhere, even in areas with hunting pressure far worse than here. I don't know all the answers, but for starts, I think one buck a year should be sufficient and small bucks let go unless you are 12 years of age. The QDM areas are a wonderful start.
Lastly, the most complaining I hear is the youth hunt. Most hunters I've talked to say their biggest concern is kids as young as 5 years old or younger shooting high-powered rifles without hunter safety and then the biggest bucks are taken out of the gene pool before they have a chance to rut.
Why not shoot an antlerless deer where areas have an abundance of them? Some also question, including myself, of whom is shooting these deer with such young kids? Others want to speak out on this subject but feel they may be looked at unfavorably as not wanting the youth hunt. It just needs to be done better, without selling licenses as the driving force behind it. The DNR are so concerned with hunter recruitment that we are No. 1 in the country with license sales with the sole exception of the state of Pennsylvania.
I have a cousin who was a Navy Seal and even he can't get a CCW without taking a shooting course but a youngster can shoot a high-powered rifle, 5 or younger just by being with one parent. I'm all for getting the younger person involved in the hunting sport, but let's use some logic.
In closing, I am hoping that with less emphasis on selling licenses, an answer can be found in making Michigan, and especially the U.P. a Mecca for hunting whitetail deer.