WOODS AND WATERS: A banner year for deer hunting?

By Ed Gilbert • Last Updated 1:35 pm on Monday, November 21, 2011

According to all reports, deer hunters and available deer could set some numerical records this year. Although some hunts are now actually over or ongoing, the firearms season is when we could see approximately 500,000 hunters take to the woods and fields. And that happens Nov. 15 to Nov. 30.

My suggestion that we could have a banner year for deer hunting also comes from the fact that Michigan, according to my calculations, has at least nine (that’s 9) separate deer seasons. That of course includes the special hunts and muzzleloading season.

Add to these many separate hunts the fact that baiting has been restored, along with 10-year-olds now carrying guns and it seems to be no wonder that more hunters will be killing more deer this year.

But all this does beg one question: are we killing more deer than the herd can replace?

Don’t laugh! Although some areas of the state seem to recover each year and even add to the count, there are also some areas where the deer herd has been quite depleted.

Of course the southern part of the state continues to be a hot area, even having, in some locations, more deer than are desired. But there are other spots where such isn’t the case.

The west-central part of the state is one of those areas where deer numbers seem down dramatically. This is an area where not only I am accustomed to hunting, but other hunters do and have the same story.

Fact is, I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard a hunter say, to paraphrase, “I’ve hunted in this area for ten years or so, and where we used to see upward of ten deer a day, we’re now lucky if we see even two”

There is no question in my mind that, in some areas, too many seasons and liberal kill rules have done their share of damage. Also, I believe that poaching out-of-season has been a factor, and that has been going on for many years.

Do I have an answer or solution to this? Of course not for certain, but I do believe the DNR should consider taking steps to increase the number of deer in those areas where the herds are obviously depleted. It may seem drastic, but they could cut the number of hunting days available there along with the number of deer one can harvest.

The one part of the equation I hesitate to mention is that, as were all aware, the DNR needs money. And they are getting it not only by reinstating baiting, but by lowering the hunting age, allowing anyone to use a crossbow, and having nine different hunting seasons throughout the state.

Yes, they’ll get their money all right, but when will some of those areas become totally unhuntable?

Now, this may not be a popular column to some hunters, or other folks as well, but I’m just telling the way I see it, as do some other hunters.

Please do not misunderstand my remarks concerning the DNR. I was raised in an old Conservation Department family, and I have much respect for them. However, I feel that in some areas they could be misled or on the wrong track.

Fact is, there are many deer in certain areas of the state and liberal hunting rules don’t seem to be a problem there. But perhaps they should be taking a closer look at areas where deer are sparse.

With all of the above taken as intended, I do hope we have a fine and successful firearms deer hunt.

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