The time-honored tradition of firearm deer season in Michigan opens Friday and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is anticipating a good year.

Firearm deer season runs from Friday through November 30th. MDNR Deer, Elk and Moose Management Specialist Chad Stewart says a lot of field staff they’ve been talking with throughout the spring and summer have been noticing the same amount of deer if not more in their work areas and certainly some decent, quality animals for hunters to be excited about. Stewart tells WHMI they’re really anticipating a good year for hunters, provided the weather holds up and the opening weekend forecast seems pretty favorable. The recent record-breaking snow storm could also prove beneficial. Stewart says a little bit of snow can be beneficial for hunters observing deer moving through the woods - provided the weather conditions while they’re out hunting are favorable. In southern Michigan, he says projected forecasts are in the lower 30’s so they anticipate pretty good participation this opening weekend and that usually leads to really good success rates.

Stewart says they’re anticipating a good season with about 550,000 deer hunters taking to the woods this year in Michigan during the entire deer season, although firearm season is when most hunters are participating. He says that’s certainly down from previous years and will be higher than in future years because they anticipate the decline to continue. Stewart says they feel very fortunate have half-a-million deer hunters in Michigan and doesn’t think too many other states can say that – adding he’s fairly confident no other state in the Midwest can say that. For the number of hunters, Stewart says they typically anticipate anywhere between a 2% and 4% decline in hunters each year. As of last week, the number of deer license buyers was down about 4.5% but that being said, Stewart says this week is usually the number one selling week for licenses. He says they’ll get a better feel for how many people are out in the woods sometime next week in terms of how many hunters they anticipate losing but are pretty much on par with where they’ve been in recent years with hunter attrition.

There has been some confusion in regard to the state’s baiting and feeding ban in the Lower Peninsula and part of the Upper Peninsula, which remains in effect for this hunting season. Legislation was recently approved by the Michigan House to lift the state ban on baiting and feeding deer and has moved to the Senate but to date, no further action has been taken. Stewart noted the purpose of the ban is to try and limit the risk associated with chronic wasting disease, adding he doesn’t know if there is a way to prevent the spread of it but it’s really trying to eliminate the factors they can control as humans to prevent artificial congregations of deer on the landscape.

Stewart says you can’t always tell if a deer is fully healthy or not and that’s especially the case with CWD – noting the MDNR has check stations and is willing to test deer from anywhere in the state. He says the state has surveillance goals in certain counties where they’re trying to test certain numbers of deer to meet goals and essentially have confidence in their ability to detect the disease. Stewart says if someone is hunting in one of the identified areas and harvests a deer; it can be beneficial to get it tested as it helps with not only surveillance but also offers peace of mind in trying to understand the disease status of the deer. An interactive map with all of the deer check stations across the state and hours is available online. More information can be found through the link. (JM)