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Michigan wants more deer data

Michigan hunters are now required to report their harvest within 72 hours. (Photo: skeeze/Pixabay)

The regular firearm deer hunting season opened on Tuesday, and will continue through November 30th.

As hunters hope to fill their freezers with venison, state regulators hope to fill spreadsheets with better data.

Since the 1950s, Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources has mailed out surveys to random hunters. Those surveys are used to estimate deer populations – but fewer hunters are filling them out.

Last year, only a third of hunters who were mailed a survey sent it back. The DNR says those low response rates can cause an inaccurate estimate of deer populations. That’s why this year, a mobile app – and a website – will be used to collect harvest reports.

And now, it’s mandatory.

Successful hunters are required to report their deer within 72 hours. Failure to do so could mean a misdemeanor charge and a fine between $50 and $500.

But the DNR says it hopes to emphasize education on the new policy for this season rather than enforcing charges and fines.

The department hopes to gather more consistent harvest reports with the app and, in turn, better data for regulating next year’s hunt.

Patrick Shea was a natural resources reporter at Interlochen Public Radio. Before joining IPR, he worked a variety of jobs in conservation, forestry, prescribed fire and trail work. He earned a degree in natural resources from Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin, and his interest in reporting grew as he studied environmental journalism at the University of Montana's graduate school.