© 2024 Interlochen
CLASSICAL IPR | 88.7 FM Interlochen | 94.7 FM Traverse City | 88.5 FM Mackinaw City IPR NEWS | 91.5 FM Traverse City | 90.1 FM Harbor Springs/Petoskey | 89.7 FM Manistee/Ludington
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Deer hunting regulations could see changes

White-tailed deer herd. (Photo: David Kenyon / Michigan Department of Natural Resources)
David Kenyon/MI Dept. of Natural Resources
White-tailed deer herd. (Photo: David Kenyon / Michigan Department of Natural Resources)

A sweeping set of deer hunting regulation changes could be coming to Michigan soon.

Last week, the Natural Resources Commission heard recommendations from a special group created to address deer problems across the state.

Now, they’ll be tasked with parsing through 18 different proposals that could go into effect for this deer season.

Many of those proposals came from the Deer Management Initiative, which split up to tackle separate deer issues in the Upper Peninsula and Lower Peninsula.

Amy Trotter, CEO of Michigan United Conservation Clubs, was part of the Lower Peninsula group.

“We heard about people who supported baiting, who opposed mandatory deer harvest check-ins. We heard from archery hunters. There [were] people who like antler point restrictions and don't like antler point restrictions; people who prioritize disease reduction and herd health as the most important. And we heard from farmers and … foresters,” Trotter said.

In the U.P., populations are struggling, while the opposite is true in lower Michigan.

The groups formed in February, then met online several times before an in-person meeting to hear from experts and create final recommendations. Those were presented at the Natural Resources Commission last week.

Suburban areas in southern Michigan are especially feeling population pressures. The Natural Resources Commission heard from farmers who say they have trouble managing deer on their property.

“We’ve got farmers who, over the course of one season … over the course of a week, maybe, will shoot 35 to 70 deer,” said Tom Baird, chair of the Natural Resources Commission.

In some areas of the Lower Peninsula, an expanded urban archery season and limit of one antlered deer are both on the table.

The Lower Peninsula group also recommended an “Earn-A-Second-Buck” program. This would require hunters to harvest an antlerless deer before they can take a second antlered deer.

The idea is to target female deer and slow population growth.

The “Earn-A-Second-Buck” program would have to be moved forward in legislation, not the Natural Resources Commission.

The Upper Peninsula workgroup suggested a year-round coyote hunting season and lower bag limits on antlerless deer in certain areas, with the goal of increasing deer populations.

Tom Baird, with the Natural Resources Commission, says this is the first round of a years-long process to address the state’s deer issues.

“We will implement some new regulations for the fall of ‘24, but we're going to keep looking at better regulations and better management practices throughout the next couple of years, through a three-year cycle,” he said. “During 2027 we'll be re-looking at the whole thing and see … whether we've done any good or any changes are necessary. And that's when we'll probably settle into the final suite of regulatory and non-regulatory actions.”

Amy Trotter, with Michigan United Conservation Clubs, says these regulation changes are important.

“My biggest concern is that we are diminishing the value of deer here in [lower] Michigan,” she said. “I hear terms like rats or wood rats. They're seen as a problem, not something that we should see a value in. Deer hunting in Michigan is big business. It is a driver of local economies. And we want to make sure to keep this special game species managed, so that we can continue to see its value and not diminish it in the eyes of the non-hunting public.”

The Natural Resources Commission will discuss the recommendations during a public meeting in Gaylord on June 26. The new regulations could be approved in July, ahead of the 2024 deer hunting season.

Ellie Katz joined IPR in June 2023. She reports on science, conservation and the environment.