It could be a more productive year for deer hunters in Michigan. The state Department of Natural Resources projects the deer harvest will go up this year compared to 2016, due to a milder winter.
Wednesday is opening day of the two-week long firearm deer season.
More than half of hunters went home with a deer in 2016, according to the DNR. And with low snowfall totals and warmer temperatures last winter, deer numbers should be high this season.
“Deer coming out of the winter were seeming to be pretty healthy,” says DNR spokesperson Katie Keen. “We didn’t have reports of major winter die-offs ... or even just coming out unhealthy which can happen with wild animals.”
The Upper Peninsula has dealt with especially harsh winters in recent years and lower deer populations as a result. But the DNR projects deer harvest numbers will increase in both peninsulas.
While there are likely more deer, the number of hunters has been going down in the state. Keen says there are problems attracting younger hunters, as older hunters age.
“We’re not getting that younger group or even middle aged group back into it to hold out that tradition,” says Keen.
The number of deer hunters has been falling since the late 1990s.