Michigan deer hunters heading out this season may see fewer prospects and be subject to limits on the number of animals they can take in some areas.
Wildlife officials with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) said late last month that the overall number of deer hunting licenses purchased this season is up about 4 percent over last year, but there are noticeably fewer deer being seen in some areas hit by an outbreak of epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD).
Earlier this month, the DNR announced an emergency order lowering anterless deer hunting license purchase limits in areas where the most EHD-related die-offs have occurred.
EHD is caused by a virus transmitted to deer by a certain type of fly. Deer infected by EHD experience internal bleeding, get sick and die. More than 10,400 deer have died this year from the disease in Michigan, according to wildlife officials. The DNR reports there isn’t any evidence that EHD affects humans, so edibility of venison isn’t affected by the disease.
The purchase limit for Deer Management Unit 486 — a multi-county unit in the southern Lower Peninsula — is five private land anterless deer hunting licenses per hunter. The public anterless license purchase limit per hunter is two in Branch, Ionia, Kalamazoo, Kent, Lapeer, Sanilac, Shiawassee, Tuscola and Van Buren counties. The limit only applies to licenses purchased on or after Thursday, Nov. 8.
“With this order, I hope to remind individuals to assess their local situation, and in areas where EHD has hit the hardest, either take a minimum number of anterless deer or not take any at all,” DNR Director Keith Creagh stated in a press release. “We strongly believe most hunters will make the right call in exercising restraint, but by working with the Natural Resources Commission to enact this emergency order, we created a regulatory mechanism to reinforce a more conservative approach.”
In order to answer questions by hunters, DNR staff, including Wildlife Division Chief Russ Mason and Assistant Chief Doug Reeves, will be available for questions from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. today, Wednesday, Nov. 14 at some of the busiest retail stores in southern Michigan.
“This is the perfect opportunity to connect with the hunting community on the busiest license-buying day of the year,” Mason said. “We will be stationed in many locations and we hope hunters will stop by so we can answer any questions they may have about EHD or other deer-related concerns.”
In Oakland County, DNR Wildlife Biologist Tammy Giroux will be available to answer questions at the Bass Pro Shop located at 4500 Baldwin Road in Auburn Hills.
Additional locations include: Cabela’s in Dundee; Frank’s Bait and Tackle in Linwood; Gander Mountain in Coldwater; Gander Mountain in Lansing; Jay’s Sporting Goods in Clare; Knutson’s Recreational Sales in Brooklyn; Meijer in Greenville; Meijer in Ionia; Meijer in Jackson; Meijer in Mt. Pleasant; Wal-Mart in Lapeer; and Wal-Mart in Bad Axe.
In terms of hunting success, the DNR said there were increases in deer last year in the Upper Peninsula and northern Lower Peninsula, as deer numbers have increased across most of the northern regions over the past three years due to mild winters, according to the department’s 2012 Deer Hunting Status and Prospects report.
In the Upper Peninsula, buck hunting opportunities should be good this season, with increased availability of yearling and those older than 2 years. More deer are typically found in the southern Upper Peninsula near Lake Michigan, with fewer in the northern Upper Peninsula near Lake Superior.
According to the report, deer populations in the southern Lower Peninsula have been stable to decreasing over the last five to 10 years. However, the “wild card” for hunters this year will be EHD.
“Those hunting in the immediate vicinity of an EHD outbreak may see substantially fewer deer this year, while those hunting just a few miles away may notice no difference compared to past experience,” the DNR states in the report.
A full map of reported EHD deaths can be found online at www.michigan.gov/emergingdiseases.