CADILLAC — Believe it or not, soon there will be hunters in the woods and forests of northern Michigan looking to bag a majestic white-tailed deer.
With the Liberty Hunt for veterans with disabilities, individuals with disabilities and youth ages 16 and younger occurring the weekend of Sept. 14 coming and the archery season starting on Oct. 1, very soon hunters will be out in the blinds. With that in mind, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources released its forecast for the upcoming hunting season. The report was broken into three separate areas, the Upper Peninsula, northern Lower Peninsula and southern Lower Peninsula.
Despite some areas that saw record-breaking snow levels, overall the winter of 2018-2019 was considered average for the Upper Peninsula. Snowmelt occurred quickly throughout the region and it appears that few deer succumbed to harsh winter conditions, according to the DNR’s report. Observations also indicate that deer numbers appear similar to last year.
The DNR also said most areas are reporting good to great production of fruit with a fleshy interior, especially wild apples. A couple of areas, especially around Shingleton, are reporting good acorn production as well.
With overall deer numbers being low in the Upper Peninsula, buck sightings have been limited, according to the DNR. Those that have been observed look very healthy and antler development appears average for the region.
NORTHERN LOWER PENINSULA
It was a mild to average winter for the northern Lower Peninsula, which allowed deer populations to continue to increase across much of the region, the DNR said. Fawning conditions also appear to have been average, with observations being similar to last year.
Growing conditions have been very good across the region, with good rainfall during the early summer months, according to the DNR. It also appears to be an average year for the production of both acorns and wild apples and as a result, the DNR said scouting to find these areas will be crucial.
Observations of bucks have been similar to last year across the entire northern Lower Peninsula. With the average winter this year and previous winters not taking a major toll on the herd, deer numbers have been increasing. Nutrition has been good, leading to healthy deer body conditions and good numbers of bucks, according to the DNR.
SOUTHERN LOWER PENINSULA
Winters generally have little impact on deer in the southern Lower Peninsula and this past winter was no exception, according to the DNR. Deer numbers appear to be similar or higher than last year and there seems to be excellent fawn production.
Rainfall totals were high for nearly all of southern Michigan, which caused many crops to be planted late or not at all. Harvest will undoubtedly be late this year and the DNR said it may have a direct impact on the number of deer taken. The amount of fallow and unplanted fields also may affect deer movement this fall. It also appears to be an average to above-average year for the production of both acorns and wild apples and scouting to find these areas will be important, according to the DNR.
Deer, including bucks, are abundant in many areas and observations coming in show buck numbers and condition are similar to last year, the DNR said. Bachelor herds are being seen with some nice 2.5- and 3.5-year-old deer in them.
NEW REGULATIONS TO REMEMBER
In August 2018, the Michigan Natural Resources Commission released its new regulations designed to combat the spread of chronic wasting disease. CWD attacks the central nervous system of infected animals, resulting in emaciation, abnormal behavior and loss of bodily functions. There is no recovery, and the disease always results in the death of the animal.
These new regulations adopted in August 2018 included a statewide ban on the use of all-natural cervid urine-based lures and attractants, except for lures that are approved by the Archery Trade Association. They also included an immediate ban on baiting and feeding in the 16-county area identified as the CWD Management Zone. This area includes Calhoun, Clinton, Eaton, Gratiot, Hillsdale, Ingham, Ionia, Isabella, Jackson, Kent, Mecosta, Montcalm, Muskegon, Newaygo, Ottawa, and Shiawassee counties.
A ban on baiting and feeding in the Lower Peninsula, which was effective Jan. 31, also was part of the new regulations. There is an exception to this ban for hunters with disabilities who meet specific requirements. The start date on this regulation also was intended to allow bait producers and retailers time to adjust to the new rule.