LANSING, MI – Each year, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources generates preliminary estimates of the firearm deer harvest shortly after the season closes.
The 2015 firearm deer season wrapped up November 30th, 2015, with indications of mixed results throughout the state.
The harvest appears to have decreased in the Upper Peninsula and increased in the Lower Peninsula.
“We anticipated a poor harvest in the U.P. due to the drastically low deer population throughout much of the U.P. over the past couple of years,” said Ashley Autenrieth, DNR deer program biologist. “However, we’ve seen uncharacteristically high temperatures and low snowfall levels so far this fall, and if this continues, we hope the herd will begin rebounding.”
Although reports differ widely across and within regions, DNR biologists estimate the harvest, compared to 2014, was up perhaps as much as 17 percent in the Lower Peninsula, and declined approximately 19 percent in the U.P.
“Fortunately, the Lower Peninsula hasn’t had a drastic drop in deer numbers over the last few years,” said Chad Stewart, DNR deer management specialist.
“That, coupled with good wild apple and acorn production over the last two years, has made for good conditions for the deer herds in these areas,” Stewart said.
Warmer than average temperatures made for a more challenging hunt in the beginning of the season since deer don’t tend to be as active in warmer temperatures. Biologists noted, however, that many hunters stayed out longer to enjoy the weather, which may have helped the harvest.
Biologists saw excellent body condition and antler development on many of the bucks that were registered at check stations.
Although the U.P. saw lower harvest numbers, the bucks that were registered tended to be either 3 1/2 or 4 1/2 years old. This reflects the low numbers of younger age classes from winter effects and the continuing impact of predators.
Regardless of preliminary impressions, Stewart stressed the importance of Michigan’s hunter harvest survey, which he called “a vital tool for Michigan’s deer program, and an important way in which data provided by hunters contributes to our information base.”
A rigorous assessment of harvest and participation over all deer seasons will occur using the annual hunter mail survey. The survey is mailed in early January to randomly selected hunters.
Hunters who do not receive a survey in the mail but wish to provide their hunting and harvest information may visit www.michigan.gov/deer and select the “Complete A Harvest Survey Online” link. Hunters should provide information only once they have completed all of their 2015 hunting activities, including seasons that are open as late as Jan. 1, 2016.