Don’t blame the snow, that’s not the reason why so few people are up north hunting on the opening day of deer season – on a Saturday. Any hunter will tell you snow during hunting season is a good thing, because it makes it easier to see movement in the woods and track the deer you just shot. Red shows up better on white than it does on brown. Sure, they have lots of snow in the UP and that’s making it harder to get out and hunt, but what about the rest of the state? Why aren’t we hearing guns in the woods this weekend?
Northern Michigan relies on seasonal tourism to survive economically. One of the biggest tourism seasons after the summer is firearm deer season. The last two weeks of November traditionally means people take vacation time to come up north and hunt whitetail deer. Not only do sporting goods stores, such as Jay’s in Clare rely on deer hunting season for sales, but many other shops, hotels, and restaurants look forward to the extra business.
This year, despite November 15 being on a Saturday, which would allow more people to participate in the hunting season, deer license sales are way down. The reason? Rick Snyder back in 2013 proposed raising fees on hunting and fishing licenses, claiming it would generate more revenue for the DNR. That proposal thanks to the Nerd and Republicans became law, and now a $15.00 firearm deer season license for an antlered deer became $31.00. Want a doe permit too? It costs $5.00 to enter your name in the lottery that runs from July 15 to August 15. If your name is chosen, congratulations, your doe permit is $20.00, adding to the total for the privilege of hunting in Michigan a whopping $56.00.
And that’s the cost for Michigan residents to go hunting. Out of state license fees cost $171.00 for hunters to come to Michigan and hunt. A huge rise that made hunting in Michigan too expensive for some out of state hunters. They stayed home, and that means their money stayed home too. Money that would have been used to pay rent, buy gas and food, supplies for deer camp and everything else hunters spend money on when they come up north to go deer hunting.
The hike in fees also makes it too difficult for folks who live in Northern Michigan to hunt. Often, venison is a reliable and cheap source of meat for poor families struggling with lower wages, fewer jobs and cuts to everything else. Now it’s too expensive to legally hunt for deer for many people.
The higher fees mean people are buying fewer licenses. Does this mean they’re not going to hunt? Poaching could be on the rise in Michigan as hunters frustrated with not being able to afford the cost of hunting legally, but rely on being able to hunt to feed themselves and their families may resort to hunting illegally.
Opening day on a Saturday in Michigan, and it’s way too quiet here.