The Michigan Department of Natural Resources released their report of the 2014 firearm deer season on December 9. Their findings confirm what everyone in the state already knew: Fewer deer were taken this year in every county in the state. In some parts of Northern Michigan the drop in deer harvest is 40 percent.
The largest drop in deer harvests were in the Upper Peninsula. After back to back severe winters and 40 inches of snow on the ground during the first week of firearm deer season, some deer check stations reported that they saw 60 percent fewer deer this year than in previous years.
In the Northern Lower Peninsula the drop off in deer harvests was not as severe, but deer check stations in the region still saw a drop in the number of deer brought in. People also noted that the severe weather had an impact on antler sizes this year. Unharvested corn fields also contributed to lower deer numbers being killed, as the deer had more cover to avoid hunters.
Another contributing factor not mentioned in the DNR’s report that had less hunters in the woods this year were the enormous increases in state hunting license fees for in-state and out of state hunters. Many out of state hunters stayed home this year because they couldn’t afford the fees. Stores that sold licenses claimed some people walked away from the counter when they learned how much the new license fees were going to cost.
The Michigan DNR can’t do anything about the unseasonably cold and snowy weather we had the first part of the firearm deer season, but they could help hunters out with being able to afford to go hunting by not making them to buy a small game license as a condition of buying a deer license. If hunters also purchased a doe permit (and paid the $5 for the lottery fee), the total cost of being able to legally hunt deer for residents was $56.00.
Of course, the DNR did not cite the higher license fees contributing to fewer deer being harvested this season. They need to take that into consideration along with the bad weather.