A proposal on the table by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources following declining harvest figures for white tails in the Upper Peninsula includes the nuclear option of canceling the 2015 hunt.
“The range of options run the gamut of most extreme to least extreme…the most extreme thing we could do is shutting down the deer season in the UP and the least extreme is do nothing because we already have very conservative recommendations,” said Chad Stewart, Deer Management Specialist.
Stewart explained that the 2014-15 harvest was the lowest in the UP in some 30 years and has been blamed on harsh winters returning fewer and fewer new members to the herd each year while mature animals suffer from shorter life spans.
“Given the recent declines in deer harvest in the U.P., the likelihood of continued low deer harvest in this region during 2015 is high,” reads an April 24th memo to the NRC stating that adult female survival rates for the 2013 winter may have been as low as 38 percent.
As outlined by the 9-page memo (detailed below) the options that will be presented to the Natural Resources Commission at their regular meeting on May 7 in Lansing range from least to most severe.
-Maintain the current season.
-Eliminate the combination license option (one buck) and the antlerless option during archery season.
-Eliminate the antlerless option during bow season– or in the late season only
-Stop the Liberty and Independence hunts in the U.P.
-Close the entire deer hunting season in the Upper Peninsula;
Some contend there are options that are not being considered.
“The Natural Resources Commission could take the restrictions off feeding for a year or two and let the deer population recover,” said Bryan Reynolds, president of the U.P. Whitetails Association of Marquette County.
Others consider the prospect of a greatly reduced or eliminated season in the region, which DNR states could cost as much as $3 million in lost revenues from hunting licenses alone, a tragic event.
“All the people that have camps and come up and buy groceries, eating in the restaurants,” said St. Ignace Visitors Bureau President James Dekeyser to WPBN-WTOM TV. “They have a lot of small communities and there’d be a lot of hurt on all those small communities.”
In the end, the decision will be up to the NRC, who will listen to input on May 7 and likely make a decision at their June or July meeting.