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This is my take on the recent meeting for Population Goals held at the Ionia High School for the DMU’s comprised of Montcalm, Ionia and Eaton Counties…..all counties under the oversight of biologist John Niewoonder and his superv., David Dominic. These 3 counties are well ‘over goal’ with their herds: Montcalm by 51%; Ionia by 43%; and Eaton by 30%.

Speakers were …primarily Dominic, then Rod Clute, and Niewoonder. Approximately two dozen folks stood up to comment. There was about 30 minutes at the end for a Q&A……..then the folks began to disperse to catch the basketball game (this is Spartan country, you know.)

OK, now what follows is my subjective take on some of the comments and what I could judge of audience reaction: First, I was relieved that it was not a wild & woolly pie-throwning event. There were two or three commentators who…probably because of inexperience speaking on their feet before a large group (about 150 in attendance)….. assumed a ‘chip-on-the-shoulder’ demeanor. But, by and large, it was orderly and the commentators were less adversarial than I’ve seen in other DNR meetings. Still, one can be sympathetic to the DNR guys…some commentators were, in my opinion, pretty whiny.

The issues that were brought up in one form or another several times were:
1.Get the herd in balance…now too many antlerless, too few antlered animals.
2.Limit the kill to one buck per hunter.
3.How to better protect young bucks…buttons and 1 1/2yrs
4.Skepticism…on the projected population levels (deer count)
5.Crop damage….and nuisance permits.

After that, commentators covered a whole gamut of items, such as:
·DNR should raise the penalty for trespassing.
·Not enough enforcement presence in the counties; more punishment on multiple-buck shooters (one fellow claimed to know a man who killed 15 antlered animals this year.)
·Too many turkeys
·Move the antlerless season to earlier in the year…October, or at least into better weather than late December.
·Should we move away from a November 15th gun-opener.
·Antlerless season should allow rifles.
·Insurance companies are villains.
·Mandatory check-in.
·Youth hunt should be antlerless only…at least, in the DMU’s that are way over goal.

There were other issues but my notes are …well, unreadable.

In addressing the several questions and stated skepticism about the herd count Dominic made a very good analogy that seemed to resonate with this crowd….at least it put an end to the repeated comments on the count being wrong. Dominic’s point was “look our governments really struggles to get an accurate people count every 10yrs without a lot of controversy and doubt about the numbers… is it realistic to expect an extremely accurate count on wild deer every season every year?”. He went on…or Clute did…that the DNR “doesn’t count live wild deer”, they count the harvest and in that they have high confidence (within 2%) and from that harvest count they extrapolate the numbers to determine “how many animals needed to be alive in order to kill the ones we did.” In my view, their explanation was credible, and I sensed that many in the crowd bought into it.

Regarding the “insurance lobby”…they took pains to deny undue influence by such. All three, Dominic, Clute and Niewoonder, stated that industry representatives attempting to influence their deer decisions have never approached them. Dominic, went on to state that claims for deer/car collisions are tiny compared to routine fender-benders in mall parking lots.

Regarding, crop depredation permits. There were several farmers and at least one orchardist who complained that they either couldn’t get enough permits, or they were too difficult to obtain, or they came at the wrong time of the year, or they should be available all year long. These 3 or 4 fellows felt there were too many deer. One commentator did say that crop damage was not as bad as farmers complained. (would’ve loved to hear a conversation between this man and the farmers.) These farmers were not the only ones to state that the herds here were too large.....though the complaint was often presented as "too many antlerless.".

Regarding, protecting button bucks: Clute seemed skeptical that the vast majority of Michigan’s hunters could be expected to identify such animals under real-world hunting conditions…certainly the firearm guys. He did go on to hint “maybe something could be done regarding bow-hunters”. He also said protecting button bucks or any young bucks is ‘neutral’ to the resource…it doesn’t help it, it doesn’t hurt it.

A proponent, it seemed, of QDMA…..took issue with the need for ‘mandatory’ check-in of harvested deer. Instead, ‘look, if you want to check in your deer what’s stopping you now from voluntarily checking it in. If you don’t do that now you evidently don’t think it is important.”……… Clute added that in states that have or had mandatory check-in (he cited Missouri specifically) that those agencies found that non-compliance was very high…in Missouri up to 35%…so even “mandatory” check-in doesn’t guarantee better numbers than what Michigan’s sampling methodology obtains.

I, for one, enjoyed the meeting. First, it wasn’t as conflict-ridden as I expected, and two; there was good information offered, and three; I thought the DNR speakers were credible and earnest. To be sure, it is easy to grow impatient with the often whiny tone of some commentators. Plus, I imagine a total stranger to the whole process would struggle in making sense of the often contradictory comments, such as, “our hunting is lousy, the worst ever”….vs….”there are too many deer, people need to shoot more”. Or, “deer are eating my crop” vs. “deer aren’t really hurting the crop”.
 

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Thanks for the great report. It justs show the perplexing problem the state is faced in southern MI. These counties say too many deer, when counties next to them say not enough. I'm hoping to hear from one of these meetings someone asking how we can fund the DNR to have the resources to micro manage the southern herd, county by county. Riverman
 

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And generally the counties or area that this meeting represented have adequate, if not high, deer populations. So I would expect the majority of the audience was fairly happy with their hunting. Much different than a meeting in Cadillac or Grayling might be?
 

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Thanks for a great report!

That analogy of comparing our human census with a deer census was eye opening, one that I hadn't thought of before.

JD,
As you may have seen from the report on the Cadillac meeting the main topic was deer numbers that are way below what hunters "expect". Too few bucks was also a key issue.
 

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Did those farmers say what county they are from? I am in Eaton county and farm fulltime. Crop damage is not an issue in any of my fields. Most of the farms I rent are leased by the owner for deer hunting so they get quite a few deer taken off them. Dont blame them for what they are paying. I sent my comments in via email and got a nice response back. Thanks for sharing this.
 
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It sounds like the DNR might have learned a thing or two from the Chelsea meeting on 1/4/06. Explaining how they arrive at deer herd estimates was a good move as just about everybody that spoke at the Chelsea meeting cited that topic. Denying that the insurance companies and specifically car/deer accidents impact the DNR’s deer management decisions is a little misleading. The DNR has cited car/deer accident rates in every DMU for their worksheets to establish deer population goals. If it wasn’t important then why did they emphasize it? Also, I’ve heard over and over again that the insurance industry does not influence deer management decisions. I even read an article in Deer and Deer Hunting magazine that perpetrated that line on nonsense. Most insurance companies may not approach state wildlife managers directly (Farm Bureau Insurance is an exception though), however they do lobby lawmakers (politicians) heavily to push their agendas. So their agenda eventually trickles down to affecting wildlife management decisions and we all know that politics often plays role in most of our DNR’s decisions. Still, I personally think that the insurance lobbies influence is overexadgerated by most deer hunters.

It's amazing how different the Chelsea meeting went compared to the Ionia meeting. Good report fairfax1
 

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Whit1 said:
...JD,
As you may have seen from the report on the Cadillac meeting the main topic was deer numbers that are way below what hunters "expect". Too few bucks was also a key issue.
Yeah I browsed the report, and that's what I would expect up there. More ammunition against any blanket "regional" type of regs because there are so many different conditions in this state based upon habitat, farming practices, climate and snowfall, etc.
 

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just ducky said:
Yeah I browsed the report, and that's what I would expect up there. More ammunition against any blanket "regional" type of regs because there are so many different conditions in this state based upon habitat, farming practices, climate and snowfall, etc.
Another suggestion that received near unanimous support (determined by how many hunters mentioned it and the crowd response) was to go back to the old, more habitat/land use boundaies for the DMUs rather than the current (for the most part) county boundries.
 
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