The Department of Natural Resources has indicated the 2011 firearm deer season harvest appears to have increased slightly compared to the 2010 season. Southern Michigan is the only region where final firearm harvest figures are expected to decrease. Preliminary estimates are based on cumulative reports from the field, license sales figures, and check station activity, and are later replaced by the final harvest figures generated using the annual mail survey.
Experiences can differ widely even within regions, but DNR biologists estimate the harvest compared to 2010 was unchanged to up perhaps 10 percent across the Upper Peninsula, likely increased in the Northern Lower Peninsula by as much as 10 percent, and the southern Lower Peninsula appeared down 5 to 10 percent.
License sales through opening day of the firearm season showed a 2 to 3 percent decrease compared to 2010. “That typically reflects expected final license sales figures and hunting activity through the end of the full hunting season,” said DNR Deer Program Leader Brent Rudolph, “but we saw more than the usual number of hunters purchasing a license after opening day. Perhaps a somewhat slow start to the season encouraged more hunters to try their hand later on.”
Check station activity was also initially less than last year, but increased traffic saw some locations meet or exceed their marks from 2010 as the season progressed.
As expected, with the mild conditions experienced in the previous two winters, deer numbers in both the Upper Peninsula and Northern Lower Peninsula look to be slowly increasing following prior declines. Ashley Hippler, DNR Deer Program biologist for the northern regions, noted, “deer in these regions are not as abundant as they were in the 1990s, but deer sightings were generally up even though hunter numbers appeared down compared to 2010.”
Deer from throughout the state were reported to be in good condition, as indicated by overall observations and measurements of antler development collected at check stations.
“We greatly appreciate the efforts our hunters make to bring deer to our check stations located throughout the state,” said Russ Mason, chief of the DNR Wildlife Division. “These data are important to our deer program, but check station visits also provide valuable opportunities to gather hunter impressions and feedback and even celebrate the annual traditions built around Michigan deer hunting.”
Rudolph emphasized the annual mail survey completed once all deer seasons are concluded provides the final estimates of harvest and participation over all deer seasons, including the firearm season. Preliminary estimates last year projected the firearm harvest ranged from a 15 percent decrease to 10 percent increase by region, while the final mail survey indicated a slightly less than 6 percent drop in deer taken during firearm season statewide.
For more information about hunting opportunities in Michigan, to fill out your 2011 deer hunting survey, or for additional information about deer, go online to www.michigan.gov/deer.