Forecast of U.P. season
LANSING – Over the last few years, around 700,000 individuals have purchased a license to hunt deer in Michigan. These hunters ultimately spend more than 9.6 million days afield and take more than 400,000 deer.Over 300,000 hunters participate in Michigan’s archery season, about 600,000 hunt with a firearm and 200,000 with a muzzleloader.
Although surveys show that the leading reasons many individuals participate in deer hunting is simply the opportunity to spend time outdoors with friends and family, harvesting a deer is still very important to many deer hunters. No amount of hunting guarantees a harvest, but preparation and hard work are keys to producing the best chance to see and take deer, or to mentor a new hunter through a safe and enjoyable season. The 2012 deer season is expected to be a successful year for many hunters, and as always, will certainly offer the exciting challenge we call hunting.
Part of hunting preparations each year includes becoming familiar with the most recent regulations. The deer website of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and a collaborative website with the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Michigan State University provide highlights of regulations changes, information about deer management, and links to additional resources, such as a list of deer check stations. Please refer to the 2012 Hunting and Trapping Digest and Antlerless Digest, available at DNR Operations Service Centers, license vendors, or available in electronic formats through links at these sites, for a map of all Deer Management Units and other regulations details.
Hunting success and hunter satisfaction increased in the 2011 season across the state, though regional increases occurred only in the U.P. and northern Lower Peninsula.
With three mild winters in a row and generally good past mast crop production, deer numbers across most of these northern regions have increased over the last three years. Many areas in these regions are forecasted to offer increased sightings and successful hunts this year. However, there are always exceptions in some areas that experience local population decreases. While hunters in northern regions are often used to observing sudden drops in deer populations following severe winters, some local areas in the southern Lower Peninsula will see lower than usual deer populations during the 2012 season due to the EHD outbreak being most pronounced in this region.
Information regarding expectations in the U.P. are as follows:
The winter of 2011-12 was quite mild, and offered deer very favorable conditions for survival and spring fawn production. This was the third consecutive mild winter, allowing the deer herd to continue its rebound from the harsh winters of 2007 and 2008.
Buck hunting opportunities should also be good this year. The recent mild winters should lead to increased availability of yearling and 2 1/2 year old bucks this fall, and in general, more bucks have been seen so far. However, local areas are influenced differently by factors that affect numbers of deer, deer condition, and sightings at a smaller scale. Body size and antler development is typically best within agricultural areas, but nice bucks are also taken from forested areas where access is limited and they have an opportunity to grow older. More deer tend to be found in the southern U.P. near Lake Michigan, with fewer in the northern U.P. near Lake Superior. The production of mast (fruit and nuts) in the U.P. appears to be limited this year due to the drought conditions from this past summer. This will make scouting all that much more important. Hunters will have to invest more time to find areas that may be producing mast or different areas that deer are targeting due to the lack of mast production.