2002 Firearm Deer Season Harvest Estimates

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The Michigan Department of Natural Resources today announced preliminary estimates of the 2002 Michigan firearm deer season harvest. The DNR estimate shows approximately 288,000 deer taken, of which 158,000 were antlered and 130,000 were antlerless. This estimate is 15 percent below the previous five-year average, which includes 5 of the top 7 harvest years on record. The state's record harvest occurred in 1998, when 351,475 deer (187,632 antlered, 163,843 antlerless) were taken.

The harvest during the regular firearm deer season traditionally accounts for nearly 60-percent of the total annual deer harvest. Archery seasons contribute about 25 percent, muzzleloading about 5 percent, and special antlerless seasons about 10 percent. The total deer harvest from all seasons is expected to be below the previously issued 506,000 pre-season estimate for 2002.

The firearm season harvest is estimated from a survey of southbound traffic during the 16-day firearm season. DNR Wildlife personnel, located at strategic locations on the state's major highways, record the number of vehicles with harvested deer seen during each counting period. The DNR-operated highway deer check stations provide additional information on the ratio of visible/not visible deer on vehicles coming through these stations. These data are incorporated into mathematical models that provide estimates of the firearm harvest for the Upper Peninsula and the northern Lower Peninsula.

The southern Lower Peninsula harvest estimate is obtained from wildlife management unit supervisors, who rely on an extensive network of employees, hunters and meat processors during the firearm season. Final deer harvest figures, which will be available in July, are based on a mail survey of approximately 50,000 of this year's deer hunters.

An estimated 725,000 hunters took to the field during the Nov. 15-30 hunt. Total license sales through the firearm season were slightly up compared to last year's sales (1,761,958 compared to 1,737,772). Field staff reported the hunting conditions throughout the firearm season were cold but very good, much better than last year.

There was a slight increase in the Lower Peninsula deer harvest over 2001. The antlerless harvest is estimated at 110,000 animals compared to last year's 107,000. The buck harvest is estimated at 125,000 animals compared to last year's 123,000.

Upper Peninsula hunters took an estimated 33,000 bucks and 20,000 antlerless deer this fall. Last year, hunters took 34,003 bucks and 16,625 antlerless deer. Many Upper Peninsula hunters reported seeing fewer deer this year, but bridge counts of vehicles with deer throughout the firearm deer season were up 17 percent from last year.

"Deer season is far from over, and hunters have additional opportunities for successful hunting this winter," said Wildlife Chief Rebecca Humphries. "Since firearm hunters took fewer deer than expected, December hunters should find higher deer numbers."

About 20 percent of the total 2002 deer harvest is expected to be taken during the remaining deer seasons, especially antlerless deer on private land in agricultural areas. Archery deer hunting season continues through Jan. 1. There also is a Late Firearm Antlerless Deer Season (Dec. 23 through Jan. 1) on private land for antlerless deer in select deer management units in the Lower Peninsula. Muzzleloading deer hunting season runs Dec. 6-15 in the Upper Peninsula and Dec. 13-22 in the Lower Peninsula.