2004 Firearm Deer Season Harvest Estimates Released
The Department of Natural Resources today announced preliminary estimates of the 2004 Michigan firearm deer season harvest which indicate approximately 285,000 deer were taken, of which an estimated 60-percent were antlered and 40-percent were antlerless.
Final deer harvest figures, available in July, are based on a mail survey of approximately 50,000 of this year's deer hunters. The 2004 preliminary estimate is below the 2003 estimated harvest of 307,000, calculated from the 2003 mail survey. The state's record firearm season harvest occurred in 1998, when an estimated 351,000 deer were taken.
The DNR has modified the regulations for obtaining an antlerless license and established special “antlerless-only” seasons since 1996, to encourage hunters to take antlerless deer in an effort to reduce the statewide deer herd. The harvests in the last five years reflect the success of this strategy. A smaller deer herd has resulted in fewer antlerless licenses available in the Northern Lower Peninsula this year, contributing to the reduced harvest.
Hunter success during the firearm deer season generally comprises approximately 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 this year is expected to exceed 450,000 deer.
The preliminary firearm season harvest is estimated through a survey of southbound traffic during the 16-day firearm season and DNR Wildlife Division employees’ assessment of the season. DNR Wildlife personnel, posted 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 to not-visible deer on vehicles coming through these stations. This data incorporated into mathematical models, provides estimates of the firearm harvest for the Upper Peninsula and the northern Lower Peninsula. Wildlife Management Unit Supervisors, who rely on an extensive network of employee, hunter, and processor contacts during the firearm season, provide a harvest estimate for their area. The preliminary harvest estimate is derived using both the traffic survey and employee estimates.
An estimated 700,000 hunters took to the field during the November 15-30 hunt. The weather conditions early in the firearm season included mild temperatures with some rain and fog creating marginal hunting conditions throughout much of Michigan for the first few days. Historically, hunting success is highest in the first three days, and weather may have affected this year’s harvest.
There was a decrease in the LP deer harvest from 2003. The preliminary harvest estimate is 247,000 animals compared to last year’s estimated final harvest of 264,000. This is primarily in the Northern Lower Peninsula where the Department’s efforts to reduced the deer herd have been successful. Upper Peninsula hunters took an estimated 38,000 deer this fall, slightly lower than last year’s final harvest estimate of 43,000 deer. The Mackinac Bridge count of vehicles with deer crossing the bridge, throughout the firearm deer season, was down substantially from last year.
About 20 percent of the total 2004 deer harvest is expected to be taken during the remaining deer seasons. Last year the deer harvest during the muzzleloader season increased approximately 50 percent from 2002.
“Deer season is far from over, and hunters have additional opportunities for successful hunting in December,” said DNR Wildlife Chief Bill Moritz. “Hunters should see an excellent muzzleloader season”.
Archery deer hunting season continues through Jan. 2. Muzzleloading deer hunting season runs Dec. 3-12 in the UP and Dec. 10-19 in the LP. There also is a late firearm antlerless deer season, Dec. 20 through Jan. 2, on private land for antlerless deer in 20 deer management units in the LP.