Firearm Deer Season Harvest

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The Department of Natural Resources today announced its preliminary estimates of the 2001 Michigan firearm deer season harvest. The DNR estimate shows there were 283,000 deer taken, of which 167,000 were antlered and 116,000 were antlerless. This estimate is 16 percent below the previous five-year average. The state's record harvest occurred in 1998 when 351,475 deer (187,632 antlered, 163,843 antlerless) were taken.

The harvest during the firearm deer season generally comprises about 60 percent of the total annual deer harvest. The 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 500,000 for 2001.

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 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 employee/hunter contacts during the firearm season. Final deer harvest figures, which will be available in July, are based on a mail survey of about 50,000 of this year's deer hunters.

An estimated 725,000 hunters took to the field during the Nov. 15-30 hunt. "We thought the statewide harvest to be a little lower this year because the deer population was smaller, but the decline was much larger than expected," said Rebecca Humphries, Wildlife Division Chief. "The warm hunting conditions throughout the season contributed to the decreased harvest of 18 percent from last year."

There was a 17 percent decrease in the Lower Peninsula antlerless deer harvest over 2000, 102,000 compared to 122,962. The buck harvest was down eight percent (134,000 vs. 146,315). There may have been fewer firearm deer hunters afield this year, except on public lands, due to early reports of lower deer numbers. Unseasonably warm hunting conditions reduced deer movements but kept hunters afield longer. Private-land hunter numbers were similar to last year's level.

Upper Peninsula hunters took an estimated 33,000 bucks and 14,000 antlerless this fall. Last year, hunters took 50,974 bucks and 23,772 antlerless. Most U.P. hunters noticed fewer deer this year. "The loss of about 110,000 deer from last year's hard winter was obvious to hunters," Humphries said. "Yearling bucks comprised just 36 percent of the harvest compared to the normal of about 60 percent yearlings." Bridge counts of vehicles with deer throughout the deer season were down 45 percent from last year.

Deer season is far from over, and hunters have additional opportunities for successful hunting this winter. Since firearm hunters took fewer deer than expected, Dec. hunters should find higher deer numbers. About 20 percent more deer are 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. 17 through Jan. 1) on private land for antlerless deer in select deer management units. Muzzleloading deer hunting season runs Dec. 7-16 in the U.P. and Dec. 14-23 in the Lower Peninsula.