Michigan DNR Approves Buck Harvest Regulation

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Proponents of the Quality Deer Management (QDM) philosophy are applauding a unanimous decision by the Michigan Natural Resources Commission to enact the "Hunters' Choice" proposal, which is intended to reduce the harvest of yearling bucks (1 1/2 years old) in the state's Upper Peninsula (UP).

"This vote shows that our Natural Resources Commission and our Department of Natural Resources are leading Michigan hunters in the direction of sound deer management," said Bob DuCharme of Coldwater, Michigan, the Great Lakes Regional Director for the Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA). "I think we're going to see big changes in hunter attitudes, possibly even statewide."

Previously Michigan hunters were allowed to harvest up to two bucks. One could be of any age or antler size while the other had to have at least four points on one side. This system allowed a high percentage of yearling bucks to be harvested annually. The new regulation that will go into effect this season gives hunters a choice. One option is a two-buck combination tag, but both bucks must meet certain antler criteria; one must have three points on one side and the other four points on one side. Hunters unconcerned with deer age or antler points can choose the second option: a one-buck tag with no antler-point restrictions.

This regulation was known as "Hunter's Choice" when it was first proposed by George Lindquist of Upper Peninsula Whitetails, a nonprofit sportsman's group that promotes sound deer management in the UP. Supported by the UP Sportsmen's Alliance and other hunters, UP Whitetails also asked QDMA to support the Hunter's Choice proposal.

"The proposal met all three of QDMA's criteria for support of a mandatory antler regulation," said Kip Adams, wildlife biologist and QDMA's Director of Education in the North. "The regulation was designed to protect a majority of yearling bucks while leaving most older bucks eligible for harvest. It included a monitoring program for tracking success. And it was supported by a majority of affected hunters."

"Our survey results indicated that deer hunters are interested in increasing the number of mature bucks in the deer herd," said DNR Deer Specialist Rod Clute.

This was especially true in the Upper Peninsula, where a majority of hunters favored a more restrictive regulation than the Hunter's Choice proposal.

Statewide, the harvest of yearling bucks in Michigan has been high, with 68 percent of the 2006 buck harvest being yearlings. In the Upper Peninsula, yearling buck harvest has ranged as high as 65 percent, but many QDM proponents believe the actual percentage is higher, since hunters who kill older bucks are more likely to bring their deer to voluntary deer check stations.

"We've been trying for more than 10 years to do something proactive to reduce the number of yearling bucks killed in this state," said Leon Hank of Holt, Michigan, president of QDMA's Michigan State Chapter. "We're extremely pleased that Michigan DNR has moved ahead in this way, and we are pleased that the Michigan State Chapter of QDMA could partner with several other outdoor groups like the UP Whitetails to positively impact our buck regulations. The education benefits alone will be fantastic."

Hank also thanked Kip Adams for valuable assistance. Adams was among several experts who gave presentations to the Natural Resources Commission as they reviewed the proposal. He provided a review of the scientific validity of QDM along with data from other states that have successfully reduced yearling-buck harvest.

"That's the power of having a national association that can help a state like ours at a critical time and on short notice," said Hank. "That's why I'm a QDMA member."

Founded in 1988, QDMA is a national nonprofit wildlife conservation organization with more than 50,000 members in all 50 states and several foreign countries. Membership in QDMA is open to anyone interested in better deer and better deer hunting, and committed to ethical hunting, sound deer management and the preservation of the deer-hunting heritage. To learn more about QDMA and why it is the future of deer hunting, call (800) 209-DEER [(800) 209-3337] or visit www.QDMA.com.