Deer hunting looking up according to DNR report

The Michigan DNR reports that the deer population is up from previous years, and it expects an increase in the 2016 harvest, according to its annual Michigan Deer Hunting Prospects report. (News Advocate file photo)

The Michigan DNR reports that the deer population is up from previous years, and it expects an increase in the 2016 harvest, according to its annual Michigan Deer Hunting Prospects report. (News Advocate file photo)

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has released its 2016 Michigan Deer Hunting Prospects report.

The 2016 deer season is expected to be a successful year for many hunters. Nationwide, successful deer hunters hunt an average of 18 days – slightly more than the average of about 14 days that Michigan deer hunters spent afield last year. Chances for success are greatest for those who are prepared. Part of hunting preparations each year includes becoming familiar with the most recent regulations. The DNR deer website provides highlights of regulation changes, information about deer management and links to additional resources, such as deer check station locations. Please refer to the 2016 Hunting and Trapping Digest and Antlerless Digest, which are available online and at DNR Customer Service Centers and license agents, for a map of all Deer Management Units (DMUs) and other regulation details.

The 2015 season, while seeing a drop in hunter numbers, ended up with a slight increase in harvest from 2014. While hunting success decreased in the Upper Peninsula (UP) it increased across the entire LP, with a little more than four out of every 10 hunters taking home at least one deer last season. The decrease observed in the UP has been seen the last few years as a result of the severe, prolonged winters of 2012, 2013 and 2014. Deer numbers are expected to be depressed throughout much of the UP for this year and coming years, though the mild winter experienced last year offers hope that hunters may experience slightly better success this year than in previous years.

The winter of 2015 was a relatively mild winter across the entire state. With snowfall levels staying low and temperatures staying above average, it made for good survival conditions for deer and leads into a great potential for this year’s fawns. Spring had relatively mild weather as well, which is a major factor in both deer fitness and fawn survival. Due to these circumstances, field reports this year have indicated a high overall number of fawns seen, with plenty of twins and triplets across the state. In addition to the high number of fawns being reported, deer condition in terms of body weight and antler growth on bucks appears to be better than last year.

The 2016 deer season is forecasted to have similar to slightly increased success rates in comparison to last year. Please see below for more detailed information about the area you hunt and what to expect. Though this may help to get you started with what to look for, there is no substitute for scouting. The opportunity to find out which trees are producing, which deer trails are being utilized, and which patterns deer are following is priceless information for a deer hunter. So, whether the goal is to get meat in the freezer or simply get outdoors, Michigan’s deer seasons offer something for everyone.

The deer population for the Northern Lower Peninsula (NLP) is expected to see an increase in harvest this year. With the mild winter from last year and little impact from the previous winter, deer populations have been increasing steadily across much of the NLP.

Deer sightings have been good throughout the region, and many have reported seeing healthy fawns, including many sets of twins and even some triplets.

Mast production (fruits and nuts) has been spotty throughout the region. For the third year in a row, high production of apples is being reported. Acorn and beechnut production is diverse, with some areas seeing decent production and others reporting none. Deer should be targeting the producing areas frequently. Scouting to find these areas will be very important to early-season success. Contacting a local wildlife office may be a good first step; DNR staff members may be able to give insight as to which areas are producing.

Expect to see increased deer numbers compared to last year throughout most of the NLP. Many areas may see more 2.5-year-old and 3.5-year-old bucks this year with the continued three-point antler point restriction (APR) in many counties in the northwest area. This APR allows the majority of 1.5-year-old bucks to mature to the next age class, thereby resulting in increased numbers of 2.5- and 3.5-year-old bucks in the years following. All NLP Deer Management Units are open for antlerless hunting; review the 2016 Antlerless Deer Digest for more information.

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