We (Deer Hunters for Responsible UP Deer Management) need help with legal fees to challenge the Michigan Natural Resources Commission (NRC) in court for blocking badly needed changes to deer hunting regulations in the Upper Peninsula (UP) that were proposed by the wildlife division of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR). DNR staff used the BEST AVAILABLE SCIENCE to recommend 3 changes to UP regulations for 2021 that would make hunting opportunity the same in the UP as the rest of the state and better manage the deer herd. Besides benefiting the resource and hunters, the recommended changes will also benefit the DNR through increased hunting license sales. The recommended changes by the DNR were to make one buck tag on combination deer licenses unrestricted like it was prior to 2008, make antlerless deer legal for bowhunters over the entire UP like they were prior to 2015 and to make crossbows legal during the December archery season like they are in the rest of the state.
Deer Hunters for Responsible UP Deer Management wants the NRC to adopt the
Michigan DNR’s recommended changes for UP deer hunting:
* One buck tag on combination deer licenses unrestricted
* Antlerless deer legal for bowhunters over the entire UP
* Crossbows legal during the December archery season
When making decisions, the NRC is supposed to use the BEST AVAILABLE SCIENCE under PROPOSAL G, which was approved by an overwhelming majority of voters in 1996. They not only did not do so when making decisions about proposed UP deer regulations at their February 2021 meeting, the Commission has no biological data to support their decisions. Current regulations have resulted in trying to carry too many deer through the UP’s severe winters, resulting in starvation of thousands of bucks and does that hunters were forced to pass up. Since 2008, more than 100,000 deer have perished during UP winters that hunters could have and should have harvested. Before those deer died, they severely damaged their winter habitat reducing its capacity to support as many whitetails during future winters.
Last winter was mild, allowing many deer to survive and resulted in excellent fawn production this year. If next winter is severe and current regulations are not changed, many deer will die, potentially reducing the deer population to lower levels than exist now, and further damaging winter habitat.
Current UP deer hunting regulations also contribute to the spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in the region. A 4 ½-year-old doe with CWD was detected in the southern UP several years ago, and that doe was taken under a crop damage permit prior to the beginning of regular deer hunting seasons. The DNR has confirmed through genetic testing that adult does infected with CWD pass the disease on to their fawns. Regulations that protected many yearling bucks and most does from hunters at the time the disease was detected most likely contributed to its spread. Current regulations reduce the chances of hunters harvesting additional deer that are infected, allowing the disease to continue to spread.
Changes to UP deer hunting regulations proposed by the DNR would better manage the region’s deer herd and at the same time would benefit deer hunters and the DNR through increased license sales. The NRC ignored these benefits and the negative biological impacts of current regulations when making their decisions about recommended changes. If only 1,000 deer hunters will chip in the cost of a deer license ($20), that will make it possible to challenge the NRC decisions about UP deer hunting and increase the chances of returning to responsible deer management in the region. The law firm of Miller Johnson in Grand Rapids, Michigan has been hired to appeal the NRC decisions. Legal action has already begun, so help with funding is needed now. Any financial support to benefit deer, deer hunting and management in the UP is greatly appreciated.