News & Blogs

Michigan Deer Hunting Season: What’s Going On?

November 22nd, 2011 by MUCC Staff.

The first week of the firearms deer season is in the books. And, if local hunters are any indication, it was not one for the ages. At least not in a positive sense.

We should first start with a bit of a disclaimer. Expecting to see the numbers of deer that have been seen over the past decade is not realistic. We have, in fact, been on a path of serious herd reduction in many areas of the state for about 10 years now. Virtually unlimited doe tags, additional seasons and a “take them any way you legally can” mentality from the Department of Natural Resources has certainly placed an emphasis on taking more antlerless deer in an effort to reduce a deer population that was booming out of control.

No one should really expect to see the numbers of deer we saw in the early to mid-1990s.

But this season, thus far, has truly been eye-opening.

I live on the Eaton and Barry County line in southern Michigan. I’m located right in the heart of Michigan’s deer belt. Seeing deer here usually isn’t a problem. What has been a problem, in fact, has been the number of deer. Seeing 25-30 deer a morning wasn’t unusual with 95 percent of those being young does and fawns. The bucks you saw were seldom older than a year-and-a-half.

Over the past five years things have slowly changed. Instead of seeing 25-30 deer a morning, you’d see 15-20 with about 90 percent of those being antlerless. Of the bucks you saw, the majority were still 1.5-year-olds but there was the occasional 2- and even 3-year-old  deer in the mix. Sure, there were probably still too many deer but the ratio was improved and the age structure was marginally better.

Something changed this year however. And it was something I noticed long before the November gun season started. In fact, in the November/December issue of Michigan OutofDoors Magazine, I wrote a piece about the trends I was seeing in relation to deer numbers.

I’m not a doomsday naysayer. I don’t think we were managing our deer population correctly in the 1990s and we had too many deer. I don’t think we’ve gone overboard with doe permits or that we should expect to see dozens of deer per day.

I do, however, think someone needs to take a long, hard look at what has happened this year. Because something certainly has happened.

In the winter months, deer were everywhere. In the spring, I saw plenty of whitetails but noticed a strange absence in newborn fawns. In early summer, deer were fairly visible but didn’t seem to be around in the numbers I was expecting based on winter observations. At that time, I did not notice a drastic decrease in the number of deer in my area. But I did notice a decrease.

Then came summer. And everything changed. I run trail cameras throughout the summer months on areas that I’ve hunted for a fair amount of time. I have a pretty good handle on how the deer use the areas in different crop rotation scenarios. It’s not a question of whether I’m placing the cameras in the right areas anymore. Years of experience have helped sort those issues out.

Trail cameras don’t lie. The deer numbers started to dwindle sometime in July and continued to decrease through October. I searched high and low for carcasses that would indicate a disease-related dieoff and couldn’t find any.

I started to think that maybe it was just something in my area and the deer were relocating. But many discussions with neighbors and other local hunters revealed the same thing – the deer were gone.

During the archery season my logs show that I saw 50 percent fewer deer this year than last. Again, discussions with other area hunters showed almost an identical decrease in deer sightings. Everyone blamed the standing corn – including me. Then the corn came down. And the deer were still absent.

The opening day of the gun season was foggy. Conditions were far from ideal. So hunters didn’t panic much when they heard fewer than a dozen shots on a day that typically features more than 100 shots fired within hearing distance by 10 a.m.

A local Quality Deer Management Association group holds a buck pole every year near my home. Last year about a dozen bucks were hanging after the opener. This year? There were six. The pole is held again on the first Saturday after the opener. Last year, the number of bucks there increased exponentially. This year? There were six.

The talk around the pole was of seeing very, very few deer. In fact, a number of hunters indicated that they had sat an entire day without seeing  a single deer. This is southern Michigan ­– an area where it should be almost impossible to sit an entire day and not see at least a half-dozen deer. Yet guys got skunked.

Clearly something has changed. It’s not standing corn. It’s not poor weather. It’s a severe decrease in the deer population. And, as stated earlier, some of that certainly was/is by design. But I don’t think anyone was expecting to see this type of decrease this fast. Something has happened.

Where do we go from here? Well, we still have the Thanksgiving weekend coming up and it’s entirely possible that the deer were simply hiding in some undiscovered hole and hunters will fill a bunch of tags this weekend. But I’m not holding my breath on that one. I think it’s entirely possible that the 2011 gun season will go down as a major disappointment in terms of deer killed – at least in southern Michigan.

At this stage, I’d say the kill is down at least 50 percent. I’m sure there are those who will disagree and I’m not trying to say that I have some sort of special scientific survey in use here. I’m basing this prediction solely on my personal observations and discussions with a whole lot of guys that I know to be excellent deer hunters.

The deer are not being shot. Is it because they aren’t there to be shot? Or is it something else?

That’s the question I’d really like to know the answer to.


  • Edwardruchala

    Shut down the harvesting of all bucks for three years, lets grow some antlers that are more than just spikes and tiny fours.
    I am tired of seeing guys shoot these 2 year old deer before they have a chance to mature. On our land we don’t shoot young bucks but the neighbors sure do. So whats the point?
    Shutting it down is the only thing left to try.

    • poseman

      lets stop havesting does for three years and maybe we will have a deer left five years from now!

  • Robert VanZanten

    Edwardruchala – We don’t hunt antlers. You can’t eat antlers.

    • guest

      Hope you shhot just does than, why kill a buck if it’s not about the “horns”?

      • poseman

        That would be cool to shoot all does.That way they wont have to give birth to some fawns in the spring.

  • Deerhunter1

    Hunt the Lapeer area, and we’ve noticed the same decrease in deer numbers also. Talking to neighbors, we hear the same story. I hunted the property we own for over 50 hours during the 1st week of the opener, and only saw two deer.Archery season deer seen was down a lot also. Buck pole was about half of what it normally was. We’ve teamed up with neighbors and stopped shooting any does, in order to try and get the deer numbers back up in a few years. We rarely see any does. Been slowly getting worse past 2-3 seasons. I agree, the DNR needs to look at certain area’s of Michigan and what the hunters are telling them.

    • bob

      hi, here in shiawassee county opening day i had 48 deer sightings, only three small bucks but last year i saw 6 bucks opening day. so our doe numbers are up but buck numbers down. also have hunted the same area for 30 years, have food plots,habbitat management,and only shoot older class bucks but havest a lot of does for the table. we do need a older class deer herd. some areas are differant. i wander some time of there sound management practices.

    • deer tax one

      its been worse deer season ever wait up peoplewhere the deer head out state here we come


    Hunt on the Alcona /Alpena county border area. We have been shooting eight points or bigger for eight years. We have been having some success the last three to four years,however, the past two years we have seen barely any deer. This year I sat for three days to see only three deer. The DNR have succeeded in devastating this herd. Our camp has never had a TB deer! I will take my $3000.00 dollars I spend every year between planting fields,licenses,groceries,gas,etc- spend that out of state for a better quality hunt- Iowa here I come!!! WAKE UP DNR!!!!1

    • Dean


    • poseman

      I think if we all would partisipate in refusing to buy a lisense next year, it would have a great impact on our useless dnr. They want a pay check but do not want to work for it.Its time to put them out to pasture for a couple of years. maybe if they have to apply for foodstamps they will get the message?

    • Mike

      Amen to that! My group started going to MN 3 years ago because we got sick of only seeing small deer or no deer when we went hunting. MN makes you register every deer shot, so they know exactly what is taken and adjust the next years permits accordingly! Imagine that!

    • Steven

      I started to go to MO. 3 years ago and have shot 2 bucks, both scored over 130. Maybe the DNR should take a few lessons. Hunted Michigan for 5 days and never saw a deer, needless to say….where would you hunt?

      • Flytyer100

        Steve- I have a friend who has hunted Missouri, and he is already planning on leasing land down there this upcoming year. He is tired of not seeing any deer, and what deer he sees (usually small bucks) are shot by poachers or by noon on opening morning.
        He sees lots of nice bucks down there. Also, most of the locals only go out the first day or two of gun season, and they are done hunting. Why? Because they have already filled their tags.
        Missouri is big on habitat. They want to develop the herd and the land. Where is our state and our DNR on this issue????

    • Flytyer100

      I agree with hunting out of state. I am already looking to Colorado next season for an elk and/or mule deer hunt. I went hunting out there in 2005, and took a 4×4 elk in the first thirty minutes of season (200 plus pounds of meat). In the evenings prior to the hunt, we would drive around Meeker and see dozens of bucks, many of them trophy class. Buck to doe ratio was 1 to 3 or 4 does. I took a picture of five bucks in the same frame to a DNR talk at Jays in Clare several years ago, and asked “Why can’t we see some of the same kind of hunting here in Michigan?” Do you know what there reply was? “Mule deer have a different biology than whitetail.” Could be a little truth to it, but it sounds like BS to me.

      In my opinion, our state and citizens refuse to manage our herd. It is that simple. Leadership is sometimes described as the ability to make the tough decisions. I think our DNR and NRC has lacked this ability for a long time.

    • Pipedrems

      Yes & the 33 pair of cougars they release, in 90s .pluses coyote # is awful .pretty easy to say what. The problem is. Now why would they release cougars? Is beyond me. But seen one & seen the damage they did to the mans cows. Who owns the sawmill. We have the biggest bunch of clowns running the DNR. I’ve own land in Glennie 20 years. See more bears then deer now. The Tuberculosis was, the auto insurance gave the DNR so many millions in that area. After that every one & there brother was killing a deer a day. Coyote is a very big problem. Also. I hunt them home in Imlaycity & up north. Nothing to find 10 deer carcasses in & around a coyote den. The gray wolf also. O ya! They are in alcona county also, along with the cougar.yes good to make friends with a DNR officer. They release 33 pairs in 90s .talking deer a day (food ) they say 90% fawns up there coyote get. I no u all remember the 90s .all the people hunting. Economy up there was great. Cougar have been a problem already up there. DNR are just restarted. The deer bring the money in. As for Imlay city. Our biggest problem is people. Between 4 men, one on one side of the rd. The other family the other. They shoot 40 deer. Makes me sick. & your lapierre county record buck. Come off this farm land. & again the coyote. Well I been killing the coyote. & hopefully more will join. & fun to stay busy. Keeping your hunting skills up. God bless.PS IS There A WAY TO GET RID OF WHO IS RUNNING THE DNR & IF SO. BAND Together & HIT LANSING.PUT MICHIGAN @ TOP OF WHITETAIL DEER AGAIN

  • Gottageta10point

    Michigan State police deer crash counts(statewide):
    2005 – 58,741
    2006 – 60,875
    2007 – 61,907
    2008 – 61,010
    2009 – 61,486
    2010 – 55,867
    2011 – probably not available until 1st quarter 2012, but you would think they would be substantially lower based on this article.
    We had a great year on the Oscoda property for rifle, we hardly saw any horns for archery. Our Oscoda neighbors would agree that big deer production is down for the last 3 years.

  • Eaton R

    When I was in school my dream was to have my personal hunting land. I have now owned my property for 26 years. The first 16 to 18 year all my friends called it deer park because we were seeing 10-20 deer a day and shooting 6 deer a year with bow and gun. The year the DNR came out with the unlimited doe permits the deer numbers dropped (one property owner shoot 15 Doe that year). We have not taken a doe in the past 8 year because of the poor deer numbers. In the past 4 year I could count the deer I have seen on opening day of deer season on one hand. They say there are less hunts in the woods, well I will be the next to leave.

    • poseman

      sounds very depressing. Lets keep killing all the does! Anyone who would shoot 15 does in a season should be backed into a corner and have a very serious talking to by some very concerned hunters………….

    • Flytyer100

      At one time I was thinking of having my own land in Michigan to hunt on, as time goes on, I am actively thinking about moving out west because we have screwed the hunting up in Michigan so severely. The only thing that keeps me here is the fishing-we have a lot more access to water here than in CO,WY, or MT.

  • Glenway

    November 18, 2011

    Tim Lyons – Cadillac Check Station

    The first two days were warm and pleasant, starting in the 30s, warming to the 60s. Today was colder with a high of 40, and much windier with gusts up to 20 mph. Hunters have reported good numbers of deer seeing, but a decrease in shots hard compared to last year. This check station has been busy today, having checked 339 deer so far, compared to 296 last year at this time. We checked some impressive bucks from Mecosta and Missaukee counties. Some beam diameters have ranged from the mid to high 40s.

  • Donald McChristian Jr.

    You summed up my thoughts and deer sightings to the Tee here in St. Clair County, MI. I think its the Doe permits. Everyone who shoots a Doe wants a BIG Doe…the fawns either don’t come into estrus to breed or lose their fawns from lack of mothering experience. Thus less deer and less Fawns. I’ve see one small Doe while hunting the last 29 days on private land with a 2 acre food plot. Trail Cameras show the same 3 Does and a buton buck over and over all at night.

    DNR need to stop crop damage block permits, I think stop Doe permits for 2 years and only one Buck tag for 2 years…people are gonna complain but will be complaining more if we don’t start doing something now…

    Don Mc ….

    • poseman

      It is to bad hunters wouldnt want to do that, but i do believe it would help alot if we could get them to understand. Most block permits are a joke…..

    • Flytyer100

      The dirty little secret about block permits is that when the farmers have filled them, they will still shoot after that number has been reached. I have heard horror stories about 15 years ago of farmers in the orchard country near Sparta shooting deer in the guts so they would crawl off to die. That way, they would not have to use a tag.

  • Gobluedude

    Coyotes, coyotes, coyotes! They are the nighttime killers. They hunt in packs, they devour every little bit of evidence so you won’t find many bones. You used to be able to let a arrowed deer lay overnight….don’t do it nowdays….coyotes will have it gone before morning! That, my friend, is one factor being overlooked by many hunters who are puzzled.

    • Flytyer100

      I was told by an individual in the DNR about six years ago that coyotes were a minor predator of deer. This was after I described a location near Reed City, MI where a friend of mine found a coyote den with 17 fawn skulls near it.

      I don’t think predation is not being accurately accounted for in the deer population models after that conversation…


      I AGREE

  • Donald McChristian Jr.

    Ok coyotes could be a problem in some areas but not here in my area of St Clair county. I have 4 trail cameras and 2 infarred 24-7 cameras and I have not seen any yotes and I have even tried calling and hunting them and no luck.

    Tomorrow will be day 31 of hunting in a row and I’ve still only seen 2 deer while hunting…average 3 deer at night on all my cameras…

    • BellRiverRunner

      Don, I used to live in St. Clair County and I know there are coyotes in big numbers. I too have trailer cameras Oscoda County and only seen one coyote in six months on them.

      I know that calling will NOT work when the yotes are fat from easy kills. The easy kills I am referring to would be animal pets.

  • muddy

    Hunting southern newaygo on my land for 10 years and the deer are way down to a point i give up with the dnr and trying to talk to the land oweners around me about shoot all the does and small bucks, one land owener shoot 5 does on 10 acers, did he tag them?? I would here shotting at 2:00 to 4:00 am the last few years now the crossbow took care of that that noise, now i can sleep beeter at night……….WAKE UP DNR AND ALL THE BROWN ITS DOWN HUNTERS, Have your kids sit for days and see nothing. ITS BOOORRRRING,

  • guest

    I too saw much lower deer numbers at my hunting grounds. Last year in the thumb I averaged 10 sightings a day. This year my best day was 3. In total, for a four day trip, I say 75% less deer.

  • Tmiller9661

    Iv never seen a worde hunting year. I havent seen a deer all season. And you never hear anybody shoot,the most iv heard in one day was 4 shots. Im getting very disapointed out there all my buddys say they never see anything down here in southern michigan. Im in Lenawee County. Ive seen about 12 tracks and 3 scrapes on trees,last year about 150 tracks and 50 scrapes. Also theres never hunters parked along roads or anything. Other years Id see about 7 cars parked by fields. Last year i saw other guys out hunting and I havent seen them all year. DNR C’MON 1 buck for 2 years and 2 does for 1 year

  • Cahil_2

    Too many people shooting too many does. How about 2 tags per hunter per year. Shoot with bow, gun and in what season you want. No more than 2 period. I have talked to guys who have shot as many as 9 does per season. I talked to another guy who shot 7 deer in one field in one morning. Greed. It is amazing what 30 lbs of venison will do to some hunters brains.

    • poseman

      why not just one per family? whats the deal?

    • Gerryg_rc

      30 pounds of venison? Deer in your area must be small; my son’s 2-yr-old buck gave us easily 60 pounds. Maybe to many deer for the habitat?

      • Wolfman3177

        60 lbs ? What kind of deer was it?

  • Hunting is life

    Your story hits true here in Ottawa County where I live and hunt and in Silver Lake/Hart where I hunt on weekends.Both spots are on State Land. I have always hunted hard in Allendale early seeing lots of deer including mostly bucks. Then a few weeks into season the duck hunters appear and other Archery hunters start getting ambition and mostly push deer out of area because it is mostly river and swamp. Which is fine because by then Silver Lake Sand Dunes close and people activity ceases which gives me and family members the chance to stay at our property there and hunt the state land. Usually by then deer activity there is in full gear and we have awesome archery hunts leading up to rifle season. Then the usual 2 day gun hunt I call it takes place and we have a few deer and go home happy.
    This season was like a nightmare I wanted to wake up from. Being laid off for 1st time ever and during hunting season I was geared to hunt alot. Hunted all but a hand full of days during October here in West Michigan. Had a 4 days of dream hunting, seeing a monster buck, few smaller ones and a few doe. Thought season would be great but those were the only deer i seen. Bummer I thought but I still had Silver Lake. What happened there was not up to standard. One out of 4 of us usually seen deer but suspect only 7 total deer around. Luckily the one and only deer my 15 year old nephew saw he harvested with a bow which was a mature doe. He would have been done hunting if not for that. Opening day of gun 7 shots all day, a far cry from usual world war 3.
    I plan on writing numerous letters to our DNRE asking for answers. I am happy but unhappy to read and hear everyone else had similar problems. Like Ted Nugent has said, It’s our deer herd we just pay the DNR to enforce our game laws. Well I am not happy with our herd so we need to find an answer.

  • Donald McChristian Jr.

    Found this Online…no wonder we aren’t seeing any deer…can the people that make these plans really not see this??????

    Worksheets for Establishing Deer Population Goals- DMU 074, St. Clair County 2006-2010

    Adjacent Lands Used to Calculate Goal
    Sanilac and Lapeer Counties

    2006-2010 Goal- 12,900 to 15,800 Deer (18-22 Deer per sq mile)

    Estimated 2005 Population – 16,500

    2004 Hunters in County
    16,000 Registered and only 13,000 actually hunt in county.

    So let’s see… If every hunter in our county shoots a deer then there are only 3,500 left after the season! If we all shoot 2 deer that well 26,000 so not possible…wiped out!

    So let’s say our buck to Doe ratio is 1 to 5… That means there’s 2800 does left at the end of the season and 700 bucks. If every Doe has 2 fawns that live the next year during deer season we still only have 9,100 deer!

    Then we still have 9,500 Doe Permits available to us too…. Need I say more? What are these people thinking or is it just me?

    I’ve read some 30 and 50 page reports but still can’t seem to fine the plan for 2011 and beyond…

    • poseman

      There is no other plan. And If the hunters keep killing all the does they are, it means that, me, you and many other people that enjoy the taste of venison will disappear. Damn shame the greedy bastards wont listen…………..

  • Donald McChristian Jr.

    Seriously? I made a post trying to get hunters to register to my website and make a thread for every county/DMU and get hunters input and have one person from each DMU attend a meeting with me to try and get this fixed before our deer are gone and just like on the DNR Facebook page it got deleted here too…What the heck? Does both the DNR and MUCC want the Deer Wiped Out in our state?

    • BellRiverRunner

      The DNR exists for our benefit, not the other way around. So to answer your question regarding no more deer would be this: that as a taxpayer I would demand the dismantling of the hunting portion of the DNR management. No deer/no DNR.

  • Janetandjerry

    Hi there fellow hunters, I have hunted for around 55 years, and this is the first time in Michigan in many a year that I saw so few deer. Sad. The past few years I have seen way to many fawns hanging up from the hunt. Gee gang, let them grow up. I think we need to cut the doe season for about four years, and then, only do a one a year (at most) doe hunt. We really need to grow our herd.

  • OlsenC24

    Farm block permits. Can’t give them out and just shoot and kill. Need to give out five, show the deer when killed are processed and given to food bank or something, then they are able to get a few more. No more shooting and piling in a hole. Also, allow more registered hunters to hunt on these lands not just a select few.

    • poseman

      alot of hunters do not know about some farmers killing deer and burying them in a hole rather than let people hunt them for food. We need to get the message out in the open. Than see how they feel about that! Maybe if we let them know which farms are doing that, they can boycott them. Which is what needs to be done…

  • Newaygo Hunter

    Here in Northern Newaygo County, I hunted every day from dawn to dusk in my (excellent view area) Blind. Saw 5 deer total for the 2 week gun hunt, got a nice 4 point on opening day at 9:30 PM, then Friday saw and bagged a nice 2 1/2 year 8 pointer, and no other sighting till the last day on Wednesday the 30th, three Does came thru, I took the oldest one. One of the few years I paid for the 2 buck license and one private land Doe permit, mainly that this year I could bait with cob corn.
    Pity that we did not have snow hereabouts for the 2 week period, but I have found scat from Coyotes in multiple spots on the way to my Blind, I have seen them chasing deer on my fringe area, single and two at a time. I’ve seen feathers from turkey kills ago, so they are responsible. Our local county Sportsmans’s Club had a Buck Board up, and so far (including archery), they have four 8 pointers, and a 4 pointer. I used to see 30-40 deer (many duplicates) come thru my area back in the 19870′s, not now.

  • Rr Plante

    I live in western Montcalm Co. and also noticed the absents of fawns with the does this year.

  • Justducky

    I strongly disagree with the “fact” of this article. I live in a rural part of southern Clinton County, not all that far from the author’s location, and we still have a ton of deer on my acreage. And in direct contrast to what was written, I observed MORE fawns this year. Most does had 2, and several I witnessed with 3. Few if any does appeared “fawnless”, which was very unusual compared to years past. In addition, the property where I do most of my deer hunting in SE Montcalm County has just as many deer as ever over the last two decades. Even though the fog was absolutely terrible until about 9am on opening day of gun season, we still shot several nice bucks and a couple does, almost exactly what we’ve taken the last three years running. So the deer there are also not on some kind of mythical slide.

    I’m just one observer, but I felt I had to point out the other side of the story.

  • BellRiverRunner

    I live in Oscoda County and the deer numbers were also down (yet the local DNR folks say the opposite).
    What is not mentioned and I will start this here thread by saying that the number of coyote heard (and seen) is way up from previous years. My opinion is the deer numbers are down while the coyotes are way up. Is there a correlation between the two? The DNR s/b able to answer that one yet of late I don’t trust their judgements since they’ve the PC route.

    Note also that some of the locals (and I tend to believe this also) believe the coyotes are getting to the new born fawns and thus we are seeing fewer deer. Some other long time hunters also note a dramatic decrease in turkey flocks in Oscoda County. Again the suspects are the coyotes.



      • Oceana hunter

        Sounds like I radther sit at “MA” DEETERS all day

  • Scott Bagby

    My observation in Barry County (Middleville State Game) is similar. Less deer than last year and the most seen at one time this year was 5 does. I ran across some young bucks early in bow season but after the middle of Oct that was the last buck I caught a view of. On state land last year I may as well have owned the place. There were very few archers last year. This year bow season was very active and as strange as it sounds there were far more hunters where I hunt during bow while gun season very light. I counted a dozen hunters on a seasonal road I hunt off of opening morning of bow season with a steady turnout through the season. The same road during gun season had 7 opening day with a big drop off after that. Thanksgiving weekend it was deserted. Maybe archery pressure and successful hunts in that season are part of it. Private land hunters I know had good outings and saw a lot of deer. Are food plots cuasing deer migration? Could preditors be contributing? Also no clear cuts in my area for 5 years or more.

  • Dave

    Saw one deer opening week (small button buck); hunting partner saw one doe. Thanksgiving weekend, our party (5 hunters) saw seven deer total, none with horns. The DNR has decimated the herd, folks, plain & simple.

    • poseman

      I too know how bad it has gotten. But one thing that would help accomplish things is to stop buying all those doe permits. Just stop! they are almost gone anyway. Do that and maybe some dnr personel will lose their jobs and the others will either do their job or lose their job too. If there are no deer, no reason to buy a permit. Stop sleeping on the job. Go out there and do something about the problem. Wait till they get booed on the fishing situation next year!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Flytyer100

      The DNR has decimated the herd, but only because we, the hunters, have allowed them too. We must revisit the cardinal rule of hunting: Every time we pull the trigger, we make a management decision. As hunters, we must 1) police our own-call in poachers 2) educate our own-work with people inside and outside our hunting areas to improve the hunting and 3) monitor our DNR so they are making decisions that benefit hunters, including regulations and habitat management. And we should also make sure that only prohunting/profishing people are placed on the NRC, by applying political pressure to the governors office on appointments.

      In the end, we only have ourselves to blame.

  • Redman33

    I would agree with this. In Ionia County where I hunt the number of deer seen during firearm season was the lowest seen in my 6 years hunting in the county. We had days were we saw 2-3 deer the whole day and usually they were the same 2 yearlings. We hunt an area that has some good cover and as a rule we would see deer throughout the day moving around, not this year! Also noticed very little shooting throughout the Nov 15-30 firearm season, some days I was wondering if it was even season because of how quiet and dead it was. Have talked to several neighbors all within a few miles and they all state the same thing, “haven’t seen squat!” When is the DNR going to take a scientific approach to managing the herd and strive for a quality herd rather than a revenue based approach?

  • Tarlington

    agreed in St. Clair and Gladwin I experience lower deer numbers. To many does have been removed. Thank the dnr and the insurance people for that. I believe our deer harvest should mimiac Ohio. One buck per season. Doe permits reduced. No more 10 acre landowers killing does. 40 acre minumum to apply for permit. The other must be obtain by a drawing like state land.

    • poseman

      people with 40 plus acres should have to apply same as everyone else. Who you trying to kid. Part of the problem is hunters thinking they are better than everyone else. Either get with the program or get out…..

    • Flytyer100

      One buck per season would be an improvement. Many states allow one buck only for the whole season. At the minimum, we should allow only one buck for rifle, one buck for archery/muzzleloading.

  • Bob Bethune

    I think it’s really odd that there is no mention here of habitat degradation. No mention in the article, no mention in the comments. Don’t we look around and see more urban sprawl, more deforestation, more degradation of natural water all the time?

    If you’re not seeing deer where you used to see deer, take a really good look at whether or not that area still has what deer need.

    John Williams raised this issue twenty years ago in his book, The Deer Hunter’s Field Guide: Pursuing Michigan’s Whitetail. It’s just as valid a point now as it was then.

    • BellRiverRunner

      Bob, Oscoda County is not experiencing any habitat degradation. In fact it’s the opposite as many pieces of property are being deserted by former home owners due to the economic nature in NE Michigan. No jobs means no real land ownership going on around here.

      Still I will look into the book you mentioned by John Williams.

  • Tlopresto


    • poseman

      never will be again if we do notget rid of the doe killers…………………………..

  • Curtduvall

    I have noticed much the same numbers etc. I saw lots of deer thru spring and summer and almost nothing after Nov 15. Trail cameras showed 8 different bucks in early sept. none during season…. Could it be that having a special season for every interest group for 2 months ahead of the 15 th is making the herd totally nocturnal. They are still out there but definetly well afer dark.

    • poseman

      your exacly right!

  • Ken

    I have hunted in Gratiot County in the same blind for 25 yrs and this year was by far the worst. I look over 3 thousand acres of farm land and woods. I saw my first deer on the 4th day of season, 1 doe and she was the only deer I saw after hunting for 10 days. The first three days I sat in my blind for 12 hrs each day and saw nothing. For me, this is it, I’m done with michigan. I will continue going back to Ohio, at least I see deer down there. Just because the DNR make doe hunting unlimited dont mean you should shoot lots of does. I understand all about QDM but you still need does to reproduce next years bucks.

  • Mikekinyon

    St. Clair Co, worst season ever! I have now been through the earle bow season, gun and now 4 days into the muzzleloader and I have yet to see one deer… I have 6 cameras well placed around foodplots on two different (previously very active with deer) properties with very few deer and not one during daylight. In total, 1 8-point, a fork, a couple scrub spikes and the only regular a button buck. I have only had one doe on film twice. Just sickening! I am very particular, dont always take a deer but find it very hard to continue to put hunts in without seeing anything!

    • Shadowhawk72

      Not sure which part of the county you are hunting in Mike, but I am hunting Northeastern Greenwood Twp and in Clyde Twp and I am still seeing deer and I saw deer in 2 of the 3 spots that I hunt every day I was out during bow season, the other spot there was plenty of sign but no deer until gun season when I took an 8 pt.

    • Shadowhawk72

      Not sure which part of the county you are hunting in Mike, but I am hunting Northeastern Greenwood Twp and in Clyde Twp and I am still seeing deer and I saw deer in 2 of the 3 spots that I hunt every day I was out during bow season, the other spot there was plenty of sign but no deer until gun season when I took an 8 pt.

      • Mikekinyon

        Greenwood area is quite primo, would expect to still have good numbers there. My areas are in more developed areas than yours in Kimball and Columbus Twps. in addition to diverse food plots I have also put in quite extensive habitat management which really took off and were working great in 2008 n 2009…

  • Bishgrg

    I have owned hunting land for 10 years now in Saginaw county. This is by far the worst for me. I tried to blame it on everything from the standing corn, the fog and even the Tuesday opener. But at the end of the day the deer numbers are just not there. To many dead does.

  • Jim Lockwood

    I’ve hunted the same 96 acres in Clare county for over 15yrs and this year was miserable. I seen very few deer during bow and when gun opened I barely saw any. I do think they are there as I see them on my trail cameras at night, but still not as many as years past. Hunted 5 straight days over thanksgiving and didn’t see a deer! Doe permits need to be shut off for a few years, and let the herd get back to normal levels again.

    • poseman

      how about 5yrs.

  • Buckhunterbob

    Interesting article! Though I hunt in Area 486, and in ‘club country’ I’ve noticed a slight decrease each year (though we’ve NEVER had a TB deer on our 10M acres, never, ever!) and then this year I hunted as hard as ever, and saw less than 12 deer in 5 days of routine hunting, and no bucks. Our party of 12 hunters killed only one buck….So even up there the question remains, ‘what happened to the deer?’
    By comparison, I moved to our property in Ohio where only one buck is allowed for all seasons combined, and on 204 acres we now have a crippled 3, a 4,a 5, and seven 8 points or better, since start of archery 9/24. We still have another firearms weekend to go, plus muzzleloader in January and the balance of archery which this year runs thru February 5th.
    Ssoooo, the question is, Why the difference????? We have coyotes too in Ohio, and all the rest of the deer perils, ie cars and poachers, so, Whats the answer? One thing for sure; it all makes it hard to continue hunting Michigan!!!! buckhunterbob

  • Lwoll606

    I hunt in Livingston county on state land and have only seen 2 deer all year while hunting.I have seen the trend of deer moving to unhuntable private land and that has been the trend here for a couple of years.Baiting has slightly helped the situation but will yake time to recover what has been lost for the public land hunters.

  • huntsman

    We have always started our hunting seasons in lower Michigan and moved to the UP for the remainder of the season. Three years ago we stopped going to the UP because of lack of deer (wolves?) and concentrated on the lower only. Our group has noticed a definite decline in both numbers and maturity level of this herd also. These deer have been hunted from Sept. 1 through Dec. 31st–this, in combination with unlimited doe tags can only take a serious toll on the herd. Add to the equation that we heard more shooting from 4:00 to dark the night before the opener (sighting in-Ha ha!) than opening morning suggests a serious poaching problem. The neighbor had to put down a beautiful 10 pt. lying in his corn stubble that had three bullet wounds the day before the opener. There is plenty of pressure being placed on this herd from a variety of sources.

    • poseman

      the deer have a problem being attacked and eaten by wolves and fawns being eaten by black bears in the spring. I know this from a study i saw performed on tv in michigan.The coyote effect is more severe in the lower part of the state.We have a BIG problem with poaching in our state.Bigger than you can emagine. I have land in harrison would not believe what is going on there.Report all poaching! what a joke. The People dont report it because they do it too.You hear them talk about poaching all the time in the bar. Most say how they need the food to eat.WOW! Even the ones that have a nice house and drive a $40,000 pick-up truck. Yea right.Gatta blame dnr fore alot of that.The locals really take alot of deer on november 14th just before dark. Shows you the job dnr is gatting paid to do and dont………

  • Oceana hunter

    QDM!!! 6points or better for the entire state. Does should only be hunted before and after the rut.
    No doe November

    • poseman

      you are absolutely right! Glad to hear you say that. Problem with that is, great idea but to many brain dead hunters……………….

  • David S. Walenski,Sr.

    Used to hunt the Roscommon County area near where I live. But lately have moved on to better grounds in the Alpena area. Its a no bait area but my nephew owns 20 acres. I seen many deer but few bucks,one spike and a three point. I did shoot an aging huge doe bigger than the bucks I’d seen by far. That was enough for me and home I went. Roscommon county has to much clear cutting and wiping out all oak trees which is a deers staple food source. It takes 50+ years for a mature oak to produce nuts. Nothing left but pine trees and sand here in Central Michigan(Roscommon County) This year in St.Helen,Mi. it did produce some nice bucks but by the time rifle season came they were scarce because of other hunts and went nocturnal even with bait,your bait would be gone completely the next day. I also believe coyotes play a part in decreased herds. Roscommon County has had no doe kill permits in the last 3 or 4 years now on state land. I also believe food plots on private land create less sightings on public land in some areas. Also our Auto Insurance agencies had alot to do with the kill ratio of deer in the past because of their complaints of deer vehicle accidents. We certainly have an array of problems facing hunters that decrease our deer herds. What is the answer?

  • Nick_escobar

    i noticed how the article and many of the responses talked about checking trail cameras this year and made it sound like they stunk up their whole area before the season even started. what deer would come near your property if you are pacing around it frantically worrying about logging your numbers? it sounds like DNR needs to limit the doe tags and figure out how to reduce the coyote.

    • poseman

      i think dnr needs to be alot more educated before they give them a badge and a gun.They do not have there prorities straight.Its sad but true.And the coyote packs are tremendous.Between the little deer killers and the coyotes,they will not survive the winter.I have seen kids shoot very small deer during there youth hunt,(babies)then get praised buy there parents how proud they were that they shot a deer.Be for real? Now that is pure ignorance…..

  • Frank Galea

    I also noticed that most of the fawns this year were very small in size at the time of the rifle opener. I was wondering if they will be able to survive this winter.

    • poseman

      truth is, they wont………….coyote food

  • Jbhunterone

    I purchased my property in Ogemaw County in 1985 and saw 54 deer on opening day that year. Since then there has been a steady decrease every year and this year was the most pathetic it has been. I am totally NOT IMPRESSED with our DNR and strongly believe that they have promoted over hunting and the taking of too many deer to the almost elimination of the heard. I also believe it is largely due to insurance company and farmer pressure combined with good ole incompetence. They need to stop the BS with the baiting – allow it- it helps the deer survive the winter. They need to set minimum point limits on Bucks to allow them to grow with a 4 or 5 point min at least. Eliminate the endless number of doe permits that are available and consider a one buck limit for several years to help the buck population. And that is just a starting point!!

    • poseman

      we need to have a hunters meeting to discuss the problem.It is up to the hunters and not dnr dummies to keep the deer heard going.We the Hunters need to understand what is going on in michigan.We have to deal with animal rights groups and anti gun groups that will stop at nothing to keep us from hunting.What a wounderful thing for them.If there are no more deer we cannot kill them anymore. And if there are no more deer for us to hunt,there is no reason for us to have guns. Mark my word, this is the way they think.What happens when the deer are gone?Think very hard about it.Scarry isnt it?

  • Shadowhawk72

    I do not see the same thing, I took two bucks, a 9 pt on the 16th of Nov. 3 1/2 year old 180 lbs field dressed (Branch Co) and then a 2 1/2 year old 8 point on the 21st. (St Clair Co.) I will say that the 15th was a bummer but this has been the case in recent years when the temperatures in southern Mi have not been below freezing. I can tell you that during bow season I saw numbers similar to last year when I took a 12 point in St Clair County. Between the 1st of Oct and the 14th of Nov, I could have taken at least 10 bucks if I was into taking young deer, the same with does. Actually the 8 pt this year was a mistake on my part, I thought he was bigger and probably would not have shot if I would of had a few seconds as it was he almost ran me over. I think a lot of things have happened mainly the youth hunt and early doe being in September, the deer are already spooked before bow season even starts. The deer have changed their patterns and are coming out at dusk or later. On October 29th as it got dark I saw at least 60 deer come into the hayfield I was hunting next to in Branch County.

    • poseman

      why the world do we need an early doe season? you just dont get it. your not a real hunter, your a wannabe. And a youth hunt! One big joke.They need to take there butts out in the woods on november 15 like everyone else. They are not that damn special. way to many hunts.

    • Donald McChristian Jr.

      JJust curious…where in St. Clair county? Just general area like north of I-69…South of I-69…

  • Captdoug69

    I hunted up North and in Southern Michigan for 6 days straight and never saw a deer. Many fewer deer during bow season also. The DNR better get a handle on this or alot of dollars are at stake for the State as well as a heritage and right in this State. If there is crop damage the farmers should let people hunt. The Farm bureau and Insurance Companies have to much say where solid biology should prevale. Also the DNR should require deer to be checked in for better numbers on the herd size. Guesstimates is why we have the problems we do now. However you feel, alot is at stake for everyone, including the State.

  • Billsap

    i hunted one farm for 25 years passed 8 small buck opening day none i guess made it more than an hour after that. i bow hunt three months every day possible to harvest a mature buck each year this gets harder, due to the fact that almost all the young bucks with potrntial dont make it. why because the season is too long and too many of them.I hunt out of state every year ohio iowa missouri ill. indiana all have really great deer. in ohio the farm i hunt the farmer only wants three and a half year old bucks or older taken, works for me.every day i see at close range bucks miochigan hunters would love to see.the farmer encourages doe harvest if you want meat.thus is deer management the best of both worlds.if you take a buck under 120 inches and you wont be hunting there anymore. ive hunted over fifty years and admit that i used to shoot any deer to fill a tag years i just love to be in a tree and part of nature.every michigan hunter should take a week and hunt a state with great deer and then and only then you will understand how it could be.the thrill of seeing a world class deer will changee your whole attitude.i know a lot of michigan hunters who have found this to be a fact.wake up guys it took me too long to figure it out. we are the managers of the system, and can all live together.this could be turned around in a couple of years, harvest a doe the dnr is happy, let abuck grow im happy, and soon youll see why people hunt out of state.if you hunt long enough you will come to the same conclusion.

  • Young6029

    Ilike your article alot. I personally think that crop damage permits are the problem. they get permits to shoot deer on any property that they farm on. they don’t shoot on there property but they don’t let anybody hunt there either. they stat shooting in May when the fawns depend on there moms.
    thank you
    Dean Young

    • Cg2880

      Know fellow that ‘hunts’ deer on a farm near Hillman till middle of Feb couple years ago. Damage permits. I asked him-”will the owner let hunters on that land?” NO

      Those lands need to be posted ‘hunters welcome-apply at the house’ or no permits.

  • poseman

    I have hunted for years.I have seen and heard of drastic declines in deer numbers through out the state. Deer hunters have become very greedy and ignorant to some very real facts. If you shoot and kill a doe, how many fawns will it produce in the spring? Anyone? Do any of you brain dead hunters know? none idiot. thats 0. why dont you get it. If you shoot five does, how many deer are gone in the spring? about fifteen dummies. write it down on paper if you cannot figure it out in your head. So why would you want to kill 3,4,5 doe a day? And most of you still have venison in the freezer from last year. It is because you are not very smart or educated.We had a good thing going,and all you idiots ruined it. You cannot even dispute that either……………

    • Lap cnty

      Lapeer county was horrible, 3 hunters and we may have seen 10 deer since oct 1st. If your in areas where your not seeing a decrease i wouldnt say much more, you might find 30 other counties heading your way next year.

      So bad this year we joking refer to them as a real live deer not just something you might see in a magazine.

  • SWhunter

    My hunting spot is in SW Michigan. I didn’t have a problem seeing deer numbers, but as in other observation it was a lot of young does and button bucks, throw in a few spikes. We had obvious signs of larger bucks with many scrapes, but didn’t see them moving. In talking with many other hunters this year, they felt the warmer weather and a late corn harvest may have had some impacts to the “normal” deer movements. I’m not convinced that we need to reduce allowable tags for the hunt, but there may have been other variable affecting this year’s hunt. Just my opinion….

  • Gary Salmon

    It’s all in the numbers guys. DMU 486 has a quota of 500,000 tages. If 1/2 of those are issued and filled it represents 1,500,000 dead/missing deer the following year. And 4,500,000 the second year. Our deer herd can not survive this kind of harvest!

  • Kurick1

    I didn’t see the number of deer in the Hillman area during firearm season, but I believe weather and the moonphase played a huge part. Illegal baiting is another issue. I could literally walk to the blind each morning without a flashlight, the deer fed all night and bedded down for the day. When there was cloud cover at night, we saw a few deer the next morning. The thumb had all the usual tracks, and very little shooting (deer went nocturnal I think) .

    Indiana did it right at one point, they limited the number of does harvested PER PERSON based on the area/county they were taken in. Another point, with doe tags at $15 each up from the $7-$10 range they should be, poaching is rampant in some areas.

  • BellRiverRunner

    I was talking with my father about the lack of deer in Oscoda County. He has hunted here for many years he agrees that the DNR/Car Insurance Wing’s mission is to decimate the deer herd to lower the car accident ratio. Sounds far fetched to me but very plausible.

    But again my father also notes that highway M65 in NE Michigan is suicide alley for deer. This is because many of the farmers who live there refuse to allow access to their property and the hunting clubs that own large tracts of land off M65 also refuse to shot out the does. I myself almost ran over two deer on M65 around November 1st weekend.

    So the M65 area still has a huge deer herd that the DNR has no access or control over (so far).

    Lesson to all deer hunters is to refrain from using the 5 deer (does) a day pass that the DNR hopes we would use. Lets plant the seed now by avoiding this. In additionlets see if we can get some new responsible DNR leadership to oversee this sinking ship before it becomes a wreck.

  • toby15809

    You can not continue to have unlimited doe harvest and then wonder where your deer have gone to,We hunt in Mecosta County and have seen a drop in deer numbers every year, Everyone on our property would see at least 50 deer opening day 7 or 8 years ago then it became 10-20 noe have the hunters do not even see a deer opening day

  • Rf2092

    I’ve been saying this for the last 10 years, I hunt Ottawa and upper Lake counties and the deer numbers are not there. I average 70 a year in the woods hunting and the average deer sightings has been 20 – 25 deer a year and I hunt mainly private land, I also run game camera on the areas that we hunt and the same thing very few deer. Won’t be much linger and I’ll join the rest of my friends and forget Michigan and start hunting out of state…..Paul VanVelzen, Ottawa Co.

  • Mark-leggett

    I hunt Jackson county. Opening day I saw 3 different bucks all 1 1/2 years olds. No great racks just 4s and 1 small six. Also this is the second year I saw a one horner, different deer from last year different side. Hunted first three days and saw deer every day. Thursday saw 20 deer in one hour (all does) But starting Fri. they all pretty much disappeared. It was windy and I personally think the deer fed in cornfields all night and then just lay down in the closest hedgerow. Did jump one huge buck in a hedgerow 100 yards from the house. Jumped another nice 8 lying in the weeds and he let us get within 10 yards before he bolted. In southern Mi everybody just sits and if there is hunting pressure the deer just lay down and don’t move. Why should they? With every 10 acre parcel posted nobody is walking around moving the deer so after the first couple of days nobody sees any deer.
    They are still there just their usual habits change.

  • TP

    It is all about the money they issue that many doe permits because people buy them! I agree the early doe season and youth hunt has severely hurt archery season. The deer are being pressured much earlier. If they want does shot make the youth season doe only. How many young kids have shot a nice ten point buck in the youth hunt too many! I have bow hunted for 30 yrs and have never taken a buck as big as these kids get as their first deer. And yes I have a 11 year old son that youth hunts and he could care less if he shoots a buck or doe. This state needs to address these issues fast or it will continue to lose hunting dollars as fast as it is losing Michigan jobs! I hunt Newaygo county and the rifle season was the worst I have experienced since I started in the early 80′s!

    • Gerryg_rc

      I didn’t realize that those 10 pointers only belonged to adults.

  • Treehugger

    I live in rural Oakland County on 5 acres next to a 1300 acre county park. I have seen my deer numbers drop 90% over the last 5 yrs. The park has been “culling” I say killing the herd for the last 7 or 8. I think this is BS. and the problem in my area. However I am also an outside sales rep and travel the state every day and I can tell you the deer are gone. Feilds that have always had at least a couple to dozens of deer are now empty. The Plymouth Elks collects deer hides to make gloves for wounded veterns and they are down 60-70% from last yeasr and they say the guys ttell the same stroy just no deer to be seen. The buck poles around the state show that as well.Something is amiss

  • Flytyer100

    ‎Greater Mason-Manistee county area: I heard nowhere near the number of shots I have heard in the past. First day I may have heard a dozen. Second day I never heard a shot. Third day I heard three shots. I saw 28 deer in three days, but I am definately the exception in our group. Most of the people in our group saw 1 to 4 deer in the first two days of season, which is a little bit better than past years. However, numbers are still way lower than previous years, and I tagged the only buck in the group (a ten point on the third day).

    Some of my thoughts: 1) Some areas of the state, particularily south of a line from Muskegon to Saginaw, have higher numbers of does relative to bucks. There may be a need in these areas for large numbers of permits. 2) North of this line, there are some pockets of good doe numbers. Generally, there is a good buck to doe ratio in these areas, but numbers are lower. I believe that heavy fawn predation, especially from coyote and black bear, take a hell of a lot more fawn than is accounted for in the computer models. 3) The UP has extremely high predation (throw in wolves), relatively low food-minimal agriculture, severe winters, and they have the lowest deer numbers. With limited forestry activity and habitat improvement, many areas have become much more limited in carrying capacity for whitetail. 4) People have changed hunting practices, most of them stand hunt, many of them over bait. Deer hit the bait at night, and many people don’t see anything. People are afraid to still hunt or drive deer, especially early in the season, because someone else might shoot them. This may also explain, in part, the lower number of deer sightings. 5) Poaching is rampant. I have heard of two seperate individuals shooting four to five bucks each this season in the spike to six point range, plus numerous does.

    What changes should I make? a) Eliminate county based management units. Base management on ecosystem differences (example: coastal areas versus interior areas which have more farm habitat as an example) This may be one way to prevent does from being eliminated in areas with low numbers of deer. b) One buck tag rule. You can take the one buck with any weapon, but you only get one. If you have a second tag, make it a true trophy tag, 5 points or more on a side, or make one tag archery/muzzleloader, and the other firearm only. c) Make buck tags area specific. You have to pick an area and stay in that area. I view the current combination tag as the “mulligan” buck tag. This would prevent people from coming up north and blasting the first spike horn they see, and then going back home and killing another buck during the second half of the season. d) Increase opportunities for hunting private land, particularily with areas with large numbers of does. Increase hunting opportunities through more partnerships between land owners and hunters. e) The DNR should be out enforcing game laws, not ticketing ORV drivers for not wearing helmets or assisting state police with every issue that comes there way. We also need more mandatory check in of deer and more field biology work with an emphasis on habitat improvement for game species, and less computer generated models and plans made by armchair biologists in Lansing. Computers are a helpful tool, not a replacement for good field work! f)All Michigan hunters should hunt big game somewhere other than Michigan at least once. You would be amazed what other states are doing with there big game programs (1 to 3 buck doe ratios, mature deer-even with high predation, etc.). Our DNR should be visiting other states to get some pointers as well…

  • Dwinans

    That is the question all of us are asking. I hunt west of Clare and there normally are “lots” of deer, even if they are does but not this year. I also noticed that the number of hunters out on opening day was way down. Normally the state land is full of hunters and this year I could count the number of hunters I saw on one hand. WOW.

  • Appleknocker

    While someone planted the seed at a meeting, it is highly unlikely that bear are a major source of fawn deaths. In studies it has been proved that fawns are only vulnerable to bear for 7 to 10 days after birth. Also, talk to many bear hunters and they will tell you the bear numbers are really down especially in the UP. Coyote are a problem, but you have many people after them now with traps, calling and dogs. The coyote population is not increasing.
    I live in western Montcalm and saw a noticeable decrease in deer during the year not just in hunting season. The largest decrease was in bucks followed by fawns and then does. It should get someone’s attention that so many saw less deer especially with baiting now being legal in the lower. One would think it should be just the opposite based on all the baiting advocates.
    Hard to get a handle on the role of poaching compared to the deer herd. Guys maybe just BSing, but you do not have to be in a bar long before you hear all about the deer and turkeys shot from garage and truck windows. Some of this can be blamed on the economy but not much. This is BS about needing the meat and driving a $40K pickup like someone pointed out. Poaching and other violations are just a way of life for many and we do not have anywhere near the number of COs to control it.
    With this all being said, I also agree that farm permits are being abused; hunting season of over 90 days is way to excessive; doe permits are also excessive; we as hunters have been spoiled in the past and need to adjust; we can not all have it our way for successful resource management; hunters are just like politicans when it comes to compromising for the benefit of all and the future.

  • T Ezop

    Boils down to 3 things.
    Early youth hunt, baiting, & food plots.
    Too many taken during the youth hunt, and baiting & food plots make night for night feeding.

  • No Deer Here

    This year sucked, Period….I’m done waisting my time in Michigan. I was thinking it would change but nope it did not…My future hunting is in Ohio and all my family is going with me..I would rather spend Five days in Ohio seeing deer than another season of taking time off work just to see nothing.Stop shooting unlimited does and small bucks. A few does is fine but c-mon, early and late doe season, and people actually go out and shoot them. I have 45 acres in Gratiot county and 10 in the U.p. Marquette area, Up for sale as of now..Lots of Turkeys and small animals but no Deer…Any Takers…

  • Carl Schardt

    My observations in Wexford County is that the deer herd is finally starting to come back up. We had severe worm damage to the hardwoods in 2009 and the resulting lack of canopy allowed immense undergrowth on the forest floor providing great browse, that along with mild winters have rebounded the herd. As for southern Michigan where I live, the herd is not what it was 20 yrs. ago, but I have not noticed that much of a drop recently. I judge the herd by roadkills and on US127 from Jackson to Clare there were plenty of dead deer all summer and fall, which leads me to conclude it’s hunting pressure that has changed. It’s odd that this is the first year of baiting in several years and suddenly complaints of not seeing deer are abound. I have glassed deer bedded 100 yards from a bait pile not moving all day, just chewing their cud and no hunters moving them. With all the early seasons now, they are going nocturnal or feeding on bait piles at night and have no reason to move during daylight hours. Hunters are sitting in their blinds watching bait piles that are only being visited at night. My suggestions;
    If your going to bait, don’t put it out until you get in your blind in the morning. If you don’t see deer by the third day, move your blind instead of complaining. I hunt 95% public land and bag a buck 90% of the time, but I don’t bait and don’t hunt areas that are.
    Cut back on the early season gun seasons, if the DNR wants to sell more licenses, try reducing the non-resident prices. Does it make more sense to sell 10,000 at $138 or 100,000 at $60 ?
    Need a crop damage permit? Take down the “No Hunting” signs from your property and invite hunters in. At a minimum establish a database that will connect hunters with landowners who have too many deer.
    Get off your butts and “hunt”, every now and then use the old methods of still-hunting or stalking. Move the deer some. They are there, don’t expect them to always come to you. We have become a selfish lot, everyone wants the other guy to get up and move the deer, so no one moves and neither do the deer.

    • Flytyer100

      Carl- Great thoughts! I think baiting is the most overrated method there is! “Get off your butts and hunt” I couldn’t have said it better myself. Deer drives and still hunting are great methods that have fallen out of favor for no good reason.
      This brings up another factor-the Tuesday opener. Lots of people can’t get off work or out of school on this day. Lower number of hunters=less shooting and less movement=less deer? Does anyone know if there is any studies done on which day opener happens on, and how the pressure related to opening day success? I think sticking to the 15th of November opener may be causing lower harvests on some years, especially with Tue and Wed openers.

  • Bill

    I’m a deer hunter of over 45 years and I tend to agree with you. The property I have hunted in Hillsdale for the last 15 years have produced over 15 bucks for me of which well over that amount I have passed on. This year was different. Less deer and less bucks. I only had 2 small bucks that I passed on, one in the bow season and 1 on opening gun. In addition to the many other comments of which several have merit,could another be that over the last previous couple of years the peak of the rut was still in the gun season and the bucks didn’t have a chance to completely do their thing? Just a thought.
    bill from Monroe

  • Stdale

    This is not only happening in Southern Michigan, it’s been happening in Northern Michigan for a long time. The area where I hunt around Rose City, the DNR issued 7000 doe tags for private land, and I don’t know how many for State land. Can you see something wrong in this picture? I don’t think there are that many deer in that whole zone, let alone 7000 does.
    Any more,I don’t think I believe anything the DNR tells us. A few years back, we would take 3 or 4 nice reasonably mature bucks off the property where I hunt every year, but over the last few years we are not even seeing any bucks at all to even get a shot at. At this rate, it doesn’t even pay to go out and get a license to hunt. If the DNR, is trying to cut back on the number of HUNTERS, then I think they are doing a good job. But if they are trying to get more hunters in the field, they are failing miserably.

  • Danieltoddsmith

    I think that there is predators that are taking a lot of fawns. The coyotes,cougars, and possibly wolves are here and continue to take down the herd.

  • Flytyer100

    How many people ever see a DNR law enforcement officer during deer season? How many have been approached and had their license checked?

    How many people have seen DNR biologists/foresters in action doing surveys, studies, etc. related to game management? I have seen fishery surveys at the docks at the boat launch in the harbor, but that is it. I have seen game management and fisheries at conferences, but not in the field.

    Just curious….

  • Donald McChristian Jr.

    For those disappointed with the deer numbers send an email to the Michigan Regional Deer Advisory Team, (RDAT) AT and it will show up on this page for Southern Michigan and if your in the UP or NLP it will get put on the correct team page

    • Donald McChristian Jr.

      Bumping this please everyone send an email!

  • Normmorton

    Southern Oceana county was terrible this year also hunted forty of the fortysix days (early bow and regular firearm) putting in three to seven hours daily seen a grand total of 33 which is terrible not even 1 a day avg. Many local hunters are reporting the same no deer. Were checking southern state opportunities for next season.

  • PB

    Every decline in the deer population I have observed since 1975 was preceeded by an increase in antlerless permits.
    First on public land in Lake county followed by public land in Allegan county, private land in Lake county and private land in Allegan county. The deer do not ever seem to recover from over kill resulting from excessive antlerless permits. This year the deer estimate in Lake county is about 49 deer per square mile (according to the DNR) which anyone that lives, hunts or travels through Lake county knows is completely false. Saw no deer during gun season on private property in Lake county this season. Very few deer on my trail camera on this private property since April. Now where I hunt on private property in Allegan county the deer seem to be gone. My brother and I saw 3 deer during gun season all bucks. Have not seen any deer on this property during muzzleloading season. The farmers and car insurance company lobbies seem to winning the fight by lobbying to keep deer numbers down.

  • Macksralpho

    Great article-we hunt 40 crest in the thumb and are surrounded by another 160. All of us practice QDM but its not working. The DNR has got to start listening to those of us who spend the time and money. There are to many season back to back that aren’t needed. My self and my friends are looking into taking our time and money out of state and leasing land. Not something we want to do but tired of the bs management of the deer herd here in Michigan.

  • Macksralpho

    How do we get the DNR to answer these concerns and make changes?

  • Pingback: Michigan United Conservation Clubs » Deer say: Action needed on “Land Cap” bill!

  • CMC

    I hunt in the same area, just east of the county line off m-43. Same issue with the number of deer, especially with the fog on opening day. I also noticed a vast reduction in the number of shots heard. Over the next few days I saw deer about at the same rate as I normally would after opening day but I did notice a much different buck to doe ratio, 1 to 3, usually much more like 1 to 6. I also so very few fawns. Here is my own simple theory on the reason:

    1) Opening day was ruined by the fog. Hunters stayed home or went to work who normally hunt opening day as soon as they saw the fog. Fewer hunter means less pressure and the deer never were pushed like crazy like the are most opening days. Also, that big push never came so they stayed true to their normal patterns, thus we see fewer of them throughout the season.

    2) With liberal doe permits and hunters learning and practicing more QDM principles and theories, more does have been taken and the heard has balanced out more, explaining the buck doe ratio changing.

    3) Coyotes are killing fawns like crazy. I’ve seen feral dogs chase down does in the past, but I think growing coyote numbers are rising. I simply base this on anecdotal evidence I receive from local farmers and hunters alike and a few fills we’ve found on are farm last spring. I think coyotes are a HUGE problem all over Michigan in regards to our deer herd. I’ve never coyote hunted before…but this winter I’ll be trying it out.

    My three hopes for better future deer hunting include less liberal doe permits, killing coyotes, and as a dad I love the idea of the Saturday opener. Opening day is the best day to see deer and the best way to get future hunters excited…not to mention it allows more more opportunity for everyone and given where we hunt the more pressure the more deer movement the better.

    One last thought, I am shocked by how selfish some of my fellow hunters are in regards to the youth hunt. As I parent don;t our kids always come first? Or does that apply to everything but hunting? All I can figure is that they don’t have children or they have kids who don’t hunt. If my father or mother had an attitude like theirs, I might not want to hunt either.

    Having said all that I did take a nice 9 point buck and he was the smaller of the two bucks I saw on November 16th.

  • BellRiverRunner

    Some buddies and I in Oscoda County are gonna take up coyote hunting after the black powder deer season. I think we can make a difference in the deer herd for next season and beyond.

    I know we can’t blame the insurance industry because we don’t have any large highways to speak of. So I believe its a combo of coyotes and excessive doe permits.

  • BellRiverRunner

    Saw this today on Field and Stream website. A trail cam captured a mossbuck getting attacked and killed by two coyotes.
    Link is:

    So coyotes can make a difference in Michigan deer hunts!!!

    • CMC

      Disturbing to say the least. I think we gotta reduce coyote numbers. Thanks for sharing.

  • jco67

    I’m seeing plenty of deer here in Barry County……none while hunting, all in my car headlights on the way home. These deer have become totally nocturnal, and it’s no wonder. They have been extremely pressured since the 3rd week of September. We have more than 3 months of continuous deer season, and more hunters than most states. Shorter seasons with some type of break between would do wonders.

  • Jajace

    For the 1st time in my life I saw a 6 point buck (helathy as heck) on my trail cam one day …dead the next in kill zone of an attack that was 15 yards in circumferance . Coyotes killed a healthy 1.5 year old six point I have the photos and the rack


    TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. –
    Michigan wildlife officials say it appears that slightly more deer were killed in this year’s firearms hunting season than during the same period in 2010. The Department of Natural Resources said Friday that initial estimates suggest the harvest ranged from unchanged to 10 percent higher in the Upper Peninsula. The northern Lower Peninsula also appears to have had a roughly 10 percent increase.
    The take appears to have dropped by 5 to 10 percent in the southern Lower Peninsula.
    Preliminary estimates are based on field reports, license sales and activity at deer check stations. Final numbers will be tallied after a survey is conducted next year.
    The DNR says mild weather the past two winters may be causing the deer population to rise following prior declines

  • BellRiverRunner

    Oscoda County – did some pre-black powder scouting and found a neighbor (down-stater home owner) was using hundreds of pounds of bait on his property. Obviously the bait is long gone but noted the extreme number of deer blinds still up, and private property. I believe they (hunters) might be coming back for black powder hunting.

    So how do I know they were using bait piles? The number of deer tracks in that small area caused the grass to turn to now frozen mud. Hundreds of deer tracks were left on that mud plot of land.

    I have previously noted (in this column) the lack of deer in our neck of the woods. Could this be the primary reason why we are seeing so few deer?

    By the way, I still insist on playing by the rules of fair chase while others do not. I am now thinking that baiting for deer has gotten out of hand and should be eliminated state wide as the deer immediately go nocturnal after opening day. In fact, you might as well have a “FOUR DAY DEER GUN” season. If your not seeing any deer by the 5th day, you might as well go home. The season’s done as the deer have gone to the “dark side”. ;-)

  • Wgottleber

    I couldn’t agree more. St. Clair County is where I reside, and hunt. Personally I have noticed at least a 50% reduction over last year. The talk amoung hunters on the Eastern side of the state are all reporting the same. Frustration, is in the voices of all the hunters I talk to on a daily basis, and no one can figure it out. It is like the deer have all been scooped up and taken away. There has to be a logical reason for rt this, but at this time, no one has an answer.

    Wayne Gottleber

    • Donald McChristian Jr.

      Wayne…I hunt in St. Clair County to and agree 100%. It’s all the Doe Permits that have been available the past few years. Wiping out the deer cause all the mature Does get shot and none left to breed. Ive hunted over 60 days this year and saw about 15 deer and went weeks without even seeing a deer. I’m asking everyone to join me on my website so we can all get together and fight this. register and goto Bucks Bruins and Bulls and join me please!

  • Dave Syrocki

    I’m SICK OF THE DNR AND THEIR THIEF OF OUR MONEY and the destruction of our sport. I’ve have not shot a doe in three years and have asked my neighbors to do the same. because of the dnr has not slowed their act of complete elimination of deer. It is as if the dnr (gov.) are anti hunters and want to get rid of a reason to own a gun and enjoy using it. RULES THAT MUST BE ADOPTED NO EARLY OR LATE DOE SEASON.

    • BellRiverRunner

      Dave, I agree with you on all except the crossbows elimination. Alot of hunters have made substantial investment on crossbows and accessories (myself included). Deer taken by crossbow hunters (archery) are relatively small.

      But the number of pre-deer season hunting has gotten out of hand. If the DNR is not careful (huh, like have they ever) they’re gonna lose hunters who vote with their dollars. I would like to see a rotating panel (two yr terms) of citizen hunters on the DNR board to alert the hunters of any shenanigans from the DNR.

      If positive action is not taken, next up, the new outdoor sport for deer hunting in Michigan would poaching deer and not getting caught by the DNR.

      • BellRiverRunner

        Dave, I previously posted that the regular deer gun season s/b shorten to 5 days. I honestly maintain that position because the deer have gone nocturnal from all the other previous does hunting seasons going on.

        Why hunt beyond 5 days? I did and did not see a single deer the rest of the season. And I also played by the “rules of fair chase” (i.e. no hunting at night.

        On another previous post I should note also that I heard lots of shooting to the west of our property after 3pm until dark on November 14. I honestly thought they were sighting in their guns!!!

    • poseman

      very well stated…………

  • Rork

    I hunt public land in Jackson and Washtenaw. About as many deer as usual lately, and really I think it is still too many, despite having more coyotes – it’s damaging the land. For example: there is no such thing as a white cedar less than 15 years old here. This, and 120 other comments here are called anecdotes, while 2 contained data so far.
    Also, we use the bow season like crazy. So the gun folks will likely see many fewer, and those will be well-educated. Our deer may be getting “smarter” (shy, more nocturnal) generally.
    For a few hunters I think it is that the land has changed, for example places near the Osable that once had small evergreens with grasses are now 50 year old red pines (or whatever) and not a single other plant species in sight. It is a desert. Or folks with 40 acres of 40-year-old poplars wondering why they aren’t seeing deer – why would they come there?

    Maybe there really are too few deer some places, but there were certainly too many “up-north” in decades past, with the woods being decimated, the deer stunted, and hundreds of starved deer some springs when I’d go fishing or exploring. I never want to see deer at carrying capacity again, cause it is ghastly.

  • Dave Syrocki

    belle river I’ve just brought a crossbow myself because of torn retina and now have to shoot right handed , but now owning a c. b. that i have not hunted with yet, it seems like it will be a very profession tool . I just wanted to be fair and put the equipment that is the hardest to harvest a deer ( to the easiest ) which would re stick me too
    If we really wanted to have great bucks everyone vote on it and make it 3 points on one side
    making it a five day season would be great but that would stop a lot of hunters from hunting because of being young and not be able to get off work that week
    I was able to convince two of my buddies in caro not to shoot
    the doe’s that came in to our blind ,that we were all hunting from this past week end . yea possible 6 to 9 deer for next yr.
    we all have to stop talking about and write the dnr and demand that they set up web sight for us to vote.
    I know it will be hard for government to give up their power of manipulation of our sports, but wouldn’t it be grand to be able to trust our gov, officials again
    thank everyone for listening to my rants

    • Rork

      3 points on one side is a near-perfect high-grading formula where I hunt in southern michigan: All the better 1.5 year olds could be shot, so only the crappiest ones are protected. We could try for more buck escapement (I think that is the goal we can agree makes sense) with a 1 buck rule, hoping that the bigger bucks will breed more than the smaller ones. We will still be high-grading no doubt, but hopefully less so than with antler regs. The trouble with all these plans is people complying (enforcement sucks).
      Serious scientific management might mean that each property owner is given a certain number of doe and buck tags each year, depending on size of property and that year’s conditions, but that takes more expensive administration (we’d still need public land regs too). I’ve seen this in France for example, but I doubt we will ever get there. Too rational. Small land owners will fight it to the death, and they outnumber larger land owners.

      I think having hunters decide the regs is insane, and more importantly it is essentially impossible that it will ever happen, so talking about it is just wasting time. That “government” you are talking about is controlled by all the people, not just hunters. It’s called democracy. Folks with businesses in Roscommen or Mesick are far more impacted than the average hunter. Also, the average hunter knows not-so-much about the larger ecologic or genetic consequences of the regs, and will tend to want there to be more deer than the land can sustain. Why on earth would the people relinquish their power of protecting the hen house to the wolves?

  • Dave syrocki

    Rork , If the people find a rule that is ridiculous then the dnr will have a hard time enforcing. You talk about large property owners getting more permits, what about the guy that doesn’t own land, can state land hunters come and push the peoples deer off the large properties so can hunt them or will you let them hunt on your land .
    hunting, fishing, etc. license’s and equipment etc, buyers are the ones paying, Hikers , Bikers, Bird watchers cross-country
    skiers, people that cut firewood all don’t pay into our sports
    so why would i want their input but if they would like to buy a license and have vote ,Ok
    The gov. wants you to think it is impossible and you believe it or you would encourage the the through of voting ,show me a dnr sight where you can post your opinion directly to these thief’s .
    Scientific management for disease’s Ok not for herd size , what did the herd do before man , Mans greed had just about eliminated the herd , Dnr stepped in and stopped it, Now it is the other way around and we the people have to stop the greed of Dnr (gov.)
    Your last comment on hen-house and wolves i think is backwards.The dnr by way of scientific management is selling us down the road and apparently were to stupid to stop ourselves. we just keep walking up the ramp to be taken by the wolves .
    if we can’t get together on this ,when the deer are gone from state land everyone will be poaching on the large property owners lands or just quit hunting in mi.
    Bottom line the more deer seen equals happy hunters
    i don’t mean to be disrespectful and pick on you but it sounds like you work for the MAN !

  • David S. walenski

    I live in Roscommon County,we have an airport run by the DNRE on Robinson Lake Rd. It has several small runways and one big hanger and this year they decided to kill any deer on or near the run ways. It was publicized in our local paper with many disagreements from hunters and non-hunters alike. I never did see yet a report in how many deer were killed,how many does.fawns or bucks. Also all kills were supposed to go to feed the needy. Many individuals thought that other means could have been used rather than shooting them. A ten foot fencing,maybe a first low fly run over runways using horns or whistles to scare deer off and many other suggestions but DNRE approved the shooting instead,their claim was lower cost to them. So I guess more of the same next year and the next and next to reduce all deer in this local area.It seems the mindset of the dnre is; if your dumb enough to venture on runways your just dead meat,no alternatives are available other than shooting them. Its their profit bottom line cost saver. I never see more than one plane coming and going or sitting near the hanger at any one time. I really believe other ideas could have been tried like the first low fly by to scare deer off for incoming flights. For outgoing a drive through with a vehicle with lights and sirens ablazing would have worked very well to scare deer off. A very low cost idea. An airport that has low traffic and not many flights in or out. Better yet put the darn fence in and lay off the deer kill idea,we are running out of our resource as it is.

  • Dennis-c Collins

    We hunt in Ingham County and we also saw a huge decease in deer. Usually we have deer all over our area we hunt. This year the deer were down well over 50%. I blame it on this early doe season and the youth hunt where alot of fathers are shooting the big bucks and using their children to do so. This is just 2 seasons that should be stopped.
    The DNR needs to quit taking payments from insurance companies who want the deer car accidents down to save them money, so the DNR and giving them their wish.

    Dennis Collins

  • Sweetrelease1

    i dont think ill buy a license next year,might go to ohio i heard some good stories. i hate taking my money out of michigan but you got to do what you gotta do…..

  • Macksralph

    Has anyone seen the website with the DNR and MSU – Do these people even live in the same state? There is no way numbers are up from last year. Between the Duck Seasons and Deer Seasons and management being so messed up im close to being done with hunting in this state.

  • Yrral40

    I have wondered about the increase in the coyote population in southern Michigan. I really believe the increase in their expanded habitat means a loss of fawns.

  • toby

    we need to reduced the doe kill ,we can not give out unlimted doe permits ,we also need to go to 1 buck a year,most other states with much better hunting and less hunters than Michigan do this,finally we need a state wide antler restriction to let the 1 1/2 old bucks live.What i am saying is that our dnr needs a deer management plan ,not this policy of seeing how many deer we can kill each year

  • whatthecrud

    According to the state police annual report, car/deer accidents are only down 3 % from 2011 compared to 2010. The first year that there has been a drop in 5 years. Not to say that some areas have very low deer populations, but there sure is a lot of complants about DNR miss-management over only a 3 % drop. Could it be the weather, all the rain in the spring, and all the rain in the fall changing deer patterns; coupled with the deer baiting changing deer patterns.
    My Oscoda deer camp had a great rifle hunt, nothing was shot durring archery though. Prior years rifle hunt, we are happy with only 1 buck on the pole.

  • lynn

    Forgive me for saying anything offensive , im not a hunter but for the last 2 years ive seen large amounts of deer moving south to north at least thats the direction theyre moving in early mornings . My hour long commute has confirmed this time and again almost daily at times. Does anyone know why the sudden increase in coyotes ? I hear not one or two but many in the just past dusk into night hours lately. Same last year. Several newborn calves lost last year as well . Oceana county mi. And no search or access to info is available online. Why ? Just asking .Thanks .

  • obrienj

    Its that disease that bothers deer I think its td or something. I hunt in eaton county and there is deer laying dead all a long creeks and other water sources. my grandpas a farmer and has talked to lost of others who can smell dead deer when ever they drive by water

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