2016-12-08 / Views

Time to re-evaluate special deer seasons

our opinion

With three hunting seasons still underway or about to begin, it seems a good time to discuss what we’ve heard about the deer hunt in Leelanau County.

Already ended are the early antlerless firearms season; youth season; early archery season, which now features crossbows as the weapons of choice; and the 15-day firearms season — the granddaddy of them all — which ended on Nov. 30.

Underway today are muzzleloader, late archery and tribal deer seasons. Still to come is the late antlerless season for firearms, which runs Dec. 19 through Jan. 1.

Whew. Did we miss any?

Yes, Michigan provides its share of opportunities to harvest deer.

Now on to the success rate encountered by hunters.

Those who shot bucks believe the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is doing an outstanding job of managing the herd.

Those who didn’t are much less enthused.

Orchardists say the herd is down a bit but still too high. Hunters wonder aloud what happened to the population, saying they’ve observed few deer while lamenting over a lack of does out there and what that means for the future of their sport.

Stop us if you’ve heard this before. About this time of year, it seems there are more opinions about deer than deer themselves.

But there does seem to be a general theme, that the herd is down. We know of practiced hunters who have not seen a deer, buck or doe.

Yes, Leelanau County is producing big bucks, if that’s your preference. But for most hunters, there hasn’t been a lot of deer to choose from.

As debate begins on whether to continue holding early and late antlerless firearms seasons, we suggest caution. The thought was to evaluate expanded antlerless season outcomes after their third year, which is ending. The seasons were begun with the goal of reducing the overall deer herd. That’s been accomplished.

There was a time when “doe” tags could be used on private or public lands, and over a large geographic area. Such a process aligns with state law that reserves ownership of wild game to all the people.

Deer hunting was managed as such.

But the common ownership concept has lost ground through the years. More and more, private landowners are provided antlerless tags as requested, granting individuals with authority to reduce “their” herd to very few if any animals.

Early and late antlerless seasons magnify the power held by individual property owners over what state law deems as wild game owned by every citizen of the state.

We’d like to see the scale tipped back a notch or two.

Ending the special antlerless seasons for firearms would be a start. All hunters — including landowners — would still have a half dozen or so seasons to fill tags.

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