ST. IGNACE, Mich. (AP) — State wildlife officials, responding to a declining number of deer in the Upper Peninsula due to harsh winters, have drawn up a list of options, including a ban on deer hunting in that region in the fall.
But officials emphasize that canceling the season would be an extreme choice and probably an unlikely one. The Natural Resources Commission will listen to staff at a May 7 meeting, although no decision will be made at that time.
“They're not recommendations at all. It's just opening up a dialogue. … I hope it's something that they don't pursue,” said Chad Stewart, deer management specialist at the Department of Natural Resources.
Canceling the deer season in the Upper Peninsula “would be pretty incredible,” he said Friday.
In December, state biologists estimated that the deer kill last season was down as much as 40 percent across the Upper Peninsula. Some places had 40 inches of snow by mid-November, and recent winters have been extreme.
Stewart said the number of deer killed in the U.P. last year was one of the lowest in 30 years. Other options for the DNR could be restricting the killing of does and limiting hunters to just one buck.
Closing the U.P. hunt would be a blow to tradition and culture.
Hunting gives a big lift to the economy north of the Mackinac Bridge. Some young hunters skip school on Nov. 15, opening day. A character in the 2001 comedy about Michigan hunters, “Escanaba in Da Moonlight,” says opening day is “like Christmas with guns.”
Closing the season “would be a huge impact,” St. Ignace Visitors Bureau President James Dekeyser told WPBN-WTOM TV. “All the people that have camps and come up and buy groceries, eating in the restaurants. … They have a lot of small communities and there'd be a lot of hurt on all those small communities.”