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Deer season outlook similar to 2018

Jordan Beck | Daily Press Michigan Department of Natural Resources Escanaba Customer Service Center Wildlife Biologist Karen Sexton prepares to age a deer head submitted for chronic wasting disease testing.

ESCANABA — Michigan’s 2019 regular firearm deer season is set to begin next month. Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Escanaba Customer Service Center Wildlife Biologist Karen Sexton said the DNR is not expecting the size of the local deer population to be dramatically different from the past few years.

“In general, we’re expecting a similar season to the 2018 season and 2017 season,” she said.

Sexton said roughly 30,500 bucks were harvested across the Upper Peninsula in 2018, which was similar to numbers seen in 2017.

Deer population levels are not expected to be uniform across the peninsula.

“For some areas in the U.P., there was likely a lower faun recruitment,” Sexton said.

This is largely due to the deep snow levels seen in some parts of the region during the winter of 2018-19.

These issues should not impact the south central U.P.

“We’re still likely to see high deer numbers,” Sexton said.

Michigan’s regular firearm deer season will not start until Nov. 15. Based on early anecdotal evidence, however, things are looking good for the south central U.P.’s deer population.

“Archery season opened Oct. 1, and we have already started registering deer at the Escanaba Customer Service Center — we’ve seen some nice bucks come in already,” Sexton said.

According to a DNR press release, a doe killed in Dickinson County’s Waucedah Township on an agricultural farm about four miles from the Michigan-Wisconsin border tested positive for CWD in 2018. This was the first confirmed case of the fatal nervous system disease in the U.P., and no additional cases have been confirmed in the peninsula.

“We’ve still only had that one positive deer,” Sexton said.

As the DNR continues its efforts to understand the extent and distribution of CWD in the U.P., some regulation changes specific to its core CWD surveillance area are being introduced for 2019. These include a ban on baiting and feeding — with an exception for hunters with disabilities who meet certain requirements, who are able to use bait during the Liberty and Independence Hunts — and a lack of antler point restrictions on deer licenses and deer combo licenses. Hunters in the core area can also harvest antlerless deer in the archery season with deer licenses and deer combo licenses and use crossbows during the late archery season.

Last year, hunters — particularly those in the core CWD surveillance area — were asked to donate the heads of deer they had harvested for CWD testing. Sexton noted the DNR had a “fantastic response” to this request, and more than 800 heads were submitted from deer harvested in the core area.

The DNR is aiming to increase the number of deer heads from the core area submitted for testing in 2019.

“Within the core surveillance area, we have a goal to test around 2,600 deer, and we’re hopeful that hunters will cooperate and submit deer heads for testing,” Sexton said.

So far, roughly 150 deer heads have been submitted from the core area for testing this year. Sexton said many of these heads were from deer harvested on deer damage shooting permits, which are distributed to farmers.

“That allows them to take deer that are doing damage to their crops,” she said.

Antlerless tags have been made available at some DMUs — including DMUs 022, 055, 121, 122, 155 and 255 — for the 2019 archery and firearm deer seasons. A larger number of antlerless tags are being issued this year compared to 2018, Sexton said.

As of Oct. 9, Sexton noted some of these DMUs still had antlerless tags available. Hunters are encouraged to contact their local DNR office or visit michigan.gov/dnr for more information.

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