- Warm winters, High summer nutrition, Fewer hunters = TOO MANY DEER
- Do we need DNR to consider additional expanded seasons?
- Farmers need help, Home Owners have property damage and deer disease concerns (Lyme, CWD, etc.)
By Bob Holzhei
Within a one-mile radius of our farm in Clinton County, MI, I counted over 40 deer. They were traveling in two different herds on our property, woodlot and an adjoining property.
This population of deer was much higher than in previous years, increasing by about four times what I had witnessed in the past.
What factors accounted for the high numbers? A mild winter this past season was possibly one factor. The immediate question is, do the high deer numbers have consequences as apparent overpopulation occurs?
“Overpopulation is more deer than the habitat can support. This numbers growth occurs simply by having survival exceed mortality. We may be witnessing the survival theory that may have occurred for a more prolonged period of time than thought. “The distribution of deer can vary throughout the year,” according to Chad Stewart, a Biologist and Deer/Elk Population Specialist with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
“During the spring-time is when deer are clustered on the landscape, primarily around food sources. As green-up occurs, deer numbers redistribute themselves to more normal levels, and the concentration of deer in large numbers is likely to diminish,” added Stewart.
One way of looking at it might be that a reduction in hunter numbers means an increase in safe spaces for deer to evade hunters. Add high summer nutrition to high winter survival rates and mild winters, we might expect the trend to continue. For farmers, I am a farmer, crop damage occurs when deer numbers are high. The field edges are hit hard, but damage can extend into field centers as the deer numbers increase.
“Clinton County, MI, has seen increasing trends in populations over the past 6-8 years,” stated Stewart. “Research has shown that about 20 deer per square mile is the threshold for detecting deer damage to forests. Keeping deer numbers below that threshold is ideal for forestry management.”
“The Michigan DNR, in an effort to manage deer numbers, has liberalized the license structure by offering more flexibility for hunters to take antlerless deer with a combination license during the firearms and muzzleloader season. The antlerless licenses are also transferrable between counties and properties. A late antlerless season has also been extended in southern Michigan,” concluded Stewart.
If you enjoy healthy, high-protein venison steaks and burgers, this coming season could be a very special time for you and your family. AND, you could be helping the farmers with your harvest.
About the author: Bob Holzhei is a published author with more than 450 published outdoor adventure stories from across the United States. He has authored four books, including Canadian Fly-In Fishing Adventure, Alaskan Spirit Journey, The Mountains Shall Depart and The Hills Shall Be Removed. The latter was nominated for Pulitzer Prize consideration. His books are available at Amazon.