sarah mcandrews bow buckI just saw this new online petition that will be delivered to the Michigan DNR and it got me to thinking:

Limit buck kill to one per year, end all special seasons…begin hunting with Archery October 1st…change Gun Season to 3 day hunt starting on first Friday in December annually…

To put an end, once and for all, to the gross mismanagement of the deer herd in the name of revenues. Too many immature bucks and too many does are harvested annually because of overzealous resource commissioners making laws with revenues in the forefront, manipulation of herd numbers to reach financial goals, and to pander to the insurance lobby. The creation of youth seasons, no age-limit hunting, liberal crossbow rules and endless doe tags are the catalysts to the issue.

Michigan has the tools and raw materials to create a mature buck paradise while increasing hunter satisfaction without emptying hunters’ freezers. If you care about deer hunting in Michigan, you should support these changes.

When I saw the petition it was just posted and had only 233 supporters. But for years a growing number of Michigan hunters have been disenchanted with the way the DNR is managing the state’s deer herd. This has been simmering awhile; we’ll see how many signatures the petition gets, and how large the movement grows.

I neither live nor hunt in Michigan, though one day I hope to (hunt that is, not live, too cold). But I have hunted in many states with lots of varying management practices and laws, so I feel compelled and competent to toss in my two cents.

First, I can’t say whether limiting the kill to one buck per year per hunter is right for Michigan, but no doubt it has helped protect immature bucks and increase the age-structure of bucks in states like Kansas and Minnesota (many zones). No denying that.

I love gun hunting in the rut, but again there is no denying that moving the firearms season back to December and shortening it (i.e. Iowa, Kansas, Wisconsin) would save a lot of rut-wild bucks, both immature and mature, in any state. But 3 days is too short and not practical. A week in December maybe, but I can’t imagine any state with only 3 days of gun hunting to get your buck.  

Have hunters been shooting too many does in Michigan? That is something that needs to be looked at. As I have pointed out here on BIG DEER before, many states in the Midwest and elsewhere need to re-evaluate the number of does tags issued. The good old days of hunters shooting 5 or more does a season are gone, or should be, until we re-evaluate our management goals and rebuild our whitetail herds.

Now to some things I do not like in that petition. First off, it’s short-sighted and greedy to imply that Michigan (or any state) should not hold a short youth-only deer season each fall. To the contrary, special youth seasons are a must because we constantly need to recruit kids into our ranks. Moreover, if a boy or girl shoots a spike or 4-point for his or her first buck, great! We should be happy for those kids, not grumbling that they are taking a potential shooter buck out of the pool.

And the implication that allowing the crossbow in archery season is somehow impacting the deer herd is old news and a red herring. I have been following and writing about the crossbow debate for more than a decade; study after study (including this one from Michigan) shows that liberalized crossbow usage has not impacted the deer herd or harvest, but in fact has gone a long way to keeping older bowhunters in the woods and active.

In summary, this petition raises some legit points. Whether or not Michigan, or any state for that matter, should go to a one-buck rule and restrict the number of doe tags issued is a good and healthy discussion that we need to have in the whitetail world these days. But I must say to the petitioners that using terms like “overzealous commissioners” and “pandering to the insurance lobby” does your cause no good. To the contrary, the contentiousness it creates poisons the well and weakens your arguments.

What do you think, not only about in Michigan but where you hunt? To improve the age-structure of the bucks in your region and in theory increase your chances of seeing a 4-year-old with a big rack, would you support one-buck a year only (you could shoot him in either archery season or gun season, but just one total)?