Michigan has an estimated 1.7 million whitetails within its borders, and, despite a few disease issues, the herd seems to be growing.

“Across most our northern regions–both the Upper Peninsula and the Northern Lower Peninsula–deer numbers have been on the rise over the past several years,” said Brent Rudolph, deer and elk program leader for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

See the report for your state’s 2012 deer season.

“That growth is largely the result of three mild to average winters in a row, combined with conservative hunting regulations in those areas where the Department has desired an increase.” He continues, “In the Southern Lower Peninsula, we have had liberal regulations due to a desire to reduce deer numbers to address impacts like crop damage and deer-vehicle collisions, as well as concerns of potential quick establishment and spread if any deer diseases emerge in the region.”

Any “new” deer diseases, that is, as Michigan already has some health issues it’s trying to combat.

“In the southwest corner of the state, deer numbers in a number of localized areas have been reduced by outbreaks of Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) two summers in a row, particularly in Cass and St. Joseph Counties,” Rudolph said. “Deer numbers should recover in these areas if we can have an EHD-free year this summer. EHD used to occur only intermittently in Michigan, but outbreaks have been documented in one or more Michigan counties in five out of the previous six years.”

In fact, just a few weeks after Outdoor Life contacted Rudolph, EHD was confirmed as the cause of death in deer found in eastern Ionia County and northern Branch County Prior to 2006, EHD outbreaks in Michigan occurred in 1955 and 1974. The estimated mortality has varied from 50 to 1,000 deer per year in the affected areas.

Michigan was much drier than normal this spring and summer. Rudolph has some concerns about the weather’s impact on deer forage.

“Agricultural crops are struggling with high temperatures and low rainfall. Soft mast production is also poor, as fruit trees came out of dormancy very early during an unusually hot period in early spring, and then were impacted when temperatures later fell. Berry production has been average to poor due to hot, dry conditions.”

Still, with 1.7 million deer, Michigan hunters should have many chances to fill their tags this season.

The Midwestern Regional Report
Winter in the Midwest was mild to nonexistent, and deer herds came into spring in very good shape. However, drought could be an issue in some states. “Hard and soft mast crops will likely be compromised, and clover and row crop production is threatened by dry conditions,” says Iowa deer biologist Tom Litchfield. In parts of Indiana and Illinois, some farmers were forced to plow under failing corn or chop it up for cattle feed in midsummer. Deer numbers are stable to growing in most locales, though disease is taking a toll in several states. North Dakota is still reeling from last year’s EHD outbreak, CWD is spreading within Illinois and Wisconsin, bovine tuberculosis is still a concern in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, and Nebraska and Missouri experienced EHD outbreaks this summer.
Top Trophy Zones**
IL: Pike, Adams, Brown, and Fulton counties.
KS: Units 11, 12, and 16.
KY: Christian, Grayson, Hardin, Hart, Muhlenberg, and Ohio counties.
MI: Calhoun, Cass, Jackson, and Washtenaw counties.
MN: Zone 3. This fall will be the third year of antler-point restrictions here.
MO: Saline, Putnam, Calloway, Chariton, and Cooper counties.
NE: Since 2005, hunters have taken 44 record-book mule deer bucks in Cherry County, including a 171 2⁄8 typical in 2010 and a 210 4⁄8 non-typical in 2005.
OH: Muskingum County.
WI: Buffalo, Trempealeau, and Waupaca counties. Between 2005 and 2010, the Dairy State led all other states with 383 Boone and Crockett entries.