Deer harvest results are trickling in from around the country and concern is growing. Here are a couple of snapshots.
Wisconsin: “The lowest deer harvest in 30 years.”
Minnesota: Down 23%
Illinois: Down 7% from last year at this time and down 28% from 2012
Michigan (DNR): “Hunters are seeing less deer.”
Ohio (DNR): “The harvest will likely be lower.”
These are just a few of the early indications of another year of declining deer numbers and harvest rates.
The results are far from complete. Some states (Missouri and Louisiana for example) will surely be up, but don’t be fooled by a little light at the end of the tunnel. Let’s see what happens in places such as Pennsylvania, Texas, and other southern states which typically have long seasons. However, when traditional whitetail strongholds are trending down, it’s time to start checking the canary in the coal mine.
The causes offered up by officials are many and varied including recent severe winters, disease, tough hunting conditions, intentional herd reduction, and fewer doe tags. Seldom do you hear anything about habitat and hunter-access loss, declining hunter interest, and mismanagement of the habitat and the deer herd, but it’s talked about plenty in deer stakeholder circles. In fact, last year’s QDMA Deer Summit identified many of these factors as threats to the future of deer hunting. Whatever the cause, the handwriting is on the wall—we can no longer take deer hunting for granted. Hunters are beginning to get more than a little upset.
“I will be the first to say that this year’s level of ‘suck’ has only been rivaled by last year’s,” a Wisconsin hunter told me. “Since I started hunting at age 12 (30 seasons ago), I can say that I have never seen a more pathetic rifle season. Last year I sat 60 hours on stand. This year I sat 66 hours and not only did I not see a buck, but I didn’t see a deer.”
This is pretty strong stuff. I happen to know this hunter personally and he is not prone to hyperbole. He makes his living in the hunting industry, owns a piece of ground, does some habitat work, and knows a good deal about deer management. He shared his feelings simply in an attempt to get something done—anything. I wonder how long we can expect this guy (and hundreds of thousands like him) to hang in there if we continue to sit on our respective deer hunting hands and do nothing.
Deer hunters are beginning to realize that everything isn’t as it should be in the deer world. In some areas, deer and deer hunting are in real trouble. Deer hunters want to be heard and they want to help solve the problems deer are facing. That’s why the National Deer Alliance was formed. The goal of the NDA, which I am the director of, is to unify deer hunters and bring policy makers and hunters together to help the myriad of problems facing deer and deer hunting today. Hunters and policy makers working together is the only way anything productive will get done.
If you care about deer and deer hunting join now at www.nationaldeeralliance.com, it’s easy and it’s FREE.