When Michigan’s firearm season opened last weekend, somewhere around 700,000 deer hunters were expected to hit the woods, draped in blaze orange and toting their favorite shotgun, muzzleloader, or rifle. For avid bowhunters across the state, this orange invasion usually spells disaster for the remainder of the year: Most remaining bucks are killed, or pressured so heavily that they become nocturnal. This used to be the case for me too, until I turned my best Michigan property into a “gun season sanctuary.”
When November 15 rolls around, I vacate my prime property and don’t typically return again until after the firearm season is done and the local gun hunters are back home for the year. This means that this property essentially becomes a completely human-free haven amid other properties being bombarded with heavy gun-hunting pressure.
The result is that large numbers of deer flock to my section, as it’s one of their only safe areas for retreat. Once those deer get to my property, they conveniently notice the abundant winter food sources and high-quality bedding cover that I worked to establish all spring and summer. With such great amenities, many of these deer tend to stick around.
So, when I return to the property in December, it holds more deer than it previously did. Plus, the sanctuary allows more young bucks survive the firearm season and make it through to another year. In other words, my gun season sanctuary improves the deer herd for the long term while rescuing my late-season hunting in the short-term. Disaster averted.