Slow Start to Deer Hunting Season Still Lures Michigan Hunters

Michigan’s firearm deer hunting season is officially in full swing, but the deer themselves seem to have gotten wind of the notice, too. Sightings and official tag counts from the state’s Department of Natural Resources were down in the opening days of the season.

By mid-afternoon on the season’s opening day last week, the DNR check station in Gladwin had processed around 50 deer, down from last year’s count of 82 around the same time.

“It’s always been good,” said Don Slanec, a Clinton Township resident who’s hunted on private land in Clare County for more than 40 years. But he called the November 15 morning “fairly quiet” until he finally spotted and shot a nine-point buck around noon.

The Michigan DNR estimates that local hunters will spend an average of seven days in the field during firearm deer hunting season, which lasts only until the end of November. That’s roughly one-third of the average 21 days hunters dedicate to the sport per year, for a combined total of 282 million days annually. The firearm season will be followed by special archery, muzzle-loaded, and antlerless hunt seasons in December.

That all adds up to good business for the state. “In Michigan alone, it actually generates $2.3 billion in terms of an economic impact, that includes food and lodging — and then actually $1.3 million is spent on equipment,” said Michigan DNR deer program biologist Ashley Autenrieth.

Despite the light start, DNR Conservation Officer Joel Lundberg said that the season appeared on track with previous results. An estimated 550,000 hunters will be taking to the fields at some point during the 16-day season.

“We’re seeing a good turnout of hunters,” Lundberg said.

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