The state’s deer season is already underway, with the archery opener on Oct. 1 statewide. The November 15, firearms season is expected to draw another 600,000 hunters to the woods as well. But Michigan Farm Bureau Legislative Counsel Andrew Vermeesch advises would-be hunters to spend some time before-hand understanding how the rules have changed for 2018, particularly in regards to Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD).
Case-in point? Establishment of a CWD Management Zone that now allows for all legal firearms to be used in Muzzleloader season within the management zone.
“Hunting is not only a time-honored tradition in Michigan but our primary tool for addressing issues like overpopulations, reducing conflict such as crop depredation, and decreasing the risk of transmitting diseases such as CWD or bovine TB,” Vermeesch said. “It’s important that all hunters are aware of the new regulatory changes going into effect this year and understand the important role they play in helping our state agencies manage a healthy deer herd.”
Overall, the statewide prospects are good, according to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Upper Peninsula deer numbers have rebounded thanks to moderate winters, the northern Lower Peninsula population remains steady and southern Michigan should again lead the state in total deer taken.
The tale of the season, however, according to Vermeesch, will be that of significant regulation changes in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, a result of the Natural Resources Commission’s response to Chronic Wasting Disease, which has been confirmed with positive tests from six counties (Clinton, Ingham, Ionia, Jackson, Kent and Montcalm), and now most recently, a deer taken in mid-October in Dickinson County tested positive with CWD and marking the first confirmation in the Upper Peninsula.
In an attempt to combat CWD, the NRC has implemented a number of regulation changes that impact both the CWD core area and the CWD Management Zone. In the Management Zone (Calhoun, Clinton, Eaton, Gratiot, Hillsdale, Ingham, Ionia, Isabella, Jackson, Kent, Mecosta, Montcalm, Muskegon, Newaygo, Ottawa, and Shiawassee counties), antlerless licenses are discounted 40 percent (but that license will expire on Nov. 4) and hunters can buy up to 10 antlerless licenses for private land use.
“In the Upper Peninsula’s Dickinson County, the Department of Natural Resources has set up a 10- mile core area while reviewing Michigan’s CWD Surveillance and Response Plan with efforts to better understand the outreach this disease has in the Upper Peninsula,” Vermeesch said.
Carcass transport regulations are also in place. Any deer taken in the CWD Management Zone cannot be transported outside of the area unless it has been completely deboned or the head was taken to a designated testing location within 24 hours. A carcass may be transported into the CWD core area without restriction.
“The same transportation regulations apply within the core zone except any deer taken in the CWD core zone must either be fully deboned or presented to a test location before transport out of the core area, including into the CWD Management Zone,” Vermeesch explained.
As part of its CWD response plan, the NRC also placed an immediate ban on baiting and feeding in the CWD Management Zone and that ban will expand across the entire Lower Peninsula in 2019.
A ban on all natural cervid urine-based lures and attractants was also implemented, though hunters may still use urine-based lures that are approved by the Archery Trade Association (who certifies facilities as being disease-free).
On the TB front, the prevalence rate in core TB zone of DMU 452 (located in the northeast Lower Peninsula), increased from 1.0 percent in 2015 to 2.7 percent in 2017, the highest since 1998.
In the management area of DMU 487 (those counties surrounding the core area of DMU 452), prevalence rates ticked up from .3 to .6 percent.
“Hunters are still strongly encouraged to bring any harvested deer to a DNR check station,” Vermeesch advised. “The data collected there will help better track prevalence rates of the disease and help identify any possible correlation with the spread of the disease in livestock herds.”
Three infected cattle herds were identified in 2017; one each in Alcona, Newaygo and Lake counties, according to Vermeesch, with one positive tested herd in 2018 in Alcona, marking the 73rd cattle herd to be identified with bovine TB in Michigan since 1998.
While many Michigan farmers and their extended family members are avid deer hunters themselves, Vermeesch encourages landowners to work with deer hunters in granting access to parcels that may not have already been spoken for.
“In an effort to bring the white-tail population numbers down to healthier levels, we encourage farmers to work with interested hunters in granting them access,” Vermeesch said. “If landowners are looking to lease out their land, Michigan Farm Bureau has created a sample hunting lease agreement to help assist in the process.”
Farmer and hunters alike can learn more about lease agreements, and download a templated Hunting Lease Agreement from the Michigan Farm Bureau website.