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Deer hunters now required to report deer kills online

Lester Graham
Michigan Radio
Like the mailed survey, the online survey will ask if the deer had antlers or not. The online survey will then go on to ask about the antlerless deer. Was it an adult doe, a button buck, a spike buck or an adult buck that has already shed its antlers for the year?

Starting this year, hunters in Michigan will be required to report killing a deer within 72 hours.

In the past, the Department of Natural Resources mailed surveys to about ten percent of the deer hunters to get an idea of the number of deer harvested, the kind of deer, and in what county.

“In 2000, we would easily see over [a] 70% response rate for those surveys. Just recently, we were well under 40%. So it's been a steady decline over the past 20 years,” said Chad Stewart, deer management specialist for the DNR.

He added sometimes the final results from those mailed-in surveys aren’t available until June or July.

That makes it nearly impossible to make estimates about the deer population and set proper limits the next hunting season.

The Natural Resources Commission, which regulates fishing and hunting in the state and establishes the hunting season, decided to make reporting a deer kill a requirement that has to be done online fairly quickly.

“Now, with this online harvest reporting piece, hunters are going to be required to report their harvest within 72 hours. So we'll really have almost an immediate idea of how the harvest is tracking throughout the season.”

The online survey will also go into more depth. It will ask hunters about the type of deer; pinpoint on a map where the deer was killed; report whether it was taken by shotgun, a crossbow, a traditional bow, and so on.

Stewart said this kind of data will give conservation officials a much better picture of what the Michigan deer herd looks like. That will allow them to manage the hunting seasons more precisely.

He added it should only take about five minutes to fill out the online survey.

“Most of the other states in the Midwest, if not all of them, have already gone to some sort of mandatory harvest requirement for hunters,” he said.

Not everybody is thrilled with the misdemeanor penalty for not reporting. As the Detroit News first reported, some legislators want those penalties reduced to civil infractions instead of a misdemeanor.

Stewart said the state is opting for education over enforcement this year. Hunters won’t be penalized for not reporting or being late to report their deer harvest.

The Legislature will have time to make changes to the penalties by the next deer season if lawmakers choose to do so.

Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report. He has reported on public policy, politics, and issues regarding race and gender inequity. He was previously with The Environment Report at Michigan Radio from 1998-2010.
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