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Hunting season revisions proposed for explosive deer population

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(The Center Square) – For multiple years, the deer population in southern Michigan has been out of control.

Cars and crops have suffered alike from a deer surplus, but local conservationists say relaxed hunting regulations could solve the issue.

Last year alone, deer were involved in 58,000 car wrecks, killing 19 people. Herds cause millions in crop damage per year. The problem is only exacerbated by declining hunting rates, which were down by 10% last year according to the state Department of Natural Resources.

But now, state officials are offering a solution, one which will be voted on Thursday.

The Department of Natural Resources formed a Deer Management Initiative in response to residents’ concerns, which would reduce certain regulations as a response to declining hunting rates. The recommendations are divided by the upper and lower peninsulas due population differences.

“If people would have started … harvesting more deer than they typically do, we wouldn’t be in this situation with its reaching almost a critical level of overpopulation,” department wildlife biologist Chad Fedewa said.

In the lower peninsula, officials are looking to reinstate baiting, expand late season urban archery, expand antlerless seasons on public land, restore traditional muzzleloader season and expand the Hunter Access Program. The combination license would be changed to allow for one deer of either sex, and one additional antlerless deer.

In the upper peninsula, officials would reinstate coyote season year-round, allow antlerless deer to be hunted with archery equipment only, eliminate antlerless permits in certain regions, enact a three point restriction and create hunter safety courses for local schools.

According to the initiative, expanded late season urban archery received the most support (100%), while expanded antler-point restrictions and changes to the combination license received the least support (54%).

In addition to changing regulations, the Department of Natural Resources is looking to start initiatives to increase harvest and hunter numbers, such as through the Michigan Sportsmen Against Hunger program.

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