Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Combination Deer Tag Proposal- Michigan Deer Hunting

In Michigan we have an endless list of mixed feelings when it comes to deer hunting, management and ethics. I am firm believer in a hunter’s choice to harvest what he pleases and by any legal standard. With that being said, I have my own standards that I hold to, even on the high pressured public land I hunt in northern Michigan. Michigan as a deer hunting state has produced less than pleasing results in all categories of desired reasons to deer hunt. It has never been more obvious, with every hunter’s best interest in mind; Michigan needs to make a change to our combination tag system as well as the season structures. We need to go back to the roots of our purpose, the reason we are all the hunting enthusiasts we are today.
Michigan brings in about 2.3 billion dollars annually from deer hunting. A big part of this reason is due to the fact that a hunter can harvest two deer in a season and that’s without purchasing any antlerless tags. A hunter can harvest a deer in both archery season and rifle season, or two in either season. This extends our season and instead of just a week or two of hunting, it’s what we do for three months. Although this is great on one side of the spectrum, it is also a problem on the other. Allowing a hunter to harvest two bucks during rifle season, one being an antlered buck with at least one antler three inches or longer, is a recipe for a low buck population as well as an unbalanced heard, which is what we have in the majority of the state already. One solution to this issue would be allowing a hunter to harvest only one buck during the rifle season. We could also instill an antler point restriction for that one rifle tag which is already in place if you buy a rifle tag separately from the combination tag. This would not only allow more bucks to make it through the season, but it would also entice hunters to consider passing less than desired bucks.
Arron Sitkiewicz and Nick Purgiel with a
Public land Ten point harvested in Northern Michigan.
If we cut our combo tag to just one legal buck during rifle season, with antler point restrictions, we could limit the archery season to just one buck of legal size or an antlerless deer. Like I said, I’m a firm believer in a hunter’s choice to harvest what he pleases but we have to meet somewhere in the middle as to favor the majority of hunters. By allowing an archery hunter to have that choice and not have any antler restrictions in the archery season; it will encourage rifle only hunters to consider archery hunting while also forcing trophy hunters to be more selective with their one archery tag.

To sum up the previously listed, we could still have our combo tag and the ability to harvest two bucks in a year. The combo tag would consist of an archery tag that allows you to harvest an antlerless deer or a buck with at least one antler three inches or longer, while the rifle tag would grant us one buck with appropriate antler point restrictions.
I mentioned it briefly before that this system would encourage a hunter to be more selective. Instead of shooting a spike horn on the opening day of archery season, because they have another tag available, they may pass on that buck. But with that being said, I believe any animal harvested with archery equipment is a trophy. I don’t care if it is a squirrel or a doe. For archery season I believe we should leave the choice to the hunter. Let them be the judge as to what is appropriate and what they would be happy harvesting.
Rifle season is a little more complicated. Although many hunters would agree with leaving the choice to hunters during rifle season as well, we have to meet in the middle somewhere between trophy hunting and meat hunting and I think rifle season is the most appropriate place. After Michigan approved every hunter the use of a crossbow during archery season, it has become easier for hunters to participate in archery hunting. Because of this, it makes it that much easier for me to consider stricter laws pertaining to rifle season.
Author Alvin Sitkiewicz with a
Northern Michigan Public land eight point.
I’ve heard ideas of cutting seasons short or completely removing them entirely. Some have even considered not opening archery season until October 10th or later. I feel the results would be very minute from a move like this, as do other hunters I’ve spoken with. I like that we have a black powder season and feel that it is appropriate. Those brave enough to weather the cold should have a second chance at filling a rifle tag with a somewhat restricted firearm.
My only issue that I share with a lot of other hunters is the fact that a youth hunter can harvest a buck during the youth season. Some feel that this season is being abused and that it spoils young hunters that get a chance at some very impressive bucks before any other seasons have opened. Some hunters would like to see the youth season removed entirely. I think the youth hunt is appropriate because it does get young hunters involved while also giving plenty of time between the youth hunt and the prime Rut.
The biggest issue being discussed is the length of our rifle season. I’ve heard some hunters suggest as low as three days for a rifle season. Although sixteen days may be a little excessive when considered in a management discussion, I think Michigan’s rifle season and deer camp traditions are too rich to infringe upon with anything less than a ten day season.
Although I could go on and on about these topics, the problem does not come from a youngster shooting a basket rack eight point during the youth hunt, nor is it caused from a sixteen day hunting season. Those are all minute variables that play a little role in deer management. The real issue lies within the age structure and buck-to-doe ratio. Without infringing upon hunting traditions and participation, we need to formulate a management plan that considers all types of hunters. Michigan is home to over 700,000 deer hunters. Not every hunter feels the same way about deer hunting as the next. Some hunt for a trophy, some hunt for the meat and others just use deer hunting as a gateway to a peaceful day in god’s country. No matter our reason, it is very important that we consider all sides of the spectrum. We need to instill regulations that not only improve our deer herd but also improve our experience when we are afield.

By Alvin Sitkiewicz
Co Founder and Executive Producer of Michigan Gone Wild