News, Culture and NPR for Central & Northern Michigan
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
91.7FM Alpena and WCML-TV Channel 6 Alpena are off the air. Click here to learn more.

DNR proposing new hunting regulations amid deer overpopulation

State officials estimate there to be around 2 million deer in Michigan. They say the overpopulation of the species leads to negative impacts on the environment and farming.
David Kenyon
/
Michigan DNR
State officials estimate there to be around 2 million deer in Michigan. They say the overpopulation of the species leads to negative impacts on the environment and farming.

Farmer Jackie Beougher is tired of seeing deer deplete her harvest.

The owner of Beougher Farms on Meridian Road said deer have been eating her crops for several years.

Midland County farmer Jackie Beougher says deer have eaten the soybeans and corn on her farm.
Courtesy of Jackie Beougher
Midland County farmer Jackie Beougher says deer have eaten the soybeans and corn on her farm.

“When seeds come up out of the ground, they start nibbling on them, especially soybeans. They love the soybeans,” Beougher said. “Then when (the deer) get big, and the corn is ripe, just before we pick it, they’re coming around ... eating like four rows.”

She said every year she expects to lose some crops to deer, which affects her farm financially.

“We've got to get these deer killed off from here because it’s not our responsibility to have to feed the deer,” Beougher said.

She doesn’t hunt herself, but she has obtained 10 deer tags which provide permission for local hunters to shoot deer because of crop damage.

Malcolm Brubaker, a hunter for about 40 years, has been helping his neighbors, including Beougher, to reduce the deer population. He said he has also heard from other local farmers that deer have been damaging their crops and even posing a threat of transmitting diseases to cattle.

Brubaker also gives out venison to people for free. He usually lets people know on social media that he is going out hunting, and they come to pick up meat afterward.

“I developed a little Facebook post, and in two hours I had 45 people willing to come and they said they would love deer meat for their uncle, a deer for their parent,” he said.

Meanwhile, state officials discussed proposed hunting regulations to control the deer population with the public on June 26 at a meeting in Gaylord, and will decide on them on July 11.

Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Biologist Chad Fedewa said Southern Michigan in particular is experiencing deer overpopulation, which leads not only to agricultural damage, but also to forests being unable to regenerate.

Malcolm Brubaker, an avid hunter who helps farmers control deer population, poses for a portrait with his dog.
Masha Smahliuk
/
WCMU
Malcolm Brubaker, an avid hunter who helps farmers control deer populations, poses for a portrait with his dog.

“(Deer are) probably at or above the population level we would like to see them at,” Fedewa said. “Once the number get to a certain point, we see a lot of negative impacts from the deer.”

Brubaker said part of the reason for deer overpopulation is that there are considerably fewer hunters than he used to see in his childhood.

“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,” he said.

Along the same line, Fedewa said the DNR is not only seeing fewer hunters, but it finds those hunters don’t harvest much. He said many hunters kill only one deer per year.

The number of people who harvest more than two per year is “pretty insignificant,” he said.

“We have tried to tweak regulations in ways we can to try to encourage hunters to harvest more antlerless deer (does) to reduce the population,” Fedewa said. “But we're still seeing things trend in the other direction at this point.”

Fedewa said there’s a combination license available, which is two tags that can be used on female and/or male deer. And a person can buy an additional 10 female deer tags per year.

“It’s interesting because when I first started hunting, you were allowed to shoot one buck,” Brubaker said. “And if you were lucky enough to be on a draw to get a doe permit, then you could shoot it.”

Fedewa said regulated hunting is the main tool for managing deer populations because the Lower Peninsula doesn’t typically have harsh winters or a lot of predators for deer.

To reach the long-term goal of reducing deer population, Fedewa said, DNR is working on the Deer Management Initiative, has instituted universal antlerless licenses for any county, and is trying to increase funding for the Michigan Sportsmen Against Hunger program.

Editor's note: The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is a sponsor of WCMU. We report on them as we do with any other organization.

Masha Smahliuk is a newsroom intern for WCMU based at the Midland Daily News.
Related Content