Landowner Deer Permits Could be Expanded by NRC

Deer management assistance permits (DMAPs) are issued to private landowners to take antlerless deer during existing deer hunting seasons. Currently, there are a variety of reasons these DMAPS are issued---while traditionally, they may have been to address ongoing crop damage issues, permit holders may also include landowners in areas impacted by wildlife disease (such as Tb), private hunt clubs and QDM cooperatives to improve the deer herd balance, and Commercial Forest landowners, municipal landowners and nature preserves to reduce the impact of herbivory on forest regeneration and biodiversity.
According to the 2012 Deer Harvest Survey, there have been between 7,700 and 8,200 DMAPs issued each year for the last few years. Through recent legislation, the cost to purchase a DMAP for 2014 is now reduced from $15 to $10 in the new license restructuring, while hunters pay $20 for deer and antlerless deer licenses.
In addition to DMAPs, other deer permits are available to farmers who have concerns about deer interacting with their livestock or eating crops. There are "deer damage shooting permits" which are given free of charge to landowners experiencing crop damage through a local DNR wildlife biologist. A farmer may only use these outside of a hunting season and may designate up to 15 shooters to fill these permits. There are also disease control permits (DCP), which are issued by the DNR in areas with livestock/wildlife disease concerns such as Bovine Tb or Chronic Wasting Disease. These are also free and the landowner can designate up to 3 shooters on these permits, who may be able to use them in or out of a deer hunting season depending on the unit for which they are issued (download criteria for DCP issuance).
Now, farmers have asked the Natural Resources Commission for even more accommodations 1) to allow them to use firearms to fill their DMAPs, even during archery deer season, and 2) to allow shooting after hours to fill DMAPs. While it has been agricultural landowners requesting this accommodation, it is assumed that it would apply broadly to all DMAP permitees.
The DNR Wildlife Chief Russ Mason indicated at the May 8 NRC meeting that he would be bring an order before the NRC in June (action in July) to expand DMAP holders ability to use firearms during archery season, but said that he would not consider further expansion of shooting hours except in an extreme case by case basis.
MUCC, the Michigan Bow Hunters Association, and Quality Deer Management Association of Michigan have indicated their opposition to this proposal. We feel that there should be more work done to encourage landowners to allow access to licensed hunters during the deer season before making more accommodations on special half-priced landowner permits. Hunter access was recently named the #3 issue impacting deer hunting and management at the North American Whitetail Summit. Allowing deer rifles during archery season could also have unintentional consequences of causing deer to be wary of hunting areas too early in the deer season, and even shift their movement and feeding patterns to other area that don't allow hunting or in the evening hours. It may also create unnecessary conflicts between neighboring property owners.For the last several decades, MUCC has consistently called for increased access for hunters, in lieu of the expansion of special landowner deer shooting permits.  In 2012, legislation supported by MUCC and Michigan Farm Bureau created the Michigan "Hunters Helping Landowners" database available where more than 1,800 hunters have indicated that they would be willing to shoot does to help landowners address any deer issues. Last year, only 4 landowners requested the list of hunters in their county. There must be more work done to improve access to these private lands to help landowners reach their deer management goals, while allowing this management to occur within the current hunting seasons and regulations to protect our outdoor heritage.MUCC has requested information from the DNR on the number of DMAPs issued by DMU (or Region/Zone if that is not available) and any breakdown on what the issue that was supposed to be addressed by these (disease, crops, forest, population). We have also asked for DNR to comment on whether DMAPs have reduced requests for out of season permits for crop damage and whether there is different criteria used to determine which and how many permits are received by landowners. We will share this information once its available on our website at www.mucc.org (see News).
These permits may be a valuable tool to have for deer management in limited circumstances, further expansion should not be considered without review of the criteria for why they are issued, the evaluation of other deer management permits, and without regard to the impact this will have on the traditional archery season.
We encourage deer hunters to submit their thoughts to the NRC on this issue, you can find their contact information here.

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