Pilot Program for Farmer Deer Permits Adopted

DNRby Lia Biondo, MUCC Policy Intern
The Natural Resources Commission (NRC) held a meeting last week on September 11, 2014, at the Michigan State University Diagnostics Center to discuss and decide on various natural resource issues in Michigan.
The Deer Management Assistant Permit Regulations within the Wildlife Conservation Order was a main topic of discussion, as Department of Natural Resource (DNR) division chiefs and conflicting interest groups spoke out on both the benefits and concerns of permitting farmers to take deer by firearms regardless of the traditional hunting seasons.
As approved by the NRC, the new Deer Management Assistance Permits (DMAPs) will enable farmers to request permits from the DNR for the taking of deer by firearms when current deer harvesting methods prove insufficient. Farmers – specifically those of nurseries, orchards and other high-value crops – occasionally run into problems with the local deer population when the animals proceed to destroy newly-planted or high value crops. Under the new rules, the farmer must prove that they have tried all reasonable methods of achieving their deer management objectives before pursuing this permit.
A decision-making tree has been made available to DNR officials and farmers to aid in the process of determining if a permit is necessary. This decision-making tree includes questions such as, “Has the property been hunted during archery season during the last two years?” or “Have available tools, such as Deer Damage Shooting permits, been used to discourage deer from damaging crops during the growing season?” While each permit request will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis using this model, within the pilot region these permits will be more than likely granted if the landowner has tried other tools or their land is not conducive to archery hunting.
DeerDuring the next three-years, this pilot program will test this decision tree in the counties of Antrim, Benzie, Charlevoix, Grand Traverse and Leelanau. Any deer harvested must be reported annually by the landowner, along with accompanying information on the method of take, crop type, and date of harvest. Additionally, the taking of one antlered buck per landowner annually under a DMAP may be approved in extenuating circumstances. However, both the carcass and antlers must be surrendered to the department. There is a quiet period set from October 1-4 and November 10-14 where absolutely no firearms may be used. Failing to comply with the terms and conditions of a DMAP will result in the loss of a permitee’s eligibility to receive a DMAP for a period of one year. After the three-year period, the program will expire and further discussion and decisions will be made at that time.
The NRC praised the agriculture and hunting communities for coming together on this issue and compromising. Neither side was able to achieve exactly what they wanted, but the Commissioners believe the victory lies in the give-and-take between both groups. In public testimony, MUCC continued to advocate for hunter access before special permit authorities were granted and expressed concerns about landowners disrupting archery hunters with their use of firearms in the pilot region. At the end of the pilot, we will all have good information to use to expand, change, or eliminate this program and more clearly know the impacts it may have on the archery season and the deer herd.
Commissioners stressed the importance of building and maintaining relationships between landowners and hunters, and that this is not solely a policy issue
Click HERE to check out the Hunters Helping Landowners program to learn more about how you can make your expertise available to landowners in the area who may be struggling with their deer management objectives.

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