Deer harvest numbers in the U.P. have been dropping significantly in the past 20 years. In
2000 we harvested 98,000 deer across the U.P. In 2019 we harvested 31,000, which is 20%
lower than in 2018. We recognize that hunter numbers have dropped (42%) while deer
harvest numbers have dropped 69%.
The official wolf count in the U.P. is 695, which indicates the current rock bottom low
guaranteed number of wolves presently anticipated to be in the U.P. This is the number
provided to the Fish and Wildlife Service by the DNR. Realistically, the average number could
be north of 1,200. Certainly, there are areas that have more wolves than other areas in the
U.P. We also realize that there are areas in the U.P. that have more deer than other areas.
However, overall wolf numbers are up and deer number are substantially lower.
Our deer herd in the U.P. is in serious decline, The Upper Peninsula Sportsmen’s Alliance
conducted a survey of some groups that perform supplemental winter deer feeding and
conduct deer surveys in the fall. Below are the names and comments of those who have
graciously consented for their use to add credibility to our following statements, which
substantiate the extent of the problem. Here are just a few examples . . .
“I have been doing deer spotlight surveys in the Brevort Lake area for the DNR for the
past 8 years. Five or six years ago I was picking up 35 deer on my 6-mile route. This
year my best night was 5.”
Leo Joutsie has done the deer spotlight surveys around Pickford for 8 years. Five or six
years ago, he was counting 450 – 500 deer. This year his best night was 187.
Louie Bennet has been feeding 200 – 250 deer per day in the Newberry area for over
25 years. Six years ago, he began to see his numbers going down. In 2018 he fed 5
deer in 2019 he fed ZERO.
Don Canfield of the Tahquamenon Sportsmen’s Club has been feeding deer for over 25
years. Six years ago, they were feeding 550 – 600 deer daily he said the numbers have
been dwindling yearly. This year they fed 150 – 200 deer daily.
Mike Taylor reports that U.P. Whitetails of Marquette County spends thousands of
dollars feeding deer annually. Six to seven years ago they were feeding 1,100 deer
daily; this year they fed around 350 deer daily.
George Planck has been feeding deer for over 50 years in the Hulbert area in and
around the Happy Hour Bar (Formerly Shirley’s). Six to eight years ago he was feeding
800 – 1000 deer daily. He says every year we are feeding fewer deer. This year they
fed 120 deer daily.
We have surveyed smaller feeding groups who tell me their deer numbers are down 50-60% to
what they were 5-6 years ago. These deer number drops are substantial, we asked every one
of them what they felt was the reason for their deer numbers dropping every one of them said
without hesitation said, “Wolves.”
We have wolves all over the place. If they are not killing the deer, they are running them to
death. Where deer should be laying in their deer yards conserving energy to survive the winter
they are now getting run to death. We have deer showing up at our feeding stations with
portions of their hind quarter missing and parts of their hind ripped off. Wildlife managers
cannot continue to ignore these sportsmen that have worked hundreds and thousands of hours
to promote deer habitat and help survival of the U.P. deer herd. U.P. sportsmen have never
been so upset about any issue such as this. We feel that they we are being totally ignored
without given any reasonable answer to the problem.
For generations Michigan’s Upper Peninsula was the ultimate destination for deer hunters and
sportsmen. It is not like that anymore. Hunting camps are being sold and hunter numbers are
dropping. This is causing hardships to local businesses and the residents that rely on them.
The lack of proper wildlife management in the U.P. is on the DNR and NRC, and we as
sportsmen depend on you to make smart wildlife decisions not Delay Delay Delay. We as
sportsmen of the U.P. need the DNR and NRC as much as you need us. Please do not keep
ignoring us on this issue. We must move quickly or thriving U.P. wildlife will just become a
distant memory. As previously stated, you must admit the problem before you can fix it and
the DNR and the NRC are not there yet. We must get politics and lawyers out of wildlife
management. We hope this helps you understand our frustration.
Gary V. Gorniak Vice President,
Upper Peninsula Sportsmen’s Alliance