Group trying to protect at least 50 percent of yearlings

By Miranda Roberts Pioneer News Network NEWAYGO — Lower Peninsula Deer Management Initiative is working to protect at least 50 percent of yearling bucks from harvest in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, increasing the opportunity for deer to grow larger each year. LPDMI has proposed deer antler restrictions for Zones II and III, which includes Newaygo and Mecosta counties. Under the proposal, legal deer in Zone II would need at least three points on one side and legal deer in Zone III would need at least four points on one side. These regulations would not apply to apprentice hunters or youth hunters during youth seasons. Tony Smith, president of LPDMI, said hunters have overwhelmingly supported antler restrictions in Leelanau County, which has had them in place since 2003. “To get that kind of support among deer hunters is almost unheard of,” Smith said. In Leelanau County, the first buck a hunter takes must have no less than three points on one side. DNR check stations reported approximately 73 percent of antlered deer in the county were at least 2.5 years old from 2007-11. Most bucks killed in the lower peninsula, according to the DNR check station report, are 1.5 years old. Brent Rudolph, of the Michigan DNR, said a survey of about 2,100 hunters was recently completed in 12 counties extending outward from Leelanau County to determine if hunters in the area support antler point restrictions (APRs). It had an 80 percent response rate and about 69 percent of those who received it supported implementing a three point on one side restriction. The NRC will make a decision as to whether or not to apply restrictions in those counties at their next meeting. For the Michigan DNR and NRC to consider APRs in Zones II and III, LPDMI must prove more than 66 percent of hunters in each zone are on board. Rudolph said about 2,000 surveys will be sent to hunters in each zone. If hunters support the proposal and the DNR establishes APRs in the zones, a five-year test period will be in effect, after which the DNR will reevaluate data and send out another survey to determine backing for the regulations. “There is some lost harvest opportunity, because if hunters see a small buck they can’t legally shoot it,” Rudolph said. “We want hunters to think about that tradeoff.” LPDMI will hold a public information meeting at 7 p.m. on June 11 in the cafeteria at Newaygo High School. The DNR will try to have representatives from the wildlife and law enforcement divisions at the meeting. “We encourage hunters to do some homework and ask questions,” Rudolph said. For more information and meeting dates, visit .