The art of hunting has been around since the creation of man. Many people believe huntings only purpose is to kill animals, but many purposes derive from hunting; economic growth, state funding, and job creation. Hunters make up an immense community in every state.
Michigan is considered to be one of the top five areas in the country to hunt by the number of hunters and deer hunted. According to Crain’s Detroit Business reports there are over 500,000 hunters in Michigan every year. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources estimated 1.75 million white-tailed deer will be present in the state during the 2018 firearm season. This year alone is projected to bring in 2.3 billion dollars in revenue alone. The statistic shows the number paid hunting license holders in the U.S. in 2017, by state.
However, the hunting game in Michigan is on a consistent decline. One reason is hunting is more popular in previous decades than it is today. Michigan hunters consist of primarily aging adults with a small contribution from the younger generations. The amount of licenses purchased is projected to decline 30% in the next 15 years. This is because the baby-boomer generation is the greatest age demographic that participates. Just between 2011 and 2016, there was a loss of 2.2 million hunters across the country. Not to mention, 90% of hunters are white and about 70% are male. With such an exclusive audience, hunting will soon be an activity of the past (Outdoor Life). “’We don’t have the same recruitment from our other generations so we don’t have as much coming in from X generation type people so we are seeing a decline in those hunters. It’s also that over the last 50 years it’s been a generation shift from our urban environment where they live in the countryside I mean rural they moved to urban and we’ve seen fewer hunters come out of an urban environment,’” says Mark Sargent, Southwest Michigan wildlife regional supervisor.
Other states like Missouri, Montana, Wyoming have a much higher percentage of youth hunters due to the fact that they have a plethora of big game. Michigan’s deer population has seen better days. Today’s kids are not drawn to hunting because are not influenced to take on the hobby. Instead, they partake in other outdoor activities that don’t require a license such as hiking, kayaking, and skiing. Student at Divine Child Brandon Alvarado states “I used to go hunting with my dad but I stopped a few years ago because no one my age was hunting, I felt like very singled out because older guys make up the majority of hunters and there are very few teen hunters.”
Additionally, studies have shown saying that millennials in Michigan would rather go hiking and enjoy nature rather than hunting. The numbers of people visiting state parks are at an all-time-high, greatly because of the young people visiting them. They concluded that “Those hunters, those people in that generation, have participated in hunting at very high rates throughout their whole life, compared to other generations.”
Often times, the dangers of hunting go untold. Eight thousand deaths occur annually each year while hunting. Some of the most common accidents include:
Shots occurring after the loss of control of a firearm,
Hunters walking into other hunters line of fire
Hunters using the swing method to engage
Mistaking another hunter as game
In 2005, deer hunting has been reported to be the most deadly to hunters. Also, the study produced that hunters under the age of 20 are more likely to be injured in an accident than older participants.
Another large factor has been the spread of the fatal disease seen affecting large numbers of the deer population. Chronic Waste Disease has taken its toll on hundreds of thousands of deer in Michigan over past years. Michigan.gov states that Chronic Waste Disease is a fatal nervous system disease found in deer, moose, and elk. It attacks the brain of infected animals creating small lesions in the brain, which results in death. There is no cure or treatment for the illness. This deadly disease is slowly wiping out Michigan’s deer population and transforming it from a once big game hunting state to desolate sickly deer country. The outbreak of disease has been found in the Upper Peninsula and Clinton, Ingham, Ionia, Jackson, Kent, and Montcalm.
Divine Child security guard Rob Puckett commented on the issue, saying, “I have single-handedly seen the effects of CWD when I have hunted before. Instead of a healthy well-nourished deer, you will see a skinny sick deer suffering from a disease that’s going to eventually kill him in the long run”. As hunters are experiencing the declining populations and encounter sicklier deer, they are moving out of state to pursue their hobby.
Vicki Pontz, who is the chair of the Natural Resources Commission, stated, “Michigan hunters are very passionate about deer and deer hunting, and I look forward to working with them as we continue to confront this threat to wildlife and our valued hunting tradition.” She acknowledges that this issue is harshly affecting the Michigan hunting game and vows to find a solution. The Natural Resources Commission has created a number of regulations to help prevent the spread of Chronic Waste Disease for this 2018 hunting season. Some regulations include:
an immediate ban of baiting and feeding in the CDW restricted area,
a statewide ban on “all natural cervid urine-based lures and attractants,”
Expansion of early and late antlers seasons in select counties.
The commission also formed the Chronic Wasting Disease Working Group that contains members who are working specifically to reduce the prevalence of the disease in Michigan. They also have held a public meeting where 650 people from areas of Detroit, DeWitt, Kalamazoo, and more. The events provided the local area’s hunters with information on the current state of the disease, explanations of new regulations and revisions, and the ability to give feedback, opinions, and suggestions.
The Chronic Wasting Disease is not the only condition Michigan deer are falling ill to, but another factor is the chemical, Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances or PFAS. This can cause deer to become sick and develop cancer. They pick up this chemical from the runoff of factories and local businesses. The issue is only spread environmentally and cannot be transmitted deer to deer. However, since it is an environmental issue, the game in some areas can become decimated if the chemical persists to spread. This year is in Oscoda, Michigan the local government released a statement to not eat any deer hunted within a five-mile radius. Twenty deer from the area were found with levels of PFAS doubled the recommended limit.
Michigan has consulted with the US military to come to a solution. The Michigan government has stated that they are willing to put rules and regulations in place to limit the outreach of this chemical. Additionally, it has also affected other species in the area such as fish and birds. If a person were to consume any meat products containing this harmful chemical, it could lead to many health problems. As stated in an article by EPA, harmful effects on humans include high cholesterol, cancer, thyroid hormone disruption, and effects on the immune system. (https://www.epa.gov/pfas/basic-information-pfas)
Michigan hunting has been drastically affected, one reason, in particular, the growing wolf population. Divine Child security guard Rob Puckett stated, “we have a huge wolf problem on my own and my neighbor’s property. They too are demolishing the local deer population.” Michigan outdoors ran a study to collect data to show the impact these fierce predators actually have on the deer population. 142 fawns were fitted with GPS collars and the devices transmitted their location every 15 minutes. In the first phase of a three year of a study, 80 collared fawns or 73% were determined to be killed by wolves. Wolves are the apex predator and as long as they are living they will continue to demolish the deer population. Austin Fredericks commented, “ I’ve witnessed the terrors of Michigan’s wolfs when hunting last year on my property, I saw 2 carcasses of deer devoured by the vicious Michigan wolves”.
Deer play a large role in the ecosystem of Michigan. As deer are herbivores, their diet consists of grass, plants, and leaves. Herbivores provide the “middle link” to our demanding food chain. The Michigan wolf population continues to skyrocket and the effect is seen on the population of wildlife. As wolves are near the top of the food chain, the fluctuation of numbers causes large changes beneath them. If deer and other species are consistently declining, it completely throws off the ecosystem’s equilibrium. According to CBS local, “If we would stop hunting, the deer pop will not grow infinitely and take over the world. But their populations will grow and it will cause a significant impact on people,” said Steve Merchant. The potential removal of the deer population can cause havoc on more things than just the local hunting game in regards to the environment.
Due to all these factors leading to quickly dying and sickly deer, fewer hunters are hunting game, thus causing commercial industries to respond by discontinuing many hunting specific sections in their stores. Dick’s Sporting Goods announced earlier this month that they are considering removing all hunting gear and equipment from their stores. Divine Child students have been very vocal about this issue, Cullen Fox said: “if Dicks stopped selling hunting equipment, I would boycott the store.” In addition, they are also thinking of closing all Field and Stream locations. Field and stream locations are their retail stores that sell fishing and hunting supplies. Hunting and fishing are responsible for contributing billions of dollars each year to the U.S. economy. According to realtree.com fishing brings in roughly $35.7 billion, while hunting brings in $23.7 billion. This money is used to fund the 482,554 jobs sustained by hunting and fishing economies. When more stores take action, like Dicks Sporting Goods, there will be a huge drop and decline in the hunting and fishing economy. It will only be a matter of time until it spreads throughout the country.
Deer hunters are traveling to different areas to hunt better game. This is causing the deer populations to rise, but not with strong, large deer, but with weak, feeble deer. It drives hunters away but causes the populations to rise with no barriers.
On the other hand, as hunting rates decline across the country, the deer population may grow out of control in certain areas and possibly damage the fragile ecosystem even more. The hunting zones are created to keep certain territories under control. Normal deer populations should only amount to 20 to 25 per square mile. In some communities in the United States, there are over 100 deer crowded into a square mile.
Hunting provides the essentially check on the environment seen for decades. The other species in the environment would not be able to adjust properly. Even though wolf populations are increasing, they would not be able to account for the rapid regeneration of deer, if all hunting was to stop. Since Michigan is a largely rural state, the overpopulation of deer would cause the ruining of fields and crops. Also, it would push herds to invade more densely populated areas. New techniques of containing deer would have to be practiced.
Tazing deer and euthanization are now common ways of terminating lost does and bucks that have wandered into the suburbs and cities. Another form of deer containment is that those researchers are starting to sterilize packs of deer to keep the numbers lower in some places. They focused on neutering does as male deer were more resilient. Females were also more likely to travel long distances to find a mate. “Sterilization definitely did decrease fawn numbers, and doe numbers also declined,” said Paul Curtis, a professor and wildlife specialist at Cornell. The University of Michigan Dearborn hired sharpshooters to help manage the deer population on campus. Detroit Free Press states “The goal was to reduce the deer population in the 300-acre Environmental Study Area from about 70 to between 20 and 30”. The University of Michigan Dearborn wanted to preserve its environmental study area, the growing deer population on campus was destroying the grounds. University of Michigan spokesperson stated “Because of the increasing deer population, we are unable to maintain the grounds, there are plant species that are being eliminated, invasive species are coming in. … With increased deer population comes increased risk of ticks, which carry Lyme disease.”
To conclude, hunting in Michigan is on a downhill slope. The deer are becoming weaker and smaller through the state. Wolves are contributing to declining the population in some areas, but in most territories, deer populations are out of control and local governments and Natural Resources departments are unable to keep up with the dramatically rising numbers. Though new techniques of containing the deer are being used, they are not effective enough to stall the rate of breeding.
Michigan, however, is working to make the number of young hunter rise. Michigan was issued 11 percent of their 620,932 deer licenses to people under the age of 17. The Michigan House of Representatives also is making legislation that would allow parents to be able to take their children hunting and further pass the tradition on.
Another demographic that is being targeted are women. Recent data from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources from the last 10 years shows that there is a growing number of women seeking deer licenses in Michigan. The rates for women are actually growing faster for women than men. Hunting companies, such as Real Tree, Remington, and Browning, are producing hunting gear that is geared towards girls. Crossbows are now being created in pink and pink camouflage to market to more girls.
As we discussed above hunting in Michigan is turning into an old tradition, these generations of kids are drawn to other actives that don’t require licenses like hunting does. Over the last 5 years, Michigan hunting has seen a 30 percent decline in hunting licenses sold and this is going to get higher exponentially.
Hunting is responsible for bringing billions to our economy and creates thousands of jobs for the American people. Without it, a large portion of the economy in Michigan would be at a lost. Hunting provides $2.3 billion dollars to the economy. Along with the influx, there are 34,000 jobs created in Michigan alone with hunting. If hunting decreased tremendously in Michigan, there would be a monumental impact throughout the state. The state is trying to find new ways to decrease the number of deer while boosting hunting licenses. Hopefully, they will accomplish this by their new regulations of improving the health of the deer population and bring hunters back to Michigan.